Much younger me could not understand depression. Older me understands it all too well. And only now I understand that sometimes depression becomes so familiar it’s hard to distinguish it from what is “just” a deep sadness.
As it got harder and harder, I thought maybe the cloud of depression got bigger again and that that’s the reason I can’t see the sun. So I tried helping myself in ways I’ve learned since I’ve first met it. More than a decade of experience gave me many tools. As there is not one way to help every person who faces depression, there is also not one way that helps one person every time. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Sometimes it does miracles, sometimes it barely helps you survive. Sometimes it makes you feel even worse. Sometimes it’s the combination you never tried before that does the trick. And you find new ways, discard the old ones…
Yes, I tried.
Until I suddenly I realized that what makes it so hard this time is that it’s not depression that is holding me down. It’s just a deep deep sadness, feeling of loneliness and being tired, so tired every breath is a struggle.
Does that make a difference? Yes, it does.
Depression is a serious thing. I never like it when people use the term easily, in most cases to “self-diagnose”. I’m not saying others know better than you do how you feel. But if every sadness or even being in a bad mood for a few hours is labeled as depression, then it’s easier to dismiss the seriousness of depression when people really suffer it. So please, do not speak about depression so easily, so quickly, so mindlessly.
I’m also not trying to diminish the significance or heaviness of sadness. Or the pain it brings. It’s never about what is more and what is less – it is just about recognizing the difference.
I’m not suddenly feeling better or happier or lighter – I just know what I’m facing, and that knowing helps me. Like writing a proper address on a letter if you want it to reach the right person, knowing what you are facing helps you deal with it. Now I can look in the face of my pain and help myself (hopefully). If I know I’m tired, I can rest a bit more. If I know I’m feeling lonely and why this loneliness hurt so much, I can learn how to accept it. And if I know where the sadness comes from, I can try to find ways to change it.
I don’t really like the saying about “fighting your demons”, partially because it’s not always about fighting, partially because it implies that something inside us is evil. So, no, it’s not evil, and no, it’s not necessarily fighting, but perhaps it is that you cannot face the demons if you don’t look at their faces, know what they are and acknowledge their meaning.
And try. That’s the most anyone can ask of us. Even ourselves.
Alenka H., 2023