Depression forces the individual into a feeling of sadness that persists for long periods and significantly interferes with one’s ability to perform everyday tasks, at home, school or work. ~ Krishnee Appadoo
It is a very dark place to be. At least when it comes in like a flood. Suffocating any sense of reason. Once engulfed in this shroud of heaviness; one just hides, isolated from public. Or, even when among people, withdrawn and secluded in a dark forest of thoughts. A person feels completely alone: Like a Cipher. And, no, they may not reach out to talk with someone. They may not have the strength to do anything of service towards others. They suffer in silence. They suffer an onslaught of judgmental and critical thoughts. Many of these thoughts take on voices of friends and relatives that have spoken harsh words in the past. A person becomes lost and bogged down; drowning in their own murky despair. It is a personal swamp of sadness
This personal swamp of sadness is filled with decay of past and broken relationships. Beliefs of being a failure. And, becomes debilitating as one sinks further and further into the mire of sad and hopelessness. For many, it’s a real struggle to make it out. Yet, there are others that have succumbed and drowned in this swamp. For me, this is what depression feels like sometimes: My own personal swamp of sadness and despair. And, no one truly knows how many times one suffers in their own silence.
What is depression?
There is no real definition of depression. What expert’s have come to understand is it’s symptomatology. Depression is also idiosyncratic in how the symptoms may present within each individual person. This may include intensity of an episodic period, and the frequency of one’s episode of depression. However, here is one explanation that I find applicable in defining depression:
Depression is very difficult to diagnose because its symptoms occur in many other diseases/illnesses. Moreover, while some people ‘know’ when they are depressed, others do not realize its toll until it’s too late. The most common symptoms of depression are periods of persistent (often unexplained sadness), marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities, disturbed sleep, change in appetite, chronic fatigue and loss of energy, poor concentration, and in extreme cases, recurrent thoughts of death.
Krishnee Appadoo continues:
Depressive episodes range from mild, moderate, to severe and has been associated with suicide in many cases. There are two wide categories of depression and these are unipolar depression and what is called ‘bipolar mood’ depression, the latter being a disorder on its own. Depression can be accompanied with manic episodes, in which case it often leads to bipolar disorder in many patients. Manic depression or bipolar disorder involves patients experiencing episodes of an elevated or agitated mood, described as hypomania (individuals appearing energetic, excitable and highly impulsive). The most common treatment for depression consists of basic psychosocial support combined with antidepressant medication or psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy and problem-solving treatment. While the causes of depression are still unclear, experts say depression is caused by a combination of factors, such as the person’s genes, their biochemical environment, personal experience and psychological factors.
While advancement in Psychology and Behavioral health is continuing to work toward assisting people; Social stigma of depression exists today. This may be due to the misunderstanding people have. And, this is the most problematic issue regarding depression – “As a ‘silent’ and ‘invisible’ illness, with most patients choosing not to disclose their illness because of the stigma associated with depression, and the fear or rejection, it is one of the most misunderstood ailments.” Individuals rather choose to suffer in silence, rather than disclose how they are feeling. No one will truly understand! And, it is this very fear that perpetuates, I believe, the silent suffering.
Just like Eeyore – an outsider
One of the most archetypes of literature is Eeyore. His home is in the “Gloomy Place” where it is “rather boggy and sad”. Individuals struggling with depression are just like Eeyore. They feel they are an outsider while other’s are appearing to have a lively and enjoyable life. Sometimes, envy and jealousy tags along with this sense of depression. Yet those individuals silently suffering may appear to be happy. They may have a superficial sense of belonging. Still, for others, they have become emotionally isolated, and experiencing depression – despite the good nature fun happening around them. No one truly knows how much a person maybe suffering. How broken someone may be and we are not quite aware of it. If we are not present. If we are not cognizant of this truth, we may miss an opportunity to lift someone out of their own personal swamp of sadness.
Good intentions lead nowhere
Part of the stigma is this ideology that if a person is suffering silently, then all they need to do, or, must do, is to think positively. Some even suggest the idea of “fake it till you make it.” The issue is, as good and well intended all this sounds, people suffering in silence have quite a difficult time to capture their own thoughts and bring them back to a sense of positive thinking. In addition, the whole idea of faking it till you making it does no good. It’s an illusion to present a false affect that is not truly where a person is at in how they feel. What may actually help is for those concerned friends to reach out. Go to those suffering in silence. Call upon them. Not to boast in how good and wonderful life is. But, to really sit with them in silence. Being close and present, ready to really listen, and not offer any unsolicited advice.
That is the other part of the reason many may choose to suffer in silence. People are quick with cliche advice giving. Providing unsolicited feedback. Instead, being present and silent may be the single most important factor someone may do. And, when the individual does speak, really listen with your heart and soul. Having someone there that will listen is the most precious component of service.
Even still, consistency is the key. Being consistent in coming to them, not to rescue them, listening to them, being there silently, doing things to help an individual out, may go much further than, “Hey, stop being a lump on a log and let’s go do something.” Remember, they are fighting a silent battle and feel quite overwhelmed with their own critical thoughts and judgments.
Where do we go from here?
Dealing with depression is no walk in the park. The individual feels utterly hopeless, alone, drowning in their own sense of worthlessness and self-pity.
Talking with them may have little effect. Asking them to get up and do something may have little effect. Being with them, sitting in silence with them, wrapping an arm around their shoulder (if permission is given), and waiting is probably the most effective way to help them find their way again.
Yes, there is hope for those who are suffering in silence. There are many avenues, and there are real risks involved. Professional help is the most common form. Journal writing is another form to express one’s thoughts during times of depression; and, during time of good. And, while it may be difficult to prevent social and emotional isolation, understand and know, hope is what drives me out of my own personal swamp of sadness and despair. Below is a link to a 21 minute video produced in 1973 called Cipher in the Snow.
I encourage those who have Eeyores in their sphere of influence, don’t wait for them to reach out to you, go to them. Reach out to them. Because, when you do, you may find that your present (not your words) are most likely the encouragement they need in their time of despondence.