I don’t tend to cross-post between Facebook and here, but I’m going to make an exception in this case.

It is very difficult to understand depression unless you’ve been through it. I certainly didn’t understand it until it grabbed me by the throat a few years back.

So, in the spirit of #BellLetsTalk Day, I’m going to talk about my experiences with depression. Everyone’s experience is different, but hopefully this will serve to help explain it to those who haven’t been there.

Pick a happy memory of yours. Someone telling you that they love you, for example.

Now see if you can find a way to reinterpret that memory in order to make it a sad one. Imagine that the person who told you that they love you was only saying it out of pity. Or perhaps they were only saying it because they wanted to avoid an awkward situation. Or perhaps they meant it at the time, but in the five days/weeks/months since they said it, their feelings have changed, and now they no longer love you.

Normally, you’d have to work very hard to convince yourself that any of those alternative explanations are true. There’s just too much evidence against them.

But when you’re depressed, the opposite is true. It takes a herculean effort to convince yourself that you are truly loved, and even when you’re able to muster that effort, your fortitude can crumble in an instant.

Now imagine that process happening against your will to all of your memories at the same time. That summer picnic ? Yeah, no one really wanted you there but they felt compelled to invite you. That time you went dancing? All everyone was thinking about was how it would have been so much better if you weren’t there. That time you went to play board games? You were the only one having fun; everyone else thought it was lame.

It’s not long before your past is completely swallowed up by the darkness.

“I’ll fight it” you might say, but it’s not that easy to fight against your own brain. If your brain has concluded that no one loves you and that the past was miserable, then those become “facts”. From there on it’s just as difficult to convince yourself that you are loved as it is to convince yourself that the sky is red.

After your past has been devastated, depression comes for your present. Nothing is enjoyable anymore. Big hockey fan? Now you have no interest in sitting through more than five minutes (and not just because your team is complete garbage at the moment). Video games that you once loved feel like a chore to play. TV shows suddenly seem boring. Your favourite foods all taste like cardboard. Hanging out with friends feels hollow – you’re laughing outwardly, but on the inside you feel numb.

Because none of these things make you feel good anymore, eventually you just stop doing them. Instead, you wake up, struggle desperately to find ways to kill eight minutes here and five minutes there until it’s late enough to go to bed. Every day feels sixty hours long, and by the end of it you’re exhausted from the effort of pretending that everything is okay. If you’re lucky, you’ll sleep and dream of nothing. If you’re not, you’ll spend half the night having nightmares and the other half lying awake, too scared to fall asleep again. Then you get to do it all again the next day. And the next day. And the day after that.

With the past and present both consumed, the last thing to fall is the future. And this is the worst of it. This is why we have a #BellLetsTalk Day. Depression wouldn’t be half as bad if you could be convinced that you will feel better in one month, or two months, or even six months. The problem is, it’s damned near impossible to do that when you see both the past and present as utterly bleak. You can’t look back at times in the past where you were happy because you’ve convinced yourself that you weren’t really happy then. You feel like you’ve passed your peak – your best days are behind you, and you’ll never be happy again. And you believe that with every ounce of your being.

And so hopelessness sets in. All you know for sure is that your past was mediocre, your present is worse, no one loves you anymore, and things will not get better – they will only get worse.

In the end, you might think that there’s only one way out. One way to end all of the pain that comes with every hour of being alive.

When you start thinking about dying, that’s rock bottom. I’ve been there before. I’ll probably be there again. It’s as dark and desperate a place as you can possibly imagine.

I don’t take things particularly seriously. I’d say I’m joking around somewhere between 90% and 95% of the time. But this is something I’m serious about. This is literally a matter of life and death:

If you suspect that someone is struggling, talk to them. Never mind that they’re withdrawn and don’t really want to talk. Do it anyway, and do it right now. And then invite them out somewhere. Never mind that they’re no fun to be around at the moment. Do it anyway, and do it right now. It doesn’t have to be anything big, just out for a beer or a coffee is enough. If they don’t want to, suggest another activity. Or another date. Just reach out to them until their brain can’t ignore or re-interpret the love that you are showing them anymore.

And if you yourself are struggling. Talk to someone. Talk to me. We’ll climb out of this pit together. Just don’t suffer in silence. Talk.

 

And Barry, if you’re listening, I still love you.

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