There are two sides to the problem of finding support from friends and loved ones when in the midst of depression. I discussed the risk of encountering prejudice and stigma in this post, but what happens if someone tries to offer support during a severe episode? Can you accept and appreciate it? Can you even hear it?
All too often I couldn’t take in even the most loving offers of help. I’ve explored why that happened in this recent post at Health Central.
My depressed mind had several ways of blocking out any expression of support. I’ve mentioned these before in a number of posts on this blog, but here’s a quick summary:
I used to shut myself off, closing doors to keep people out. That could mean isolating myself in a quiet place, avoiding everyone. Or it could mean being with friends and family but emotionally uninvolved, feeling more like an observer of a scene than a participant. Even when I was with them, I wasn’t really there at all.
- Losing Memory.
Then there were times when I literally couldn’t hear what a friend might be saying to me. The words didn’t register in the slightest. Or perhaps it was a problem of memory. I would have no recollection at all, and it was as though I hadn’t even seen the person. If my wife tried to remind me, I’d be baffled, and she’d have to describe the whole thing.
- Refusing Support.
There were other times, though, when I was perfectly aware of friends’ willingness to help but couldn’t accept their support. I could only respond by showing whoever was offering help that they were sadly mistaken. I might do that by immediately replying with words that were edgy, cynical, perhaps openly insulting. Or I might get angry. I was giving them proof that I was a terrible person, poison to their kindness.
Fortunately, those experiences were balanced by others when I could open myself and feel strengthened – especially by my wife’s responsiveness and understanding.
I hope you’ll take a look at the Health Central post and leave a comment about your own experience. Can you usually hear and appreciate the support of friends and loved ones when you’re severely depressed?
Amy Kiel says
Before I head over to your Health Central post, I wanted to comment here. I think this is perhaps the biggest obstacle to wellness when one is severely depressed. The inability to receive help, the obvious refusal of it, and hiding from it seems to be part of the illness itself. It’s as if a break of some kind, a new awareness if you will, must happen before one is able to accept the help and support that is needed when in the midst of a severe period of depression. This may be especially true if it is the first episode or experience with depression. Just my observations, certainly not science.
Hi, Amy –
Very well put. I think you’re exactly right – it is part of the illness itself. Whether or not one has the ability to respond to support is a measure of how complete the control of depression is. We often talk about the importance of being willing to start the work of recovery, but there is also this complete lack of awareness of the possibility and importance of support. Without that, how can you get to the motivation to get well?
Thanks for your sharing your insights.