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Not Your Problem to Fix

I am currently in a funk, have been for a couple of weeks now.  This is nothing new to me.  I have been clinically depressed since I was eleven-years-old.  I know that this is not PC, not “appropriate for polite conversation,” but I don’t believe that people should be ashamed of mental illness.  It doesn’t make me any less of a person, it doesn’t change the way that people look at me after they find out.  The people that matter at any rate.  In fact, I’ve found that talking about it helps.  When the people around me know, I don’t feel the need to put on the act that I do around others.  You see I am a very high functioning depressive.  A common reaction that I get from people when I tell them, is that they had no idea I suffered from depression.

Actually, I don’t like to say that I suffer from depression, because suffer has always implied to me that I am a victim, that I have no control.  I decided long ago that I’m not a victim.  I battle depression. It is a war and one that I will likely fight for the rest of my life.  I take it head on and I take no prisoners . . . most days.  However, like any war I lose battles, and then I’m in a funk.  Sometimes I can identify what caused it, sometimes I can’t.  Some days are simply funkier than others.

And no, that week or two that you felt really low does not give you an adequate frame of reference for what the past 20 years of my life have been like. So please don’t tell me that you know how it feels. You don’t. That would be like me telling a marathoner I know all about it because I ran track in high school.  To a certain extent, it’s insulting.  It belittles my reality.

I know that you want to help, I know that you want to fix the problem and I appreciate that this desire comes out of concern and from a place of love.  But please understand, that this is not your problem to fix.  Suggesting that I get more exercise, or eat healthier, or get daylight lamps, or investigate the different meds on the market is the opposite of help.  I’m doing the best that I know how to do and you giving me all of these suggestions tells me that my best isn’t good enough. It layers funk on top of the funk.  Not to mention, I doubt very seriously that you have come across a study, approach or new theory out there that I haven’t already read about and very probably tried.  I have worked my way through the advice, strategies and gamut of meds available. I know what’s out there.  If there was a med that offered a benefit that was greater than the side-effects, you can bet your sweet ass that I would already be on that sucker!

This does not mean that you can’t help, you can definitely help.  Here’s how.

  1. If we live in the same city, get me out of my house.  Let’s go for a hike, or a movie, or lunch.  Get me out of the house and don’t take no for an answer.  I will have a billion reasons why I can’t; I have to clean the kitchen first, I have no money, I have a bunch of emails I’m behind on, I have to blah, blah, blah, etc.  Come over and keep me company while I clean the kitchen, then suggest we go for a walk because that’s free! Get me out of the house; even if it’s only for 30 minutes.
  2. If we don’t live in the same city, call to say hi, to check in, but don’t make it all about me.  If the entire conversation is fixated on how I’m doing, how I’m feeling, what I’m doing to feel better, I’m going to start to feel like a monkey in a cage.  Ask how I’m doing and if I want to talk about it I will, if I don’t let’s move on with the conversation as normal.  Please don’t tip toe around like you’re walking on egg shells, because then I feel the need to put on an act that all is well and good to make you feel better and to put you at ease.  That is EXHAUSTING, and depression is exhausting enough all by itself.
  3. This one’s counterintuitive, I know, but tell me about an issue you’re having and ask for my advice. It reminds me that there are issues in the world other than my own. The German’s call it schadenfruede, it works. But a word of warning, make it a lighter issue that you don’t need critical advice on, because depending on the level of funk you might get some really crappy advice!
  4. If you do come across an article or study that is interesting and that you think would be of benefit to me, email me the link. That way I can read it when I am in a head space to receive the information and benefit from it. Telling me about it will more than likely feel like you’re forcing the information down my throat.
  5. Understand that sometimes I have to embrace the funk, the silence, wrap myself in the dark clouds and get drenched by the rain before the sun can shine through again. So if I don’t answer your call, please don’t take it personally. I still love and care for you, the clouds have just filled my head so thoroughly that there isn’t room for anything else. Try again tomorrow.  Send me a picture of a monkey hugging a puppy or a sarcastic meme.  All good things that show you care, but give me some space.
  6. Accept, like I have, that this is a part of my reality and I’m going to have down days and down weeks. Don’t be alarmed. However, if I’ve ignored 4+ calls in a row or spent 4+ calls in a row crying and I am cancelling all of my plans except the bare minimum to survive, then some alarm is warranted. I have crossed the threshold into the benefits of the meds now outweigh the side-effects.  Feel free to remind me of this. But if not, if I’m functioning and working through it, let me function.  Support me at my current best so that I can get back to my normal best.