I felt like I’d entered a room full of cobwebs. The more I tried to flick them away, the more they stuck. Other times it was like being shut behind an iron door that no amount of pushing, shoving, or even the right key could open. I got out of bed only to care for a school-aged child and an elderly mother who needed constant care. I was fortunate, however; after a month in the doldrums, the fog lifted on its own.
That soft slide into depression put me on alert. What would I do if it doubled back to trip me up again? I began to research, read and listen to learn more about the condition that is no respecter of age, race, religion or economic status. Saint Elizabeth Seton, Ernest Hemingway, J.K. Rowling and Janet Jackson all suffered from the disease. “You feel like the walls are closing in on you, and you can’t escape,” Jackson is reported to have said. “That was happening to me during VelvetRope, and I just felt like there was no way out.”
Depression is too often mistaken for the blues. Unlike the blues, however, depression lingers long past a few days or couple of weeks. Symptoms include lack of interest in activities that were once pleasurable, a loss of energy, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and feelings of hopelessness and guilt. It’s not a one-size-fits-all disease. It can present differently in men and women, in young people and the elderly and in women who have just given birth. It cannot be willed or wished away. Please don’t try to “pull yourself up” or tough it out. It’s a disease – if you suspect depression, see your physician immediately. It’s their job to diagnose and treat, not ours.
Support from friends and family is crucial. If you’re a friend or relative of a person suffering from depression, you certainly want to offer your support. But make sure you have a clear understanding of the disease. The last thing they need to hear is “oh, you’ll get over it.” Or that all they need is a vacation, a man, a woman, a drink or Jesus. Note to the faithful: this is not to minimize prayer. But those familiar with its power understand that God helps those who help themselves. According to the Book of James, faith without works is dead. If you would urge a friend with a chronic heart condition to see a doctor, then do the same for a friend or relative suffering from depression. Both are diseases, and both, when untreated, can be life-threatening.