“I almost got it over,” I remember telling my analyst, during the second year of high school. It was the week when my mother’s companion died. It was the first encounter with the totally unexpected death of someone who still seemed too young and full of life to leave this way. He destroyed me!
“I have a real reason to feel sad,” I said.
These words made that sense of inexplicable anguish with which I had been living for years to seem legitimate. I went back to my life: I had friends, I went to school, I had a roof over my head and so many books at hand. What was wrong then in me? Why did I want to bury me under blankets for hours, as if all those I knew hated me? Then, suddenly, I was confronted with an event that justified these feelings, my constant desperation. I was devastated. If I had the chance to decide, of course I would have liked to be alive, more than anything else. Yet, a small part of me felt relieved. It was as if you could finally collapse “publicly” and have a socially acceptable reason to do so.
Only after six years, I have been diagnosed with depression. It took me all the time to start talking about it openly. Depression isolates you by its nature. It is also one of the most pervasive diseases in my country. Women have twice the chance of getting sick, with a percentage ranging from 10 to 25%.
Even if I do not bring a sign saying, “Ask me about my depression”, the argument comes out often. I have reached a point where I can recognize the disease for what it is. I remember all the shadow areas in which he led me, but I can also look at her from the outside, knowing that I have the resources to face it.
Mental illness is not something that everyone can understand, but over the years I have gained a certain “wisdom” on the subject. There are some things that everyone (even family and friends with the best intentions) should understand how to love someone who fights against this plague. Here are six …
- We can take specific medicines or not. But we always hope that you will trust our decision
I refused to take drugs for many years. For me it was like admit that I was really sick and too weak to do with my own strength. As if you could not be a “good” depressed, not knowing how to handle it in the right way. The solution? Think of yourself. Mental illness is not something that you can “take good”. In doing so, it would seem superfluous to evaluate the use of drugs (of course when they are recommended and when the decision is taken with the doctor). I once heard someone comparing the antidepressants to insulin. You would not advise a diabetic friend to “rely on his strength,” because he would absolutely need drugs. Think of it for antidepressants as well.
- Depression can make us “unreliable”
About two years ago, I tried to go to a friend’s show, but my brain kept blocking it. He told me that I was horrible with that dress and that I would ruin the evening at all if I was presented to you. I went up the metro, but after three stops I went back. I cried desperately. I was scared to face the judgment of the other guests of the evening. Even the attempt to go out, attend public events, seemed to require inhuman efforts. So I wrote to my friends telling them that I had tried, but that I did not (is not it funny that the same disturbance that resets your self-esteem is so “egocentric”?). If a depressed friend continues to avoid social activities, know that it is not your fault and does not mean it does not keep your plans.
- Being happy in public does not mean that we are “pretending” the illness
Contrary to what the advertisements want to make you believe, depressed people do not look like tethered cartoons with bland expression. They do not spend their days sighing, watching the rain out of the window. We have a thousand facets, a few days (or months) are easier than others. Most of the time I find myself a happy and sociable person because that is the version of me that I want to give to the world. Clinical depression is not a simple reaction to a no day or a dancer mood. For me is that constant background noise that accompanies everyday life. A rhythm that can get stronger or less, without I can control it.
- If we rely too much on you, let us know
When I started the therapy, my mind was continually “torn” and covered by the things I discovered. I had a friend with whom I shared everything – my tall and low, my abyss. I did not understand that I was pretending too much. Then he confessed to me that it was extremely tough for her, it was too heavy to “uphold” all my anxieties, my fears, and she could no longer enjoy my company. It was a bitter bite to swallow, but I realized that that limit was necessary to protect our friendship. That experience made me more aware of how many things I can really share and do so in a healthy and useful way.
- The vague sense of depression that is felt after a break or an unpleasant event is by no means comparable to clinical depression
Phrases like “I understand you well. I was so depressed when my dog died”, they might look innocuous. It is normal to want to understand the pain of a friend, but sometimes it can do more harm than good. The sadness that accompanies an unpleasant event is very different from the “long-term” depression that invades every aspect of existence. This is not a condition that you can simply “overcome”, hoping it will disappear. I spent years scolding myself because I felt sad without a legitimate reason.
Avoid references to personality disorders, bipolarity. Avoid talking about the DSM-5 (diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders) or about the fact that a friend orders books according to the colors of the rainbow. A simple general rule.
- Once you know about our problem, do not think we have to deal differently
Often, a friend (or friend) who tells you of her condition, does so because she trusts blindly and estimates you. Every time I talked to someone of my depression, it was to explain something to me or to answer the questions of others. But that does not mean that you have to spare our criticisms, whether we are bad or are not good friends. With us you can make the same conversations you have with others, do not be afraid to treat us as you would have done before we heard the word “depression”.
We are always the same extravagant, complicated friends (or colleagues) you’ve met.
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