news

If you know someone who's depressed, please read this.

I have pulled myself out of major depression twice now.

The most recent episode lasted two years, and it had extracted my passion, my spirit, my joy, my ability to love music and my words before I recognised the name of the beast that had captured me. The process of loosening myself from its grip and eventually finding freedom was a battle that I had to grudgingly accept before I could even begin, and the fight lasted many long and painful months. It may have been my journey, but I needed people in my ring, cheering me on as I took the punches.

It was a lonely time in my life, which meant that few were around to hold me back from the self-loathing freefall I had tripped upon. I had been in Sydney for less than two years when things came to a head, and my life revolved around the fashion industry in which I worked, where every friendship seemed to be based on some intention. The false – and nonexistent – connections were both a cause and an effect of my depression, as once my joy slipped from under me I lost the ability to relate to others. I had a wonderful partner and puppy who reminded me that my existence mattered, but other than them, it felt as though I was in a stand-off with the rest of the world. One of us had to give in; I reasoned that if I killed myself, we both would.

Death weaved in and out of my everyday consciousness. My partner was able to pull me off the ledge, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want to jump. I confided in one other person – someone I considered a best friend – but she simply told me to “toughen up”, and reminded me that the hell I was in was of my own making.

She was partly right – my thoughts were the culprits of my torture, and I couldn’t blame anyone else for them. I couldn’t blame the boss who had been sexually harassing me, or God for taking away the woman who raised me, or the fashion industry for giving me no real friends, or my businesses for inflicting more pressure than I knew how to cope with. My feelings were my own reactions to those things, and I had to take responsibility for them.

But in other ways, she was wrong. I needed her to listen to me and to tell me that everything would be okay, even though my depression lasted a long time and, as she described it later, I began to sound like the boy who cried wolf. I needed her to tell me that she would know and care if I died, not that she would check my Facebook to find out. I needed her to understand that I couldn’t be as happy for her as I liked, because I had forgotten how to be happy and her good news made me feel my own unhappiness intensified. I needed her to call me and to pick up her phone, but she cut me off because I was in “such a foul mood”. I was, but her avoidance made me so much worse.

ADVERTISEMENT

I know her reaction was simply a lack of understanding, and so many people don’t know what to do when their loved ones are depressed. In my case at least, depression made me terrible company, so it was all too easy for my friend to turn away. But a support network is essential when you are fighting this disease, and my loneliness exacerbated it terribly.

As a society, it seems we are becoming increasingly independent, which is great in many ways – but it is also making us increasingly disconnected. In my neighbourhood at least, we don’t borrow sugar from each others’ kitchens or say hello on the street, and a Facebook “like” replaces a telephone call any day. Self-resilience is important, but I don’t know how many of us can do it alone. I think the trick is letting one another know that we don’t have to.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, suicide is the leading cause of death for people under 44. It may not be our obligation to call each other regularly, to be kind to everyone we meet or to be there for others when their life starts to feel catastrophic, but given the numbers, we, as social beings, may be better off if we did.

Depression is a disease that provides relationships with ample cause to break, so my partner will forever be a hero in my eyes. He held my hand as I struggled to get better, a process that involved a lot of forgiveness, acceptance, talking, writing, and connecting with other people who had fought a similar beast before. They made me remember that this illness had picked many other victims, and that I, too, could survive. Their stories reminded me that I wasn’t alone, and although they couldn’t be in my ring as I fought, their strength certainly was. It was my journey, yes, but we won that battle together.

Have you helped a friend fight depression? Experienced it yourself? What advice do you have to give?

If you or a friend or family member are suffering from depression please call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14

00:00 / ???