I’ve been wanting to write about depression for a while now, but I keep stopping myself because I feel like I have no right. I have not suffered from depression personally, and so for me to talk about it seems a little like when Oprah sits and talks about raising kids, as if raising her dogs is the same thing.
However, last night as I was thinking about it, I realized that while I have no insight into the experience of depression, I am well versed in the role of someone who loves someone with depression. Ryan’s late teenage years and into his twenties a bit, he suffered from depression. And for a good long while, I made the mistake of thinking it was something he could just get over if he really wanted to. Then, when I realized that he couldn’t just “buck up”, my next plan was to heal him with my personal devotion. I figured that if I loved him more; if I was nicer, more helpful, more catering to his ideas, that it would make him all better. I was sure that my happiness could fill in his void. I thought I would simply be cheerful enough for both of us, as if optimism was something I could loan.
The thing is, depression is a personal experience with its own timeline. If there’s anything I know about depression, it’s just that. It is not fixed by love, and it doesn’t go away without a lengthy, drawn-out, balloon-shriveling, ice-melting, exhausting farewell party. The timeline, however, can be monumentally shortened with professional help. If you need some, please get some. If you love someone who needs some, your greatest gift will be supporting them in getting some. You might have to make a few phone calls. You might have to set an appointment. You might have to sit in a waiting room. You might have to have an uncomfortable, frank conversation. But, when it comes to a loved one, that’s not much to ask, is it?
There is no shame in asking for help. If I ever lose my reasoning skills and get a tattoo, it will be those very words right across my forehead. (Well, either that or a likeness of Regis Philbin, but probably the former.)
Ryan’s experience was relatively short-term. And by short-term, I’m talking a few years. He got help. Life got better. We both learned a lot. I learned that I couldn’t fix him. And maybe just as important, I learned to let him be. Wherever he was. I learned that the opposite of depression isn’t happiness, it’s healthiness.
The other thing I’ve come to realize is that I really like depressed people. I know that sounds a little strange, but it’s true. Some of my favorite people in the world are prone to it. Not every side effect of the disease is negative. Seriously, look at all of the amazing literature and poetry depression has given us. I’ve found that people who have dealt with it have a deeper understanding of what it means to truly live. It strips them of pretenses and often leaves a humbled, authentic person in its wake; vulnerable, as we all are, but more willing to show it. That’s downright admirable and endearing. (My next sentence was going to be, “So, let’s hear it for depression!” but I thought that might be going too far.)
I think that’s everything I have to say for now. I’ve got to go to Barnes & Noble and pick up Oprah’s new parenting book…