The Struggle to Understand Depression
People struggle to understand depression until they have felt its life-sucking despair. I have heard family members call their loved ones lazy, pathetic, and worse. From the outside looking in, a depressed person may, in fact, appear lazy and pathetic. People with depression often do very little. They detach themselves from activities they once enjoyed. Some isolate themselves and appear apathetic. It is difficult to be sympathetic toward someone when the answer seems so simple, but stop it! They would gladly stop being depressed if they saw any way out.
How does Depression Affect Us?
Depression begins when events in life leave us with limited or no choices. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness creep in over time. We marinate in these feelings, and apathy begins to take over.
I have often thought of depression as a whirlpool that a ship might disappear into from an old movie. Each current of the whirlpool is a symptom:
- Loss of energy
- Depressed mood
- Decreased interest / Pleasure in activities
- Appetite loss
- Sleep disturbance
- Worthlessness / Guilty feelings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor Hygiene
- Thoughts of death
Unlike a medical illness like the Flu, one cannot just wait depression out. Time without action usually increases the pull down.
At Watershed, we want to help people with depression start their journey back into healthy communities and give them a chance to express their helpless and hopeless feelings.
The mantra of depression is “I don’t feel like it.” People with depression are forever being told what to do in order to make things better. Usually it isn’t all bad advice, but they just don’t feel like it. They cannot wait for their feelings to change and spur them into action. As the hymn “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” states, “If you tarry till you’re better, You will never come at all.” How in the world can someone fight something when they feel defeated and apathetic all of the time?
Two Analogies for Treatment
First, what happens to a person’s muscles when they are stuck in a hospital bed for months? They atrophy to the point that often that patient is unable to walk. The process of returning to previous strength is arduous and painful. Most people want to give up a few minutes into physical therapy. Slowly but surely, however, our muscles begin to grow. While they grow, they ache, making us want to quit even more. Over time we begin to feel less pain and have more control. We barely notice our progress, yet we are making process.
Second, Aesop’s fable “The Crow and the Pitcher” comes to mind. In short, a famished crow finds a pitcher with water in it, but he is unable to reach the water. The thought occurs to him to put a pebble in the pitcher. This does almost nothing, but he keeps adding pebbles until many had gathered in the bottom of the pitcher. The water then rises to a level he could reach. The moral Aesop teaches us is that “little by little does the trick.”
Finding a Way Back
Depression is a lonely bear of an illness, and there are many pebbles that can be part of the journey out. Medication is often part of this process, as is exercise, eating regularly, taking showers, journaling, and therapy.
Depression drives people away from community. People with depression may be asked where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to. They may feel ashamed. At Watershed, we want to help people with depression start their journey back into healthy communities and give them a chance to express their helpless and hopeless feelings. We welcome their voice and presence.