An Open Letter On Depression #Depression #MentalIllness #Bipolar

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.

Sincerely,
Dennis H.

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11 Responses to An Open Letter On Depression #Depression #MentalIllness #Bipolar

  1. You go Dennis! I have been trying for a while to be able to explain to friends and loved ones why it is that, at times, I cannot function. You hit the nail on the head here! I hope this gets out to everyone that has someone they love that battles with debilitating depression. I am so proud of you for writing this. You are a hero to me!
    Much love and abundant blessings,
    Kimmy

  2. Becca says:

    Hello Dennis,
    I wish I had a computer to print this out. There are a few of my family members who could benefit from this letter. I also wanted to apologize for not being in touch. I am without internet right now and unable to work like I used to. That alone is enough to make me depressed.

    • Grimm says:

      Hey there Becky! Good to hear from you. Keep plugging away and something will break loose for you. I hope your move went smoothly!

  3. Charity says:

    Thank you Dennis. This is a great post. I will be sharing this. I am so glad you found me on twitter!

  4. Anonymousmomma says:

    This is exactly it. Thank you.

  5. Hopeful says:

    Dennis,

    Thank you for posting this letter. I am in love with someone who suffers from anxiety and depression. Just recently he fell into a dark hole and ended our relationship. Will you share your thoughts on how people can support their loved ones when they want to be alone? And also, why someone who is depressed would push away the person closest to them. My feelings have not changed and I want to stand by my man, but the message I am getting is that he wants and needs to be on his own. I appreciate any insight you might have.

    • Grimm says:

      Hello there Leslee (I’m assuming based on your email address).

      Your man sounds like he’s probably still in the bunker mentality of coping. There are a number of reasons he could have withdrawn and pushed you off, but if you guys had a good relationship before the depression set in then he is probably trying to protect you from him. A lot of us spend a good portion of our lives ensuring someone can’t peek in and see what is really going on with us. So it is extremely difficult to let someone in when we meet someone that genuinely gives a shit. Granted, I don’t know your personal situation in-depth but based on the fact that you cared enough to seek knowledge on it says a lot.

      I would do the following; write him a very short, concise letter. Tell him you love him, that it’s okay to need time by himself to collect his thoughts. Let him know that you want to be there for him. You knew going in that it would be a difficult situation, but you love him and want to find a way to work through it together. Advise him that it is not fair to you for him to determine if the relationship is worth ending when he is mentally unwell. That if he wants to end the relationship, then he should do it when he is more mentally level. Use the rationalization that if the relationship is going poorly enough to warrant ending it, it still will be when he’s more balanced. Remind him that you are a grown woman, have a mind, and can decide for yourself who you want to be with. He is not doing you a favor by trying to protect you. I would ask him if he wants to just take some time to himself for now and you guys can discuss ending the relationship later on when he’s more balanced. As someone who has dealt with depression for 20 years, when he starts to level off he will most likely not feel that way anymore. That is why we don’t want major decisions during unwell periods.

      Ask him to keep it in his wallet and read it when he starts feeling the urge to pull away. Writing it down as opposed to tell him will give him a tangible anchor. It’s something he can look at in his dark time and be reminded that someone wants to be there for him – but he has to let you.

      Once that breach is repaired, communication is essential. If he needs time to himself to collect his thoughts, let him. The exception would be if he is making threats of suicide or violence. If he goes that far off into the dark end then he’ll probably need professional assistance to get balanced. And don’t forget, you do need to take care of you as well. Be as understanding as you can be, but don’t be a doormat either. Chipping through those emotional walls is going to take a lot of effort, but once you’re through it won’t be nearly as difficult.

      I would take those steps, then step back and let him think and absorb it.

      I would also like to point you to the guide I wrote on Effectively Managing a Bipolar Relationship. (Depression is part of Bipolar Disorder so it is applicable). It goes over a lot of these kinds of things on what needs to be done by the unwell person and their significant other to make things work in a healthy way.

      I also make myself freely available if he wants to talk to someone who understands the kind of bullshit going on in his head right now. You can pass along my email address (dennis@bipolarmanifesto.com) or website address to him. Feel free to contact me directly via email if you want to discuss more or have other questions.

      A final point, if you do bring it up to him and his response is to shrug, roll his eyes, or ask why he would talk to a stranger about it; quote me. “I’ve spent the last 19 years dealing with Bipolar Disorder with a Major Depression component. I have the broken relationships, two broken engagements, seven suicide attempts, and my struggles with alcohol and drug abuse to show for it. I don’t know you specifically – but I understand the toll that a mental illness can take on a person’s life all too well. I don’t talk about this shit because it’s pleasant, I do it so people like you won’t think they’re alone in the world. That your future doesn’t have to be a repeat of your past. Leslee and I will be happy to do what we can to help you; but you’re the one that has to ultimately decide to dominate your depression rather than letting it own you. Be well.”

  6. Brittney says:

    Thank you for writing this. It’s such a dark place to be, no light at the end of the tunnel. I haven’t reached the brink of committing suicide mainly because I force myself to be so busy I don’t have the time. Being busy and focused on work, school, pretending to be social in an effort to TRY and be normal (the fake-it-till-you-make-it mentality) but I fear for the day that this hole is too deep to climb out of again. I will be sharing this with a few people but I wanted to say thank you for accurately describing the void.

    • Grimm says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Brittney. Don’t settle! You deserve to be well, just like the rest of us. Depression is very treatable for most people. I assure you, fake it til you make it will not fix or help anything in the long run. Don’t wait to get worse. If you have any questions about the process, feel free to comment or send me an email- dennis@bipolarmanifesto.com

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