When I was younger, it was much easier for me to bounce back from a depressive episode. No matter what the duration or how awful I felt, once I began feeling well again, I used to call all my friends and say, "I'm back." And then I would arrange luncheons or dinners so that I could catch up on their lives--the milestones I had missed when I was ill. There were years when I was a good listener, and I truly was interested in whatever they wanted to share.
As the years progressed, gradually I stopped making most of those telephone calls. In some cases, after so many episodes of absence, we grew apart. In other cases, I just didn't have the energy to hear about everything I'd missed. It's not that I didn't care. It was just that I had spent so many days, weeks, or months--trying to survive--that I found it difficult to return to the rhythm of daily life.
And when they would ask me, "How are you?" I would say, "I'm okay now," and let it go at that. I think some of my friends and family members felt like I was shutting them out. I truly believed I was doing them a favor.
How can you describe what a depression feels like to someone who's never experienced one? Could I feel comfortable saying, "For the last four months, every day I felt like I was dying. Each morning when I awakened, I had to force myself to get out of bed, brush my teeth, shower, dress, and pretend that I could feel joy about anything. Yes, I love my husband and I love my son and there are others, but aside from loving them--I can't feel anything but sadness, grief, sometimes terror, and an overwhelming sense of loss."
Would they feel comfortable hearing these words? Would it make me feel better to say them?
I didn't think so then, and I don't now. How could I ever explain to them that from one day to the next, everything changes for me. Suddenly, after months of such debilitating psychic pain that I don't how I will stand it for one more minute, I'm myself again, and I feel the enthusiasm and optimism that is a central part of who I am--when I am well.
(to be continued)