Now is the time for compassion, not judgement.
Trigger warning- depression…
The world has changed with COVID-19. Individual lives have been affected and the world as a whole. With the severe changes and the extreme methods used to combat the virus, another legitimate health threat is looming for many of us. Depression.
It always feels like you are the only one, and the isolation makes it worse. I know that if I am battling it right now many others are suffering too, some very silently.
Please remember depression is a sickness that, like the virus, can result in death. They say up to 200,000 Americans may die of COVID-19. In 2018, there were 48,300 suicide deaths. As it is now for every 4 people who die from Corona 1 person will die of suicide this year. That number is sure to rise as a result of the current circumstances too.
Depression is hard to acknowledge and talk about. Everyone wants to stay positive in this, and believe me I do too. Some people are good at reaching out for help but many hide it, afraid to annoy people with their unpleasant feelings.
There are also things very well meaning people say, unaware that it does more harm than good. These things can be damaging. People with depression, trauma, and anxiety already have hyper-vigilant nervous systems and even small remarks said in the wrong way can seem detrimental.
The first is trying to push positivity upon depression. “Hey, just cheer up.” “It will all be ok.” “You are worrying over nothing. ” “You just need to have a positive attitude.” “Let’s all smile.”
You can not just tell a person to be happy, especially with depression or grief. It makes the person feel isolated in their feelings and wrong to have them. There is a lot of guilt of emotions with depression. “If everyone else can just cheer themselves up why can’t I?”
We need to acknowledge the fact that there are many people battling harsh emotions now. We can not deny that the country is also dealing with a mental health crisis. It is unhealthy and detrimental to not confront this publicly.
It is OK to be sad or depressed. It is OK to need to talk about it. It is OK to express these feelings. Don’t expect people to be able to just put on a happy face during this time.
The next thing please do not compare a person with depression’s situation to others. Like pointing out that other people have it worse. It is minimizing the person and they perceive it as their feelings are invalid, or they are selfish just for having them.
I am seeing a lot of this with the current situation. “Lot’s of people lost their jobs, not just you.” “We are all stuck inside.” “Many people have it worse.”
This can isolate depression and grief and cause guilt for expressing their feelings.
Another really big one, that has been prevalent in the recent situation, is people trying to force gratitude on others. One step further, I am seeing people judging others for a perceived lack of gratitude.
Don’t tell someone else they are wrong because you don’t think they are grateful enough. Do the people who are doing this even realize how rude it is, or how much damage their remarks can do to someone with depression?
“Well at least you have a home.” “You have food and wi-fi so you have no reason to complain.” “Why are you sad you should be grateful of what you do have.” “Your house is comfortable you are selfish for not being grateful.” “How can you complain about losing your job when you have shelter and food, what is wrong with you?’
A person with depression can feel they have no right to any negative emotions, that their pain is not legitimate. These remarks make them feel like their reason for feeling down, sad, shocked, anxious isn’t “bad” enough, so there must be something wrong with them if they have those feelings. It is emphasizing to a person already feeling like a burden that they really are damaged.
Depression is not a lack of gratitude, and gratitude is not the cure for depression. It is actually one of the many coping skills I personally combine to navigate my depression. I do have many things to be grateful for, and I am, but the depression is still there. It helps, but is not as simple as that.
You can be grateful of what you have and still be sad or in pain. Those are natural human emotions.
It still hurts to lose your job. It is a shock to your system when most of your ways of coping and treatment disappear almost overnight.
My personal coping with depression involves medicine and therapy.
It also involves sticking to a sleep schedule and getting at least 7 hours a night. It involves keeping my life as low stress as possible and having the security of a job for the income and purpose to get out of bed. It involves meditation and yoga routines, jogging, hiking and getting time in nature. Expressing my emotions by playing music, and the important connection of playing with others. Playing the drums is my zen zone and vital to my well-being. It actually takes a lot of time, effort, money and sacrifice for me to live healthily with depression.
Please remember depression is a legitimate illness. It is not a lack of positive thinking and it is not a lack of gratitude. It is medical condition and is treated with a mix of different coping skills, medicines, therapy, ect.
It also isn’t just “being sad.” Often it is a lack of emotions, apathy about living, constant numbness. It has physical symptoms too, like your limbs feel like weights you can hardly lift, and getting out of bed can seem impossible. Standing in the shower hurts. It can take so much effort to do the smallest tasks. Living itself is simply painful.
When I am in moderate depression I will gain a couple pounds and get lazy, over eat sugar, sleep too much and cry.
However, when I am in severe depression I lose weight because I loose my appetite, I can’t eat or sleep well, and I also loose any interest in life and the things I normally enjoy. I can’t cry, I feel detached.
After I lost my job I was staying so mentally positive, looking on the bright side, being mindful and staying grateful. I was counting my blessings and reminding myself that I will be ok.
I also noticed I wasn’t sleeping, I was not eating much, and I was losing weight fast. I disassociated from the emotions of losing my job, hiking, and live music, the sudden financial stress, and I focused on the positive, but still my body was in depression.
About a week later the pain welled up to the point I couldn’t repress it anymore and BAM!!! I cried for 2 like days, and that was OK people, because it does hurt to loose your job, your ability to play music with people, hugs, and all the associated stress of this situation. It is OK to have negative feelings at times like these. It is OK to cry and express pain. It is OK to have conversations that are not all positive and bright.
Those tough conversations are needed right now for many people. People need to express their pain right now, not hide it for fear of being judged for it.
I am strong and my awareness of my illness, my medication, and my daily routines help me so much. But other people suffering right now may not have these support systems. Some people suffering right now may not even be aware what they are feeling is depression. Also, many people are also dealing with grief at this point in time.
So, to anyone who is judging sad and grieving people, depressed people, or people voicing their hardships at the current situation for not being grateful enough, that isn’t what is needed right now.
Instead of telling people what they should be grateful for, trying telling them why you are grateful for them. That is something many people need to hear right now. Let people know why they are important to this world.
Reach out to a friend and really ask how they are doing if you think they are having trouble. Reach out to friends you may never even think are having trouble too. Many of us are great at hiding our depression, we have been doing it for years.
Please listen to each other and be compassionate and understanding at this time.