describing the indescribable

This isn’t really a post – this is me finding a brilliant article about depression that deserves to be shared. I’d never heard of Tim Lott before I read this, but I think he’s a kindred spirit.

To try and explain what his illness felt like to him, he uses his mother’s suicide (which most people would be able to relate to as a truly ghastly event to deal with) as a marker of grief and apathy. That must have been terrible – but even that wasn’t as bad as being depressed? 

He’s right. My dad died of pancreatic cancer when I was 17, and the circumstances were such that I had to handle it on my own, emotionally (and, within weeks, in all other ways). And I can honestly say that I would rather endure that all over again than go through another severe depression.

But that’s not why I’m telling you this – this isn’t me being self-pitying, I promise! What I’m wondering is why it is important that we should understand Lott’s experience. Sure, mental health practitioners and pharmaceutical researchers need to know as much as possible, but I’m talking about the people around him. Around us. Why isn’t it enough to say, Look, I’m really ill right now, can you please leave me alone for two months? And if I start smelling because I haven’t showered, ignore that too… ?

I’ve come to the conclusion that we want people to know how it feels so that they don’t judge us. Being judged negatively, for something you can’t prevent and certainly don’t want, is a double trauma. I have to wonder how many marriages and other close relationships between people have failed due to one person’s inability to “get it”. Perhaps it says as much about a depressive’s inability to communicate clearly as much as the listener’s inability to empathise?

I’m rambling, I apologise. Lott’s article helped me, maybe it will also help you. x



10 thoughts on “describing the indescribable

  1. katechiconi

    Ramble all you want: firstly, it’s your blog and you can say what you like, and secondly, getting the issue some air time is no bad thing. I think most people have trouble relating to depressions because it’s ‘invisible’, there are no obvious symptoms, no wounds, rash, fever, etc. “Well, you don’t LOOK ill” is a regular and unsympathetic reaction. But do you truly want to be left alone, or would it be lovely to talk about it to someone who’s sympathetic and non-judgemental? I think each depression-sufferer has a different experience and perhaps also a different way of dealing with it…

  2. nanacathy2

    I suppose people want to help, or have things get back to normal. Most unhelpful is pull yourself together! Certainly mental ill health needs to be talked about much more, the stigma removed and more resources put into recovery and prevention.

    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      Yes, I think it’s true that people want to help. If your friend has all the symptoms of bad flu, then you can drive her to the doctor or make sure she has groceries in the cupboard. I realise it’s difficult when you can’t actually see any obvious symptoms.
      If there’s still stigma attached, I’m not seeing it or feeling it in my world – and in fact I’ve started to think that, for some people, it’s almost like a trophy, or a badge of something? Almost something to be proud of, for which therapy and medication and other resources must be rallied. I know that probably sounds ludicrous, and I need to think a lot more about what I’ve just said, but I do know people who want to have a huge fuss made. I suppose, from me having raised the subject in the first place, I might now run the risk of being seen as one of those people. I hope not! Fuss is the opposite of what I want!!! For me, telling and describing will hopefully lead to understanding.

  3. sutzmanchego

    I can totally agree with you on the being left alone thing – when I’m having a low day, I do not want to deal with anybody except for my boyfriend and even then I tend to go into another room for the most part. Thankfully he’s understanding of this and I know I can go and get hugs when I need them. Everyone else though? Wish they’d leave me alone. I hate answering questions about how I am. If I say I’m okay then they wonder what the hell is up with me, if I say I’m having a low day and don’t want to talk to anyone then they feel uncomfortable. Then they expect me to be okay the next day. I’m thankful for one friend who just sends me a message and doesn’t expect me to reply. It’s so hard to describe the way I’m feeling in one sentence! Low-day doesn’t cover it (for the most part I’m not low, just apathetic and empty) but it’s the only way to get people off my back! Someone needs to invent a word that we can use when times get hard and we need space. It could be posted as a facebook status or as a tweet and instantly people would know to give us space.
    Big hugs to everyone struggling xxx

    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      You are fortunate to have a boyfriend who understands, and doesn’t take it as a personal rejection. Apathetic and empty – I know that stuff, or should I say, non-stuff?! Thank you so much for commenting, let’s raise a glass to endurance xxx

  4. insearchofitall

    I get it, sadly. Wish I didn’t. You don’t really want your life to end, just that constant indescribable pain. Some days I’m surprised my kids aren’t medicated or in sanitariums. They got it on both sides. I NEED to be alone a LOT. Finally had to get my son to move out and my sister who has it too. I have to surround myself with strong upbeat people when I do venture out. It’s exhausting being with people. I wish they knew more about it.

  5. Nice piece of work Post author

    I think, even if people don’t know more about it (and they can hardly be blamed for that!), they just need to know it’s how you say it is, and to try to accept that. I have people in my life who accept (or have no choice but to accept!!) that sometimes I’m quite sociable and in an upbeat mood, and other times I’m a big sack of nothing. Other people – not so much. They must just think I’m a nutcase. Which is also fine, because those people matter less to me.
    Thanks for commenting, Marlene. I always appreciate what you have to say xxx


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