empathy

A Life Saving Letter To Those Battling Depression

plode

To truly know what someone else is feeling is an almost impossible task. How can we ever replicate the vast cosmic turbulence that is another human being’s emotion? And would you ever want to place that weight on someone else?

Depression is such an overwhelming feeling. It’s bigger than anything. I’m terrified of it. What if I can never crawl back from that all-consuming aching chasm? I’m so scared of having to feel that horrible feeling that I do everything I can to avoid it. Distractions are amazing. Run away, go back to sleep, furtively bite nails, watch some mindless comedy, swim, read, walk, paint, write. Just don’t be alone with your thoughts.

Until there’s no escape and you have to confront it.

Boredom turns into sadness. Sadness turns into exhaustion. That constant creeping sense of darkness; that everything in the world is terrible and nothing, nothing is going right and it must be your fault and now you’re drowning and you can’t think properly anymore.

My arms feel light; is this a panic attack? I can’t concentrate or focus with my eyes and I’m tired even though I slept for 10 hours and my heart is beating too hard. I can’t move my face into an acceptable expression. Trying to breathe but nothing’s coming.

Am I tired or sad or both? Everything is wrong. What am I?

The world in front of me fades away and all I can hear is a distant ringing in my ears. Food tastes like dust. It’s 3pm I’ve been lying here for hours and not even Facebook cares anymore. What do I want?

Nothing matters.

Is this actually part of depression or just a rather useful realisation?

A lonely mote of dust, floating in an infinite universe, curled in a ball to stop myself from falling apart.

Can anyone else feel this? Is this normal? Is this real?

Happy memories become tainted grey and I forget what’s real and what joy is.

But this too shall pass.

A melancholy thoughtful sadness emerges, estranged from the normal.  A dim realisation that you cannot find peace by avoiding life.

Through suffering, we can become better at empathy, more aware of the other dimensions in life.

Change will come. It is transformative.

“One has to discover everything for oneself. And get over it all alone.”

                      ~ Too-ticky, Moominland Midwinter – Tove Jansson

You must be lost in order to find yourself again.

We are not transparent to ourselves; we have to learn who we are. Self-reflection during a period of depression can allow you to become someone new. Being thrust so deeply into our own minds prompts us to self-analyse the problems we’re dealing with. Pain is focusing.

The curse of the intellectual mind is to constantly doubt itself. We find faults, weaknesses, wounds. Self-doubt turns into self-loathing as we question whether or not we’re good enough for anything. And then the inevitable spiral into of anxiety leads us into a mire of sorrow.

But that deep interior search for self can build us into the person we’ve always wanted to be. It can feed art. We can search for meaning in a way that the perpetually content (who I am certain are a myth anyway) can’t. We are forced to face ourselves. Instead of repress, we have learnt to feel, to experience all the darkness of life.

Depression can consume every aspect of living. When it’s severe, it is your life. So we’re desperate to understand it. We have to make sense of this reality in some way. We know we’re not ourselves on those days where getting out of bed is an overwhelming pursuit. Having to dig deeper to find out how to not go through it again becomes normal. We spend time inside our crowded minds, trying to fix them.

Slow down.

Take control of your life.

All this has strengthened you.

There is no good without bad. Those awful days make the normal ones seem like wondrous dreams. “The mind can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven” – Milton, Paradise Lost.

Reorientated with a new perspective, we can face disaster with a sense of possibility. You find that you can start to recognise the pattern of depressive thoughts creeping into your brain.

See depression as something that isn’t a part of you, but just an ugly parasite that comes to pay an unwelcome visit. Perhaps even find meaning and value in it, if you can. You can make friends with it; sometimes it can destroy you, sometimes it can help you rebuild, sometimes it can be kind enough to leave you alone.

Going through depression, we learn to evaluate what is important, appreciate what we want, what we need from the world and other people, and we get back to existing. We change. We might discover how to deal with today, and not to get overwhelmed by the abysmal eternities of yesterday and tomorrow. We learn to cope.

Depression is a sickness — if you can’t find a way out, it’s not your fault. This is the hardest thing you will ever have to do. And if you do, it becomes a catalyst to survival.

You have looked over the edge and seen the abyss. And you are alive.

You know you can survive.

If hell is other people then what the fuck is loneliness.

I don’t want sympathy. I don’t need overly concerned questions of, “And how are you doing today?” — pity is patronising. “To walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” is all well and good, but what if the shoes don’t fit? Blisters hurt.

Empathy should be seen as emotional understanding. Try and understand my perspective — you don’t need to share it. Lose your prejudices and assumptions: resonate with the emotional state of someone else, try to relate.

Sympathy is an acknowledgement of your suffering, a deliverer of comfort and assurance. Compassion comes from understanding and a desire to alleviate someone else’s pain. Empathy is being kind enough to leave you alone when you need to be left.

True understanding can only really come from the honest sharing of experiences — or as close to it as you can get. Communicate: tell people your story. Share what you’re feeling; try and put it down in words, in music, in art, in any form you can.

Tell the world who you are. No person should be a mystery.

Written by C. Milford