What I Need

J often asks what it is that I need when I'm depressed-- how he can best support and love me when his natural reaction is to give me a wide berth and try not to feel offended at my stoniness. It's a simple question, but one that I find difficult to answer.

Obviously, there are many ways to help prevent an episode of depression, but once I'm already there, it feels like a rather hopeless case. Aside from knowing that giving me distance doesn't work, I don't have a rote list of answers at the ready. In fact, thinking about it is a bit frustrating in the sense that if I knew there was something that would snap me out of it, wouldn't I have done it already?

Then, last night as we walked and mulled things over, the film What Dreams May Come came to mind. {I've always loved this scene, where Christie tells his wife that, "... I was part of the problem. Not because I remind you, but because I couldn't join you. So I left you alone."} It struck me that what I most want when I'm depressed is not to be left alone.

Depression turns my mind into a prison, and to be abandoned in that is horrifying. It's not that I want to be joined in my depression-- I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone-- but I need to be loved when I'm most unloveable. I need to be talked to when I can't utter a word back. I need to be defended when I don't feel worthy of defense. To that end, these are a few actions that I feel would help me not feel alone in depression:

  • Hold my hand. Put your arm around me. Give me a hug. Initiate contact and comfort, because I don't have the strength to move.
  • Shelter me from noise, responsibilities and criticism. Think of it as childbirth, only instead of riding physical waves of pain, I'm trying not to drown in mental pain. Breathing is an effort, so protect me from anything that distracts from that. 
  • Talk to me. Tell me, "You don't have to say anything, just listen," and then fill the silence. I'm stuck in my own head, and as much as I want to, I can't escape. Talking to me gives my brain a much needed respite from the ugly thoughts inside.
  • Take me for a walk. Take me on a drive. Take me to a movie. Change the scenery for me without expecting much from me.
  • Encourage me to try to get out of bed, go running, talk to my mom, and resume healthy habits. But don't get mad if I'm unable to.
  • Tell me it's going to be okay.
  • Tell me you love me.
  • Let me cry.

Do you suffer from depression? What is it that you need when you're at your lowest? Are you a spouse or loved one of someone with depression? Any tips for my husband?


Naomi said...

"Shelter me from noise, responsibilities and criticism. Think of it as childbirth, only instead of riding physical waves of pain, I'm trying not to drown in mental pain. Breathing is an effort, so protect me from anything that distracts from that." That rang very true to me. There are certain movies I like to watch when I am feeling intensely sad and depressed. What Dreams May Come was one of those. Sometimes watching those movies and listening to certain music feels like I am giving in to my depression and kind of wallowing in it. For me, if I allow my thoughts to stay inside they start spiraling downward. It can be helpful to talk about them, but I can't always take that step. When my husband sees me going down the path to depression it is helpful for him to be there for me to talk to even if he is busy. To take away some of my responsibilities such as dinner or the kids. We recognize that my depression is cyclical and affected by a great many things such as sugar, sleep, lack of exercise etc. So he reminds me this will get better with time. Every day isn't this bad.

Apis Melliflora said...

I think your list is very helpful...and, as usual, rather beautifully written.

The thing that helped me climb out of my recent funk was randomly hugging a crying mother in a hospital elevator for a good 10 seconds. I felt less alone and, by serving someone else, I was able to leave my brain and its self-contained continuum of thoughts for a moment.

I don't know if that would work with clinical depression, just with sleepless, low energy, stressed-out temporary depressed feelings.

Tru Stories said...

I adore you.
You were my close friend for such a brief moment in our lives but I think of you often. I wish happy thoughts for you and your beautiful family.
You are such a good person, with so much Joy in your heart and around you, in the faces of your HUGE family, which also adores you.
I love what you have written.
I love that you continue to speak about your feelings and struggle.
While dealing with my brother, I am always so grateful when light is shone on the darkness of any mental illness or struggle.
Especially, with so much passion and beauty.
Take care, my far away friend.

merelyLooking said...

