A plea by Richard Bleil for the depressed
Once upon, the major holidays are neigh upon us. I did something very uncharacteristic for me in that I did accept an invitation to go to a Thanksgiving dinner, although I still have no intention of joining a Christmas celebration. This is unusual for me, because I feel as if these holidays are best served in a situation of which I have been unable to create, namely, they are times to commune with family. I think that the difference in this invitation is how closely I have grown to this family, largely individual, meaning that I have befriended on social media many of the individual adult children of the family and met many of them, at least briefly, in person. I think it will be interesting to see the entire family interact together and in its near entirety and I look forward to seeing them.
The thing to keep in mind, though, is that this is a rare exception to my thanksgiving. Normally, I get what I call a “bachelor turkey”, meaning a turkey loaf, that I can put into an oven and sit and eat alone while watching truly absurd movies. This is a good thing for me because often holidays gives rise to severe depression, and I really don’t want to expose others to my dark depression in what should be a happy family event.
What I want to point out is that many people, including myself, suffer from terrible debilitating depression and it often stops us from holiday celebrations. I’ve been told, as I’m sure most or all people suffering from depression have and far too often, “why don’t you just decide to be happy?” Oh, good, that solved it, thank you, all better now.
People who do not suffer from depression really cannot understand what it is. Depression is not being sad or blue. My depression lasts for months at a time, and all I know is that I’m fortunate in that it’s not so bad that it is completely debilitating for me. There are others who suffer far more severely than ever I did, but this is not just being sad. It’s physiological, chemical, it’s something that is a medical condition. To dismiss depression with such cavalier attitude is the equivalent of dismissing somebody in a wheelchair. Saying “just be happy” is really just as bad as saying “just decide to walk”.
A couple of days ago, I had an epiphany in a research project and enigma I have been struggling with since the late 1970’s. It was an incredible insight, and very exciting. My poor friend met me the next day and she had to put up with hours of my talking about this, and I thank her for allowing me to have and for sharing in my excitement. But as we parted, I gave her a warning, and asked her to keep an eye on me. The reality is that, when I have such exciting news as this, regardless of how happy it makes me, it ultimately results in an excessively deep depression just a few days later. This is not normal. Blues or sad days have a cause. I was very sad when my wife asked me for a divorce. It was devastating, but I moved on. Depression has no cause. There is no rhyme or reason for the impending depressive episode in my near future, and it will last far longer than just being sad because my wife wanted to move on. This is the kind of depression with which so many people struggle during the holiday season.
If someone you love, at any level, suffers from depression, please just be accepting. There’s a new phrase, “hold space for them”. I love this. Don’t try to change them, don’t try to fix them, but accept them for who they are, and accept that they have their struggles. Be sure to at least invite them as you normally would. Excluding them entirely doesn’t help, even if it is what you think they want. Invite them, but don’t push, and be okay with their decision. If they do not, or cannot, accept your invitation, trust me when I say it’s not personal. It’s not you, so please avoid getting angry or berating them as I’ve suffered far too often. And, once again, if you are one who suffers from depression, please know that you are not alone. It’s too easy to think that there is something wrong with you and nobody else struggles with this, but the reality is that I do as do millions of others. Too many beautiful souls are taken from us during the holidays because of depression. If you feel that you are getting to a point where you might be a danger to yourself, please, I’m begging you, reach out for help. And I promise that I will do the same if things get that bad.