When the Dark Clouds Loom

Things No One Tells You About Depression

Sheena Monster
8 min readJan 14, 2023
Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash

Many people seem to think that Depression is feeling sad, and in turn think someone struggling with Depression can simply choose to “snap out of it”. I hear it all the time, how it’s associated with tears and persistent sorrow. While it’s true that feeling “blue” can be part of it, Depression is so much more than “oh, I feel so sad today”.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please know that there are resources available to you and professionals that do care. There are resources available to you.

Depression Defined

Depression is considered a mood disorder. Mood disorders are characterized by a “general emotional state or mood is distorted or inconsistent with your circumstances and interferes with your ability to function.” In regard to Depression, this means that for most of the day, nearly every day those afflicted will experience a spectrum of symptoms that range for sadness, tearfulness, and hopelessness to loss of interest, frustration, and irritability to sleep disturbances, agitation, or reduced appetite. It can also go as far as thoughts of death and suicide, or physical issues that seem to have no underlying cause.

As you can imagine, living with even a few of the symptoms from that incomplete list can become unbearable. For many people, a combination of medication and therapy can help manage these symptoms but even then it takes its toll.

[Sources: Mayo Clinic]

Let’s Get Personal

I have struggled with depression for more than twenty years at this point, and I am one of the minority of people who is considered resistant to medication. Therefore, I have relied heavily on my ability to practice coping skills — like writing, for example.

To be frank, it’s exhausting trying to concentrate long enough to complete daily tasks, never mind trying to work in time to practice coping mechanisms. It’s made more difficult by my co-occurring disorders that I won’t bother to list here, but it all pales in comparison to the lack of understanding and subsequent expectations others pile on top of it all. On days when opening your eyes hurts, when it makes you feel anything but gratitude for the air filling your lungs, there is still a societal requirement to pretend to be grateful for being alive. So, we mask what we can — which varies from day to day.

Before you start feeling bad for me or judging me because you believe I have so much to live for, let me take a crack at what you’re about to list. You’re probably thinking about how my family members would feel and how they would be affected by my untimely demise, right? Sure, let’s go there.

Photo by Michał Mancewicz on Unsplash

The Guilt Trips

Why is it that people always jump to guilt tripping those of us consumed by an internal Hell, that those around us regularly dismiss? Why should I concern myself with how they would mourn the loss of me, when they can’t be bothered to offer compassion or genuine interest in my life and dreams while I’m here? If I had a dime for every time this was thrown at me in response to the expression of my symptoms, I would legitimately never want for anything — I would have more money than I would know how to spend.

Honestly, though, it’s not my responsibility to consider how they would feel while mourning me, just as they have decided it’s not their responsibility to offer me emotional support while I fight to be here. If you think that piling guilt onto people who already struggle with feeling guilty for the way their brain already attacks them, you’re the part of the problem. It’s not okay to tell people that you care and that their feelings matter, then turn around and invalidate their emotions because they make you uncomfortable. It’s not okay to impose your perspective-lacking opinion or to project your personal feelings onto anyone, and that is especially true for those struggling with the demons inside their own mind.

Why All Symptoms Matter

In reality, symptoms always matter — maybe not to you, which is your prerogative. However, have you ever noticed how the symptoms of another person do matter when they, somehow, affect you? Support needs exist on a spectrum. One day I may have the capacity to shower, do my makeup, cook a nutritious meal or two, call a friend, and read a few chapters of a book and still have some energy to spare. The next day, I might not be able to get out of bed. If I can manage to get myself out of bed on those days, I would be lucky if I could remember to drink water and showering is entirely out of the question. Now, imagine holding a full-time job [or two, in this economy] while struggling to remember to inhale oxygen into your already tired lungs.

There is this common misconception that we know someone’s struggles by looking at them, and to extent I will concur — damage tends to see damage. It’s like an unspoken understanding between people who have experience similar pains. We know that they hurt, but the details of that hurt are solely theirs. Where that assumption loses me is where it presumes to claim perspective into someone’s mind simply by how they appear on the outside. Just because my symptoms don’t directly affect you, does not mean that they aren’t killing me. Many people who have never experienced suicidality assume they can identify ideologies in someone who struggles with it regularly — those same people turn around after the a tragedy claiming they never saw it coming. Truth be told, them not knowing was by design.

We can only be dismissed, rejected, invalidated, and condescended to so many times before we stop reaching for the people that profess to care about our well-being. We can only carry so much guilt about not having the energy to reciprocate joy, and can only defend our reality so much before we remove ourselves from the environment that makes the weight we carry only heavier. As much as it hurts to hear, when we don’t feel like every breath is hopeless and pointless we feel like we’re a burden on every person who does listen — and the cycle repeats.

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

Drowning is Just in Your Lungs

Telling people with neurodivergence and mental illness that it’s just in our heads is ridiculous. Brains are legitimately responsible for keeping our hearts pumping — and ours have turned on itself.

Those of us experiencing psychological distress of any kind literally exist with a malfunctioning brain, and are consistently made to feel like we have any control over it — as if it’s a choice to be made. No one chooses to wake up feeling like the life has been drained out of them, no one chooses to open their eyes to an emptiness in their chest; no one chooses inadequate sleep or profound loneliness. The only choice we really get to make is whether or not we continue to existing, groping in the proverbial darkness for hope that it will get better. Every time it doesn’t chips away at our will to keep trying.

This is why self-care, including well-maintained boundaries, and a healthy support system are so crucial to our survival. With all of the expectations held by society, the last thing we need is to have our safe spaces infiltrated by unsavory people that only support us when we mask to meet their needs. If when I am at my lowest, you can’t be bothered to help me shoulder the weight of the persistent despair that plagues my every waking moment, what’s the point? Relationships are meant to be mutually beneficial — give and take, ebb and flow. If you cannot hold space as needed, kindly stay way. We are too busy trying to make it through the day to question the loyalty of the people around us, and it truly takes every ounce of strength we have to show up for ourselves.

Finding Reasons to Stay

If you happen to be someone’s reason to keep fighting their internal battle, please, for the love of whatever higher power you choose, do not take it for granted. Educate yourself on their condition(s), join a support group, seek therapy for yourself to ask for guidance — encourage them to do what they can and reassure them that nothing else matters in that moment. Maybe that’s a shower, maybe it’s changing three-days-old underwear — and if that’s all too much, bring them a cool, wet cloth and offer to help them wipe their face and neck…maybe their pits and privates. Bring them water and healthy, easy snacks — but do not expect them to consume them. The idea is to remind them that they are loved, even when they feel entirely unlovable. Also, remember, the worst days are not the only time they need that kind of reassurance.

On better days, when they are actually functional and able to crawl out of their cave, the care cannot end — and if you’re not sure what you can do, ask them. Don’t be surprised if they tell you that they need nothing, just know that it’s not true. They still need support, but they may not know how to communicate what they need — and their support needs will be unique to them. Maybe it looks like snuggling in front of their favourite tv show or movie, maybe it looks like washing/changing their sheets so they craw into a clean bed later — trust me, you never know how long ago they did that for themselves — cook for them, or gently convince them to take a nature walk. Don’t push them, don’t guilt or coerce them — make your suggestion, and accept whatever answer they give you. “If you’re up for it, I thought we could walk the dog together after dinner” goes a long way, and it puts the power in their hands — if they say no, then accept that they may not have the capacity for the activity.

The key is to remember that it’s not about you. You may be the reason they have chosen to stay, but their support needs need to be about them.

If you’re struggling right now, please reach out and know that you are not alone. You are worthy, and you deserve to feel loved and appreciated.

Thanks for reading!

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