21 Sep 2017
This entry is meant to record my progress, as well as handle some questions or misconceptions that I have heard over the last week or so.
I have seen my doctor for my first review. There were some issues with my leave which have been sorted out, thank God, and my dosage of medication has been increased. The effects will take a couple of weeks to show completely, so we are still monitoring my progress.
I characterise my progress as one step forward, three steps back. Chief on the top of the list is a sense of uselessness, at not being able to provide for the family. While finances may be an issue, many kind friends and family members have stepped forward to offer help, and my wife and I are very thankful. Many others have continued to share their stories and words of encouragement, and they are helpful.
The sense of uselessness seems to be a recurring issue. This week alone, compounded by a cold and cough, I’ve broken down at least twice because of a hopeless sense of uselessness. I am aware that work needs to be done in this area. A fellow sufferer reminded me today – we need to start from where we are, not where we want to be, in our current state. I may need to see a psychotherapist to look into this area.
I am also more tired from the increased dosage that I’ve been given, though my appetite is a lot better. I’m less active because of my cold, but at least that is one thing I’m sure will improve once I feel better physically.
I will be seeing my doctor again for a review next week, but this week has been intense, and sleep has been at a premium. Please pray for me on that, if you believe in God.
A few questions or misconceptions I would like to tackle:
1. But you look so cheerful! / You don’t look depressed at all!
When I introduced myself to some visitors to the ward when I was visiting patients, I would invariably hear – “But you look so cheerful!”
A depressed person has many masks, and each one requires energy. We only resume our real states when we’re with people that we are willing to reveal our depression to. Otherwise, we don’t go around with hangdog faces, unless we are totally surrounded by strangers. This is why sufferers avoid social engagements, as the energy required to maintain the mask is very high, and this gets very tiring.
As an example, Chester Bennington of Limp Bizkit committed suicide recently while being treated for depression. Look at this video that his wife released of him a couple of days before he took his own life. There is no way anyone would be able to tell what heartbreak and pain he was going through even as he was laughing.
Depression doesn’t have a face. Don’t assume a happy person isn’t depressed.
2. Learn to relax / Just cheer up! / My xxx or yyy went through a lot worse than you and is able to do so much more. / My zzz is facing something worse and never gave up. Why are you giving up?
Ouch. Please. Understand that sufferers are caught in a mental fog or minefield they aren’t able to get out of. Thinking the right thoughts requires muscles that are weakened or even broken by the disease. With such comments, the sufferer is made to feel that they are not doing enough to get out of their “funk”.
Read up more on depression from earlier chapters in this blog, please, if you really wish to help. Don’t load more on us when it is all we can do to simply get through one day without falling to pieces. We don’t trivialise the problems that others face, nor the strength that they have in order to overcome their problems. Ours is fundamentally different – we are struggling to get our minds back into a healthy shape.
3. Self Frustration / Self loathing / Self blame
Be prepared to have to keep gently reminding a sufferer about the lies that they face. Just this week alone, my wife has had to hold my hand and tell me how useful I am, how loved i am, and how much I’ve managed to do. My co bible study leader has had to whatsapp me a whole list of items reminding me that I’m loved not for what I do, but for who I am.
As sufferers, we lose even that basic sense of understanding of our worth and what is important to keep in focus. Please help us to do so, gently, and not scold us. And be prepared that we will keep coming back to it until our therapy or medication kicks in enough for us to start recovering properly.
A sufferer lacks two things – perspective, and energy. That is why even taking a shower is a task that is so difficult – the energy taken to just get out of bed and walk to the bathroom is simply not worth it. If you don’t suffer from depression, please take this into consideration. To help a sufferer, sometimes physical guidance may be necessary, or gentle coaxing. Again, please don’t take this as an affront, but rather a real struggle that sufferers face.
Thank you once again for reading this blog, to seek to understand the mind of a depression sufferer.