“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitz
I’ve posted here a few times about being positive and helping others. I’ve talked about being the rainbow in somebody’s life. Recently I had series of posts that wandered off a bit into the dark side of life and battling back from that. I received lots of feedback from people who have been though depressions and from some for whom it is still an issue.
I was going to write a post about dealing with depression; but, I realized that I have no business trying to do that. I have no experience or personal frame of reference for the feelings of someone who is undergoing depression. I’ve had my share of disappointments, times of great sadness, or loss and feelings of failure at something or thoughts of inadequateness; however, I’ve never gone further than to approach the abyss that depression can apparently become.
As I was reading on the topic of depression, I ran across many great quotes from people who have had personal experiences with depressions and made it back out (or who are in a recovery mode). Many if those quotes made reference to the darkness. There were also many well-meaning advice quotes, which seem to have a recurring theme of looking for the light in the midst of the darkness. Many of the quotes written by the people who had experienced it or were still in a state of depression seemed to be saying, “Let me alone, I prefer the dark”. That just didn’t seem to me to be very helpful – to just back off and ignore the pain of depression, if one sees it in a friend. One quote that I found seemed to sum up the role of a true friend for someone who is depressed.
If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” ― Stephen Fry
While I may never be able to understand the crippling impact that depressions can have on someone, I can at least try to be there for them when they come out the other side; hopefully to help rekindle hope in their lives. So, maybe our role is just to be there. To say, “Welcome back”; to prove that somebody does care and love them, even when they don’t love themselves.
Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, posted this piece of advice for well-meaning people who don’t understand or see depression as a medical condition that may require long-term medications to control.
“Since I am writing a book about depression, I am often asked in social situations to describe my own experiences, and I usually end by saying that I am on medication.
“Still?” people ask. “But you seem fine!” To which I invariably reply that I seem fine because I am fine, and that I am fine in part because of medication.
“So how long do you expect to go on taking this stuff?” people ask. When I say that I will be on medication indefinitely, people who have dealt calmly and sympathetically with the news of suicide attempts, catatonia, missed years of work, significant loss of body weight, and so on stare at me with alarm.
“But it’s really bad to be on medicine that way,” they say. “Surely now you are strong enough to be able to phase out some of these drugs!” If you say to them that this is like phasing the carburetor out of your car or the buttresses out of Notre Dame, they laugh.
“So maybe you’ll stay on a really low maintenance dose?” They ask. You explain that the level of medication you take was chosen because it normalizes the systems that can go haywire, and that a low dose of medication would be like removing half of your carburetor. You add that you have experienced almost no side effects from the medication you are taking, and that there is no evidence of negative effects of long-term medication. You say that you really don’t want to get sick again. But wellness is still, in this area, associated not with achieving control of your problem, but with discontinuation of medication.
“Well, I sure hope you get off it sometime soon,” they say. ”
I’m sure that the same dialogue would not occur if the discussion was about the insulin that a diabetic needs to live a normal life or the oxygen that someone with COPD might be hauling around with them. As a society, we need to think of the medications that help prevent or lessen depression with the same level of acceptance. It’s time we moved our thoughts about depressions and mental illness out of the dark places in our minds and become the enlightened friends that can really be helpful to those in need.
Faith is one of the things that can get temporarily lost for many who undergo such deep journeys into the darkness of depression. Yet for others it is their faith that helps them find the light and see the way out of the darkness. Ann Marie Aguilar said it this way – “If darkness surrounds you, look for the light. If you can’t see it, raise your head up. You may be surrounded by darkness but it does not cover you on top. Let the light shine down on you and let it lead the way out of darkness.”
One thing that turning to one’s faith can do is to provide a way out of the dark, one-way alley called “I’m not worthy.” Faith does not require you to be worthy; it only requires you to be willing to embrace God and receive the forgiveness and grace that was ransomed by His Son Jesus on the cross. Faith allows you to let go of the things that have been troubling you by allowing you to give up the fight to control things that you cannot control by saying “Not my will; but, thy will be done.” Faith allows you to love yourself and therefore to allow others to love you, too. Faith may also free you from guilt, so that you can seek the help that is available through modern drugs and psychotherapy.
Have a great week ahead. If you know of someone who suffers from bouts of depression, don’t turn away; be there for them. Be the friend that rekindles their spark of hope and pray for them to find their way back to their faith and out of their personal dungeon of depression.