Our depressions have never been in synch before; I think I unconsciously thought it was a rule. Shoot.

When I'm down, I feel like I can keep the worst of it away, until that moment when someone points out how I'm failing them, and then everything collapses, because that's the biggest voice in my head that I'm battling, the one that keeps shouting "Failure, failure" over and over and over. I'm not like you where I want someone to touch me (sit beside me, yes) or talk to me (my ears don't work when I'm depressed, it's either like I'm under water and can barely hear you and no way my eyes have strength to look at you, or else my ears become raw exposed nerves and every sound grates). What I do is throw myself into some project, obsessively trying to ACHIEVE something. It usually only works as a distraction, but it's all I have and I hang onto it like a life raft. I know I'm failing everyone around me even more by not being there, but I feel like I'll drown if I let go. I often wish I could just freeze the world till I'm "fixed"

Kristina said...

This is such a great list. And the more I think about it, the more I realize it works for my hypomania too (although I don't cry when I'm hypomanic). I actually just sent this to my husband because it perfectly articulates exactly what I need when I'm crazy: love and company. I can't think of a single thing to add to this list, other than Make Me Laugh. I always need that one too.

Tamara @31dates said...

I sent this to my husband too. Sometimes he seems at a loss when I'm in the abyss. This is a helpful guide. Thank you!
Now I want to go watch that movie again. I love it!

Miki's scrapbook said...

Oh, I'm so sorry you suffer from depression! I'll keep your tips in mind. And I hope you don't feel depressed any more.

MelancholySmile said...

I totally agree-- sometimes, certain music certainly helps me 'wallow' in depression. In fact, there are times when it feels that the only way out of depression is to hit bottom, and that's often when I find myself listening to a certain song over and over again.

MelancholySmile said...

What a great point! I can't believe I overlooked the power of service! In fact, during one of my lowest times, I can remember that the only time I cracked a smile was when I helped put on a spontaneous egg hunt for a bunch of kids who weren't having an Easter celebration (their mom was also suffering). It got me out of my own head for a while.

MelancholySmile said...

:) I miss you too! Wish we could do yoga (at your new studio!) and go to lunch together! And I love what you've written about your brother-- here and on your blog. He's lucky to have such a great sister.

MelancholySmile said...

Um, yes, yes and yes! I don't even have to tell you how much I identify with 'sounds grating' on my ears. But still, there are times when I need someone (you!) to drown out that 'failure!' voice in my head.

And projects-- I wish I did that. More often, I go into book or movie coma. Something about that tunnel vision helps anesthetize me from the menal anguish for a little while.

My recent bout has come and gone, yet you're still depressed. I think that's a sign that I need to bring you here for a while. Or I can call-- you don't have to say anything, I'll just fill the silence.

Love you!

MelancholySmile said...

That's interesting to me that it works for hypomania! And laughing is always the best medicine, even though it's pretty hard to come by when depressed. (there are one or two movies out there that I will love til the day I die simply because they made me laugh when I was really, really sad. )

MelancholySmile said...

Husbands do well with lists. ;) then again, so do I!

LisAway said...

This is lovely. Even though it's about solutions, reading them makes me understand the pain of depression, too. I love reading about how you deal with it. I think you are wonderful.

Katie Holman said...

I know this is an older post but I want you know how much I appreciate having found it! Even when things do feel good and fine, it's so comforting to read something like this and think, "Oh that's so spot on. ...Maybe I'll memorize it!"
Thank you for providing that for me, and for the countless others (and their loved ones), I'm sure, who have and will feel a sigh of relief at having this to refer to.
I've been reading through bits and pieces of your blog and have gained so much respect for you through it.
This blog, to me, is a kind and honest place to understand and feel understood. It is truly unique and such a lovely and uplifting thing to have created. I just want to give you a big thank-you hug!

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