So yesterday (11/Aug) we heard about Robin Williams death, which seems related to his depression problems. And, surely enough, a lot of posts on Twitter (at least, on my timeline) talking about “talk to someone about your mental problems” or “seek help” and, seriously, that doesn’t fly. At all.
Let’s talk a bit about it.
But who are you, anyway?
I’m a person who realized, after 2 years of therapy, that I lived depressed for a good 10+ years. No, nobody took me to it, I broke down one day and decided that maybe it was time to do something about it. No, I didn’t speak to anyone about it, partly because I didn’t know I was depressed and partly because that’s what depression do.
“Eternal debt of motivation”
So, for anyone that never suffered from depression, let me put this in an easy way: Depression is the complete lack of motivation. Sure, you’d look better with clean clothes, but you see no motivation to do it. You could get out of bed, but you do not see the reason why you should. You may feel hungry, but there is no motivation to eat. You could keep going on till things get better, but the motivation to keep breathing simply isn’t there.
“But how you don’t get motivated to breath?” Well, you simply don’t. You don’t see the point of doing it anymore. I mean, yeah, you could wear clean clothes, but why would you when nobody notices? You could get out of bed, but there is nothing outside of it that seems worth doing so. You may feel hungry, but why eat when you don’t feel appreciated the way you are? Why keep going on when all this doesn’t seem to reward you in any way? Those are the things that come to a depressed mind.
(By the way, in case you didn’t realize yet, “keep breathing” is actually a nice way to describe something much deeper than simply “air goes in, air goes out, never a miscommunication.”)
The two types
There are two types of depression (maybe more, but I’ll describe the ones I know): Pathological and psychological.
Pathological depression is an imbalance in your brain chemicals and you simply can get pleasure from anything, because your body isn’t producing the endorphin and what-not-phins that activate the “feel good” parts of your brain. A psychiatrist is a professional that can recommend drugs to put your brain in balance again. And no, there is no single “if I take this, I’ll be happier” drug: It all depends on what kind of inbalance you have — hence why you need to see a psychiatrist.
Psychological depression is when even if your brain is still producing the chemicals in the right way, but you can get anything out of it. Yes, it is that weird. But simply things aren’t. You know when you eat too much chocolate ice-cream and suddenly it doesn’t taste as good anymore? Imagine it for everything. Except the part of “too much”. A psychologist usually may find what it is blocking your brain into taking pleasure of things; it’s a damn hard thing to do, because different things will work with different people.
By the way, my depression was psychological. Maybe that’s why I know more about it than pathological.
At some point of my life, friends recommended that I should talk to a psychiatrist and get some drugs. I simply refused because I thought “This thing changes the mood, so the mood isn’t mine, it’s the drug mood. In the end, whoever is talking to my friends again wouldn’t be me.” Yes, it is that weird: I preferred being sad than being happy with the feeling that I wasn’t me.
One thing I mentioned before is that depression is the complete lack of motivation. So when you say “seek help”, your suggestion is completely moot because a depressed person lacks the motivation for everything, including seeking help. Personally, I think the change will come from inside: Either you will break down (that’s what happened to me) or depression will break you down (which sadly is what happened to Williams).
What happened for me to break myself up? Well, this is the hard part to tell, but I had planned everything for my “goodbye cruel world”. I studied the right way to do it, thought the way to make the less mess possible, had a schedule and… I saw Steve Jobs commencement speech. There is this part where he talks about reading “live every day like it was your last” (a phrase that never affected me) and changed it “If when I look at the mirror and think ‘If today was my last day, would I still do what I’m about to do today?’ and the answer is ‘No’ for too long, I know I should change something.” And that’s the point were I broke down: If that was my last day — which I planned to be — would I still do whatever I was about do? Things crystallized and I broke down. That moment, I really cried and decided I should seek help.
It was not because people talked about it. I had people mention over and over again that I seemed down, that my mood was visible and people were down because I was down. But nothing they said affected me. I had to break down on my own.
Also, still to let you understand depression and “lack of motivation”: I clearly remember that as tears rolled down, they reached that point on your chin that really itches, you know? Well, I didn’t care, I had no motivation to wipe them out; I let it itch.
“If I can’t tell them to seek help, what should I do?”
One thing I felt the whole time was that I, as a person, didn’t matter. I could simply disappear and nobody would notice. Or they would notice and didn’t care. Showing that you care, showing that person matters, helps. No, it doesn’t mean you should go to that person and say “You matter”. It doesn’t change the fact that even if you say it, the depressed doesn’t see how they matter.
Now if you phone the depressed and say “Hey, I was thinking: Could I go to your place with this movie and pizza and beer? I want to hear you funny quips about it.” or “Could I go to your place with pizza and beer?” and when they ask “Why?” simply answer “Because I like to spend time with you.” helps. It boosts their self-stem when someone cares about something they do naturally instead of keep pushing towards some absurd goal of being thin or have a model hair or be rich or any of those other things. “I’m here because you are you.” Simple like that.
Heck, even calling and saying “I was worried about you” may be enough. Someone that cares, will make someone feel like they matter…
But how do I know when someone is depressed and needs help?
Well, that’s the funny thing: You can’t. Some of us, depressed people (well, I’m kinda ex-depressed, but still), manage to hide it quite well. We could look like a normal person, make jokes and such and still hurt inside.
So what could you do at this point? Simple: Be nice to everyone. Tell your friends they matter because they are what they are. In the end, if the person was depressed, they will feel better; if they don’t… well, it never hurts being nice, does it?