Depression manifests in a multitude of ways. It can spring from a genetic disposition, a traumatic event, grief due to loss of a loved one, and in recent years even concerns for the environment can tumble someone down the melancholic path of emptiness and abject loneliness.
I make no secret of my own struggles with depression, and though I am dealing with it in far more healthy ways than I used to in my twenties . . . my journey is far from over. It’s not like I woke up one day and suddenly my entire outlook changed. It’s a lot of work. Mental, emotional, and even physical because in order for the brain to be in a decent functioning state, you have to take care of the body you’re in. Despite knowing this now, there are still days when the effort seems too much, or simply . . . not worth it.
That’s the whole difficult fight with depression. Surmounting that feeling of pointlessness. Even when someone actively works on their recovery, the depressed brain does not immediately stop bombarding you with those negative thoughts. This is in part why so many give up when they try to work on themselves. The results are not immediate. And in some cases, quite often, you can despite making headway slip straight back down if you are hit with a tragic event in your life.
There is another pitfall as well . . . working on yourself not because you want to for your own good, but because you are trying to be someone to someone else. This . . . might work short term but ultimately it is not the optimal means of recovery. It is of course good to want to be there for other people but change has to come from within. There is that saying floating about the internet about not putting your recovery in the hands of someone else, and that is absolutely true.
I have known too many who grapple with depression throw themselves into the high of a new relationship thinking that ah, yes, this is it, they are cured! All they needed was love! Only to watch them crumble as the euphoria of new romance fades.
Of course love is a wonderful thing, and if romantic relationships are important to you then by all means, pursue them, enjoy them. It is one of life’s sweet joys after all. However, I wish people understood that it is not a partner’s job to fix you. Support, yes. Absolutely. Encourage, I should hope so. But . . . the work and the effort has to be put in personally.
The simplest example I can think of is eating well. Yes. Eating healthy is very important for the brain. Will eating blueberries once cure your depression? Absolutely not. But . . . forming habits slowly and making an effort to eat healthy food instead of foods that tend to feed negative thoughts and feelings of lethargy can improve your mood and your general energy levels which in turn can help in combating the lows of depression. You may still experience them but hopefully you won’t plummet as deeply as you potentially could.
So how can your support system help? Obviously they can’t force you to eat well, that won’t be good for anyone involved. But . . . if you are struggling and you know you should eat a proper healthy meal but all you want is to grab a bottle of wine, and shove your face with a greasy burger, and the greasiest saltiest fries you can find then be honest about it. Tell someone. Let them know you are struggling to stay on track. They can’t magically make you stop wanting these things, but they can help remove temptation or assist you if that’s what you need.
To cite a personal example, my sister and I both struggle with depression but we support each other. So . . . when she wants to say screw it and eat nothing but junk, I am there to make healthy food for her. Maybe she doesn’t have the energy to make it for herself, so I do it for her. Sometimes just having that bit of help makes it easier to choose the right thing. It’s a lot easier to resist going out to buy fries when there’s a lovely meal already prepared in front of you. I also try to find things that my sister likes. For instance, she loves zucchini. So when I know she’s been having a hard time with food, it’s time to break out the roasted zucchini with her favorite spices.
Similarly when I don’t have the energy to cook for myself, my sister will help me by cutting everything for me. I am the type of person who if a task is halfway done, I can’t leave it. So. With everything cut, I am more likely to finish it up by cooking it because well, that’s my nature. I feel compelled to finish tasks.
This is I realize, a very simple example and it will of course not be the same for everyone with depression. Maybe you’re good with food, but it’s exercise you can’t bring yourself to do, or getting dressed, or keeping up with your laundry or remembering to feed your fish. Whatever it is, be honest. Tell people. Those that support you will find ways to assist, let them.
I know it’s hard. I struggle with accepting help. My sister is one of the few who I trust because unfortunately I have a lot of trauma around people helping me for ulterior motives. So I am wary of people trying to assist me. It is something I am working on.
But that’s just it. In part I am able to work on this because I have assistance and support in the other aspects of my life. Support with depression doesn’t cure you, no, but it lightens the weight enough at times that maybe . . . maybe you can take another step forward.