One day as I was driving in to work, I drove into a thick fog. It was the same road I traveled many, many times both to and from work, so I was very familiar with it. However, on this day the fog made everything look mysterious. I had only a vague view of the road and couldn’t get the full picture that I was used to seeing.
Then the fog lifted a little and I could see further. I could see around me. But then it thickened up again and I could barely see the cars tail lights that were right in front of me. I had to slow my speed as I didn’t know what was ahead on the road. Was there a car about to turn? Was someone going to pull out in front of me? I didn’t know what was up ahead, so in my mind I had to slow things down and prepare myself for what lies ahead.
I remember this trip so vividly and relate it to you now as someone who is going through a depression. What was once a simple road to travel on, becomes a chore, difficult and potentially treacherous! Some days you can see further ahead. Some days you can only see a bit of the road all around you. Some days you pull over and stop because you can’t see at all!
When will it end
Depression is like the rolling in and rolling out of the fog. And unlike a fog, you don’t know where the fog of depression will end? Fog which can last quite a while, eventually dissipates and goes away. But the fog of depression doesn’t go away. It looms over you, pushing in tighter and thicker until you can barely see. It can lift slightly as well…but it’s still there. And you don’t know when it will get thicker again….and you don’t know when you’ll go deeper down into your depression.
For those who have depression, it doesn’t end. I can be more manageable at times…you can even laugh. But it doesn’t mean the depression has gone away.
Here is a quote from someone you might know…
“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that”
– Robin Williams
I’ve been known to be “the funny guy” at school, in church, in social settings and at work. I’d make people laugh…but all this time, I’ve been struggling with depression since I was a teenager. I would laugh as well. I’d laugh at myself. At funny movies. At Youtube videos. I’d laugh at most things people would find funny as well. But I still had this depression deep inside. This cloud. This fog.
When I read this quote from Robin, I really resonated with it. I didn’t want to see other people be unhappy. I didn’t want them to feel what I felt. So I would go to some extraordinary lengths to get a laugh. Sometimes it was practical jokes (not overly offensive ones, but ones I knew these people could appreciate). Sometimes it was accents. Sometimes it was putting myself down. I was good at that one as I already had low self esteem (see the article on The Self Worth of the Depressed Person for more).
Instead of dealing with my depression and working through it. I was making fun of myself, creating a lower self esteem than I already had.
What can you do about it?
You can understand. The next time you go through a fog, try to feel what it must be like for your child that struggles with depression. The way the fog rolls in and out. Imagine the fog isn’t something you can easily pass through either. But is like a cloud with weight. Weight on your mind. Weight on your heart. When you feel it closing in…imagine it closing in and starting to suffocate you, that you are unable to breath. Gasping for air. Try and understand this is what it feels like to have depression.
Being understood as someone with depression is so important to me. I try to use images to help others understand what I’m going through so they can see I’m not “crazy”, because I FEEL like people must be looking at me and thinking that. I know it’s mostly my own self perception…but if it FEEL’s real….IT IS REAL!!! This is where the battle of depression is in the perception of the mind and how the brain filters input from the world in that negative context. It’s not that I want to filter it that way…it feels like I can’t filter it any other way. I feel like I have no choice!
Depression is like a heart attack to the mind. If someone has a heart attack, they immediately call 911 and rush to the hospital and get emergency care. But if it’s a “mind attack” like depression or anxiety, no one sees this happening. No one is clutching their chest. No one is calling 911. And sometimes no one goes to seek professional help. But know that is real and is an attack on the mind, emotions and feelings.
If your child is starting to open up to you as mentioned in a previous article, remember to listen, listen, listen (“What is a Depressed Person Thinking?”). Once you’ve listened and let them open up their mind and heart to you, try and use questions to help you better understand what they are going through. Ask them if they feel like they are going through a fog. Ask them if they feel there is an attack on their minds and emotions. As you do ask, you will show your child that they are being understood. And being understood is part of not feeling alone!