Years ago, when I was going through a fairly deep depression, a friend wrote me a letter. It consisted of things that I would never have to go through and how much better off I had it than others. It told me that I should appreciate what I had. Now, I know this letter came with the best intentions because you could tell it was written with concern. I never even got mad at this person about it, but I found myself replying to it with an apology because, well, it made me feel worse.
And that’s the thing, right? Telling someone who is going through depression of any sort that they have it good and they shouldn’t be so depressed just makes the depression more all-consuming. They feel like they’re letting people down with their sadness, and it pushes them down even deeper, and that’s what happened to me.
I was careful not to mention my sadness or loneliness around this person as much as I could. Suppressing my depression, though, was excruciating and almost impossible for me. I mean, it was “easy” to do it around co-workers, etc., but they weren’t a friend. I counted myself quite lucky that I didn’t live with this person and that I had people I DID live with that I could legitimately talk to about it. I also didn’t see this person as much as I could have, so I could breathe more often than not. But those times I couldn’t breathe were horrible.
It was an unintentional side effect of the letter. The person who wrote it actually suffered from a form of situational depression at times, so that’s why they didn’t understand being sad when a person is in a good situation. They didn’t understand being sad for “no reason” or how all-consuming this type of depression could be. I forgave them for writing it because of this. Because they didn’t understand. The thing is, most people DON’T understand. I, personally, don’t understand the depression that comes with MDD. I suffer from bipolar depression and that’s completely different, even if it’s just the knowledge that it might end… that I might feel better at some point… remembering the happy times. But that means it feels like my happiness was ripped away from me, which is crippling.
In the end, this person never knew how their letter affected me. I didn’t feel as though I could explain how and why I felt the way I did, so I “became happy” and waited until I was away from them to fall apart. Now, I don’t see them all that much, if ever. But that’s pretty much true of most of my friends. I don’t have to hide if I’m depressed or manic (which is pretty impossible to hide) or hallucinating (another hard to hide thing), or having a panic attack. In a way it’s a relief, but I do miss seeing people. In the end, though, the only thing I’d like anyone to take away from this is to think carefully what you say to someone with a mental health condition… it could affect them in ways you never even know.