Self-care may involve asking those around us to help
Posted by SANE
14th Nov 2017

So I just posted this text on Facebook as I find that I often battle with perceived social pressures from friends and acquaintances during periods of severe depression. I torture myself with perpetual and circular questions -  'they don't believe I'm ill'......or 'why don't they understand what's happening to me'....or 'they haven't contacted me or mentioned the depression once - don't they care?'. This becomes a vicious circle and drags me further into the mire - so I wanted to try and post something to try and relieve the pressure and make people understand. What response have I had? - only posted it an hour ago and a resounding silence so far!! - watch this space.....

"Depression, anxiety - these are things that many of us have suffered - at least 1 in 3 of us if the statistics are correct. But that still leaves 2 in 3 people who don't suffer and may find it hard to understand or empathise. Mental health conditions are after all hidden illnesses attacking the brain and it is incredibly difficult to separate the person from the behaviour caused by the illness. So I really wanted to draw out a few common symptoms to try and raise awareness a little and to call for compassion and gentleness. 

You may find that the person withdraws from life and doesn't respond to phone calls, emails or texts. They don't turn up to social events and may let you down. Believe me when I say that this is because they are suffering. It is not personal and they will still value your friendship. But when you feel like you are nightmarishly trying to wade through grey clayey sludge and your brain feels like it has been taken over by a writhing mass of black cotton wool worms, it is difficult to actually get out of bed, have a shower or open a tin of baked beans, let alone find the capacity to socialise.

You may find that the person behaves erratically and does and says things that are out of character. This is particularly difficult to cope with and frequently hurtful. Obviously, some behaviours are never acceptable, regardless of how ill someone is. But depression twists and corrupts - and the sufferer's perceptions of life situations are skewed beyond all recognition. You cannot be a reliable witness when you are stuck in a howling vortex of emotions: depression turns you into a hideously selfish self-absorbed person.

So you see someone that appears outwardly OK. They are chatting and smiling. Or they are functioning normally at work, contributing to meetings and churning out reports. When you see this, it is very hard to believe that someone is ill at all. But actually, you have no idea of what is going on in that person's brain. They may have had to make a super-human effort to put on that shiny happy face - and maybe they then go home and collapse. Maybe this is the first stage in a long process of recovery and convalescence.

I do know that mental health conditions make your world shrink and you may well develop a long list of erstwhile friends and acquaintances who cannot deal with the illness. Although it's hurtful, it's ok so long as you have a handful of 'life friends' who will love you regardless and can make allowances for your periodic need to retreat from life. Thank you guys, you know who you are."

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