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I'm a little depressed. So pass me the Kleenex and shut up.

Back around the turn of this century, I was VERY depressed. Enough to verbalize some suicidal-type feelings. Enough to want to stay in bed most of the day and not make the effort. Things got better after awhile, but all together, it had me down for about 4 years. Since that time, I can spot the signs better. Recognizing it goes a long way toward helping it pass faster. Right now, on a scale from 10 (everything's fine, couldn't be better) down to 0 (Slough of Despond), I'm probably around a 5-1/2.


Anyone who's ever been depressed can relate how frustrating it is to talk to the non-professionals in our lives about it -- especially those who have never experienced depression, or claim to have never experienced it. Though why someone would deliberately lie about such a thing is a mystery to me.

These (probably) well-meaning but clueless types will almost always try to cross-examine you as to why you're depressed or what the depression is "about."  Not only is it often impossible to pinpoint a root cause, it's annoying because even if the depressed person does  have the ability to identify a cause, it still makes no difference whatsoever in helping lift the depression.

In this way, depression can be like a cold. How often do we really know what brought the cold on? We can search our memories for every person we've come into contact with, who could have transmitted the virus to us. We can determine that lousy nutrition, immune deficiency, or going out in the cold weather without adequate clothing, brought it on. Great. But after you whittle it down and say Ah-ha!, what are you left with? A big box of tissues, maybe a day off from work, hot tea and maybe a little somethin' from the pharmacy. Or the liquor cabinet. And time, if you're lucky. Time to catch up on your sleep and ride it out until the virus gets bored with your room decor and moves on to the next victim.

Does anyone ever say, "Well, okay, now you know that little kid with the runny nose in the grocery store is where you got it from. Feel better now? No? Well, why the hell not? Suck it up and get back to work -- other people have problems much more serious than yours!"

Nobody says that to a person with a cold. But just dare to mention that you're depressed and here come the questions. 
"Was it something I said?"
"Was it something I did?"
"Is it because your _____ died?"
"Trouble at work?"
"Is there something from your childhood that's bothering you?"
"Are you angry at somebody?"
"Is it your subconscious??"
"Is it the weather?"

And the "remedies":
"Go out and get some exercise."
"Make some new friends."
"Go sky-diving."
"Think of all the good things in your life."
"Put on some dance music."
[insert inane religious advice here]
"Smile!"
"Volunteer at a soup kitchen."

So -- if KNOWING where your cold probably came from doesn't do anything to alleviate it, why on earth would anyone expect that figuring out what made you depressed (which only happens in very rare cases) play any role in making you stop being depressed? If you want to help someone who's depressed, you can LISTEN to them, if they feel like talking. And them not wanting to talk is NOT an invitation for you to start jabbering at them for hours on random subjects because their silence makes you uncomfortable. Another thing you can do is address concrete issues (as opposed to their state of mind, which you and they actually know very little about). Depression makes people feel indecisive and overwhelmed. It can leave them awash in piles of unfinished chores, which makes them feel even worse. You can offer to do a couple of things for them -- wash some dishes, maybe, or run an errand. Something to cut down on the number of things they know they need to do but can't seem to. And the key word here is offer. If they don't accept your offer of help, you're fine telling them that you care about them and that they don't have to cope with it all alone. Unless you really know this person, know their entire history and what kind of risks they face, simple trite remedies don't do any good. But above all, confusing a "diagnosis" with a "cure" really doesn't work, for depression or colds or a lot of other things.

End of rant.

For those who have wondered about the Wally situation, he should be out of the hoosegow and taking all the usual steps toward a fresh start this coming summer. This may or may not be complicated by a recent health crisis involving his father, Doug, who faces cancer surgery in early March. No prognosis will be available until the surgeon does her thing. Everything else is, well, same as it ever was.





Comments

You are absolutely right, and your analogy to the common cold is so apt. Often, there is no trigger to a bout of depression, which makes searching for the cause doubly futile.

I wish you peace of mind.

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