love

Can I Just Say #9: Bullshit Advice about Depression

a mothers care“You have to love yourself before you can love others.” “You can only care for someone else once you’ve learned to care for yourself.”

There’s a lot of terrible advice out there about depression. Of course someone who doesn’t love themselves can love others. Love is not something we must learn to do, or pass a test to excel at, or reach a certain point in our personal development to feel. Love is pervasive. Even those of us who struggle to find worth in ourselves feel it, all the time.

Of course someone who doesn’t care for themselves can still care for others – it may not be ideal, but it happens all the time. Those of us who struggle to eat or advocate for ourselves can still have loving, caring relationships with children, the elderly, the sick, our partners, you name it.

Talk about “all or nothing” thinking!

We’re not somehow sidelined from these parts of the human experience. In fact, they’re often the things that keep us going, that call us back, that give us the strength to seek our own wellbeing.

I’m not religious, but I think of loving and caring for others as sacred acts. The next time someone tells you that you can’t do them until you get better, prove them wrong. Love them right through their ignorance.

Photo by Diganta Talukdar on Flickr.

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Five Things to Tell a Depressed Person

Man is it easy to say the wrong thing. Worse, it’s even easier to stay quiet because we’re afraid to say the wrong thing. When trying to support someone who’s depressed, it’s important to be honest – to admit that you don’t have the answers and just be there for them.

Silence is shitty. When you’re silent there’s nothing to counter her inner mean voice. When you’re silent she’s on her own. Here are some tips to get you talking.

  1. I’m rooting for you. Fiercely. “I can’t solve this, but I’m rooting for you.” “I don’t know why you’re hurting, but I’m rooting for you.” “I wish I could do more, and I’m rooting for you.” People with depression are working hard. They need cheerleaders, they need support, they need to know that they’re not alone out there. They need to be acknowledged and cherished. They need to know you’re rooting for them.
  2. You’re pretty. Just because she can’t take complements doesn’t mean they don’t eventually sink in. Tell her you’ve always admired her brain, her spunk, the color of her eyes. Tell her you love the way she stands. Fuck it – tell her she’s got amazing boobs. Notice good things about her and tell her.
  3. You’re being very strong. It takes a lot of inner strength to battle depression. What can look like weakness to the rest of the world – and to the depressive herself – is actually a strong resolve to survive, to thrive. Instead of dwelling on the things that are holding her back, notice the strength she’s showing by even trying, by getting through yet another day. Remember that she’s being strong and tell her.
  4. I don’t understand. Admit that you don’t know what she’s going through. Admit that you’re not in control and neither is she. Just admit that, together, you’re out of your depths. Understanding is not a prerequisite to helping. Be truthful.
  5. I love you. Fiercely. Be upfront about your feelings. She feels unlovable, unreachable. Let her know that you’re still there, and that you’re not going anywhere. When she sees little or no worth in herself, knowing that others love her – that others find her worthwhile – can be lifesaving. Let her know.

fiercely

Photo by Namor Trebat on Flickr.

God Wants You to be Happy

I’ve never believed in a higher power and I’ve never wanted to, except as a child when I thought my extended family believed I was going to hell. I’ve never had faith in Christ or heaven and I don’t want it.

book heartBut you don’t have to believe in magic to have respect for the sacred. You don’t have to be religious or spiritual to live a life of wonder or of meaning. In my life there’s never been anything as sacred, as wonderful, or as meaningful as love.

I find that if I replace the word “God” with the word “Love,” suddenly religious sentiments make sense to me.

I want to dedicate my life to love.

I’m moved by the idea of shaping myself into a vessel of love.

love and happinessSo when my aunt looked at me with love in her eyes and said that God wants me to be happy, it made perfect, profound, beautiful sense. It’s about permission. However you get there, whether it’s God telling you, or Love, or someone you deeply respect – it’s about permission to pursue your own happiness. Treating wellbeing as a valid goal – I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer.

You’ve heard it before: God is love.

And you’ve felt it before: Love wants you to be happy.

Happy Dog

 

 

First photo by Marcelino Rapayla Jr. on Flickr

Second photo by Gustavo Jeronimo on Flickr

Final photo by Brit Selvitelle on Flickr

Farting is Good for You

A good friend of mine was recently doing some things that depressives like me do all the time: she was worrying about things she couldn’t control, making plans and contingency plans for situations that would never come to pass, and generally freaking herself out.

We settled on this little strategy, which I think could be helpful for a lot of us.

1. Pick a little mantra for yourself, something you want to remember several times a day. Maybe it’s to be kind to yourself, to rest, or to think of someone you love. Maybe it’s to remember that you can’t control everything, or that you will get through this. My friend decided on “Not everything is a big deal.”

2. Pick a bodily function that happens often, one that you always notice but can’t control, like a ringing in your ear, or feeling the urge to fart. Concentrate hard on associating that bodily function with the mantra.

Bam. Free, consistent, daily reminder of that good-for-you thing that’s just out of reach.

Bam. Farting just became good for you.

Fartist

 

 

Photo cropped from a photo by Ludovic Burton on Flickr.

I say “affliction.” You say “totally normal and necessary part of the human experience.”

affliction afflactionI was recently told by a loved one that depression is not an affliction. Affliction has a negative connotation, and depression is something everyone goes through – part of the human experience.

I took a deep breath. I said that if anything deserves a negative connotation this does, but she didn’t budge.

It’s a common refrain – a gentle way to dismiss the pain depression causes, and it hurts to hear. So what’s going on here? Why are people so defensive of depression? I’ve thought of a couple options.

  1. They confuse the person with the condition. Not wanting the person to feel stigmatized, they feel a need to celebrate the disease.
  2. They are hesitant to accept that you’re hurting – or that your pain is profound – because they love you.
  3. They worry about their own mood health and want to believe that mood disorders are common and even positive in the long run.

I was relieved to notice that all of the explanations I could come up with were rooted in love and concern for self and others.

I shuffled through possible reactions and settled on “meh.” It hurts my feelings when someone disagrees with me about the nature of my condition – but only momentarily.

With this stigmatized, little understood condition, it often falls on us to be patients and educators at the same time. But what if that weren’t true? I love the idea of letting go of the need to educate, of the need to manage other people’s responses. I love the idea of just being a patient for a while.

My friend is not responsible for my recovery. I am. Does it really matter if I think she’s wrong headed on this particular issue?

I can respectfully disagree (maybe send her an article or two) and then let it go. I can stop worrying about the fact that “someone is wrong on the internet,” and focus on getting better.

 

Photo from Patrick Feller on Flickr.