Today, I want to talk with you about mental health. This is outside of the typical physical health topics we usually write about but I feel it is worthwhile sharing because, quite frankly, physical health means nothing if one is mentally ill.
I had a discussion recently that involved mental illness, more specifically, what I am certain was major depressive disorder in a person close to our family who took their own life not long ago. The discussion was challenging for reasons beyond the obvious and it caused me to pause, and mindfully reflect.
In my opinion and experience, the most important thing to be conscious of when thinking of or interacting with someone who is depressed is the distinct difference between “won’t/wouldn’t” and “can’t/couldn’t”.
“He won’t get a job”
“She wouldn’t go to the family wedding”
“He won’t keep up with counselling”
“She wouldn’t try harder in school/work/relationships/LIFE”
For an outsider, it can be impossible to relate. For an outsider, to have a chance of understanding, a major shift in perspective is required.
You see, when someone is depressed, they literally can’t do these things. They are physiologically unable to perform normal, everyday activities and to do the things that, as an outsider, would seemingly “fix” their situation.
“He CAN’T get a job” because his depression makes him feel worthless and unemployable.
“She COULDN’T go to the family wedding” because she felt she would bring everyone down and the thought of a room full of people was too overwhelming.
“He CAN’T keep up with counselling” because he is unable to see any light at the end of the darkness and it seems pointless and a waste of time, money, effort.
“She IS ALREADY TRYING as hard as she can” and yet she is still unable to keep her head above water.
To say someone won’t or wouldn’t do these things while crippled by depression is the equivalent of criticizing an athlete with cancer for not just getting up and training to run that marathon.
For a person with depression, life is the marathon.
Let’s be kind to each other and to ourselves.
Blessings to all whose lives have been affected by this awful, awful disease.
If you or someone you know needs help, PLEASE, please call someone. The Crisis Line is available 24/7/365: 403.266.HELP (4357).