I am penning this missive as an easy way to help try and get someone close to you to understand what you are going through. Print it out, forward it to them; whatever. Get it in front of that person. Let me try and crack through the wall to help them see the difference.
To Whom It May Concern;
I am writing this letter on behalf of someone that you care about and that cares about you. Depression is a very misunderstood mental illness that affects quite a few people. Too many people equate “sadness” with depression, but they are nowhere near the same. Sadness is a normal human emotion, one that many of the depressed wish we could actually feel. Depression is a void. It is nothingness. It is a black hole that devours everything that makes life worth living.
I’m sure you have felt sad in your life. It is very normal. But how about depressed? People make the mistake of thinking it is all about emotion. It is not. Depression is rooted in a physical condition affecting the brain. Do you remember the last time you had a bad cold or flu? How did you feel mentally during that time? I’m willing to bet you weren’t upbeat and chipper. People commonly feel mentally exhausted, tired, and generally foul. It is the closest thing I have been able to come up with that compares to depression for someone that does not experience it. Depression however, is worse.
Why? Our breaks are few and far between. A person may have a flu or a cold for a week but they know it is going to end. What if you did not know it was going to end? What if it carried on for months or years at a time? How about if you ended up like me, dealing with major depression for going on 20 years? That mental state you have while you are sick is part of a physical ailment. It is a virus that is having a drastic effect on your mentality. So why is it so difficult for people to understand that the same thing can happen to a person without having the sniffles – only worse?
I have seven suicide attempts under my belt that range from putting a loaded gun to my head and pulling the trigger to taking fistfuls of pills with alcohol. I’ve attempted to unmake myself with drugs and alcohol. All of these things and more are the direct result of dealing with depression. I had no hope for a better tomorrow. I knew that the day I would face tomorrow would be exactly the same as the day I’ve had every day for the last several years.
How did you feel when your child was born? I felt nothing. When you got engaged to a wonderful person? Again, nothing. Any sense of pride in a commendation or promotion at work? Still nothing. No sense of accomplishment, no pride; just the void. Depression devours EVERYTHING and leaves only emptiness behind. Then, one day, the person will eventually get tired of it. They will have a moment of weakness and attempt to end their life because they just cannot deal with it anymore. Humans are not meant to exist in an emotional void, but we do it for years at a time. And we are so tired from this journey.
That’s why we need people like you to understand that this is an illness. It’s not just a feeling. It’s invasive and we need your help in continuing to look forward. We know we should have hope, because there is wellness somewhere out there for us. But we periodically need someone to remind us of that. We need them to just be there in our darkest moments. You do not need to have answers or try to fix us. It is beyond what you can contribute. And yes, we know it will hurt watching someone you care about suffer. But really, it’s alright. We have walked this road for a long time. We can continue to do so once we get through this moment of weakness to get back to the pursuit of mental wellness.
My name is Dennis, and this is just part of my story. Someone you love and care about is going through similar circumstances. They need you to understand that this is a serious medical issue. Or would you prefer to find out at their funeral while wringing your hands over why they committed suicide? I hope not. I really cannot afford the airfare to come and point out “I told you so”.
There are a number of great resources available on the internet for helping someone with a mood disorder like depression. Educate yourself. It could very well save the life of someone you love.