With the passing of Robin Williams, there has been a lot of chatter about mental illness. I love that so many people are peppering their social media feeds with links to support hotlines, and kind words about being available to loved ones if they find themselves in need.
But here's the thing: in my personal experience with depression, approaching someone about my problems was not an option.
When my depression takes over, I tend to become very introverted. I crawl so far inside my own head that I don't want to be around others, and the last thing I want to do is talk about my terrible life. When I'm not on medication for depression and get into the lows, I don't think rationally. It usually doesn't occur to me that I can get help. I just think I have to live miserably FOREVER.
So while I appreciate the intentions of those who embrace that depression is a legitimate mental illness, and who want to help loved ones, I want you to know that sometimes it's not enough. And while it's no one else's responsibility to save someone else from depression, just know there may be more we can actively do for others.
I mentioned to Kev once, many years ago, that in college I would listen to a specific CD when I was depressed and couldn't imagine waking up another day. I told him I would lie on my bedroom floor, with the music cranked, and just wish I could stop existing. I would cry for hours, either emerging from my room later trying to pretend nothing had happened, or I would crawl into bed and sleep it off. Not once did I think about calling someone to help me. Not once.
Do you know what Kev did with that information? He stored it away. And when I randomly listened to that CD later in our marriage, he asked me if everything was okay. He remembered that it was one of my (albeit very poor) coping methods and wanted to ensure I wasn't dealing with any demons (thankfully, I wasn't. I was just listening to music).
When I got a better handle on my depression and learned to be more open about it and my needs, my life got so much better. My sister, understanding that having my first baby made me prone to anxiety, was very proactive and called me every day for the week following birth just to check in. She wanted me know someone was thinking of me and rooting for me and was available if I needed to talk. Sometimes I wasn't able to answer the phone, but even just checking my voicemail and hearing her encouragement and feeling her love helped me soldier on.
However, we may not always recognize signs that someone is sinking deeper into their depression, perhaps to the point of suicide. There may not even be any signs from some of our loved ones. But we can try. Again, it isn't our responsibility to save someone else from depression, but we can try. If you notice someone you love is behaving differently, reach out to them specifically. If you're unsure, or if someone is really good at hiding their lows, perhaps it wouldn't hurt to send a personal message to someone or to call them just to check in. I'm guilty of relying on social media far too often to stay in touch with friends, and I could be better at calling, emailing, or even texting someone to show more genuine interest and/or concern.
I applaud the efforts of those who put themselves out there as a listening ear for those in need; just be aware it may not be enough. It isn't always easy to be open about depression (or other mental illness) and it may take a little more to crack the shell of someone who's suffering.
So. Who could you call this week?
PS You don't need to call me! My anti-depressants are keeping me much more rational during this postpartum and I'm not about to lose my marbles like last time :)
You can also find me on: