When You’re Too Depressed to “Reach Out”
By Pauline Campos
How is it that we’ve all been conditioned to place the burden of action on the one with the mental condition that literally robs us of the ability to act?
Depressed woman looking out the window.
Telling a depressed person to reach out—especially if they are in the deepest of depressive bouts—is like telling a blind person to try to see harder.
Kate Spade. And now Anthony Bourdain. I’m afraid for the next headline. I’m sad for those we lose daily who will never be mourned by millions of fans the world over.
I’m not going to say the word right now. It’s been said too much already in the past few days. It’s going to be said many more in the days to come, and at least one of those times, I’ll be the one using it in a story, but right here and right now? I’m not using it. What I will do is start a conversation that is long overdue.
Just the other night, I saw a headline in which medical experts were warning the general public about the contagion effect I’ve written about before. If you are in a stable place mentally and interested in learning more, this article is a good place to start.
Right now, though, we are reeling from another loss. Those of us who have been in the deepest pits of depression and have had to claw our way back up are hurting because every loss reminds us, even briefly, of how much emotional energy it takes to simply exist when depression lies to us, telling us that we are worthless, lazy, that we always mess everything up, and that the people we love would be better off without us.
Please don’t listen to that voice. Depression is an asshole never to be trusted.
This is normally when I’d tell you to reach out and I’d provide the standard resources, hotlines, and links, but this is a conversation and not a PSA, so we’re trying something different.
I’m not going to tell you to reach out. I know I never do it for myself — I just can’t — when I’m in a deep depression. Telling a depressed person to reach out—especially if they are in the deepest of depressive bouts—is like telling a blind person to try to see harder.
Think about that. How is it that we’ve all been conditioned to place the burden of action on the one with the mental condition that literally robs us of the ability to act? If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a tribe of people who get it to keep tabs on each other, because we all know this is so much harder when we try to go it alone.
This means we all need to start paying attention. We need to watch and listen closely to what those in our personal and social media circles are saying, and sometimes to what they are not.
When people say there were no warning signs after the world has lost another beautiful soul, that’s not always accurate. Sometimes they didn’t see the warning signs or recognize them for what they were. It’s not someone’s fault for missing a sign they didn’t recognize, but we can learn as we go if we actually follow through with this plan and start watching each other’s backs. Depressed people are good at pretending we are fine because EVERYBODY’S FINE, DAMMIT.
But even as we put on the brave front while hoping like hell that no one can see through the act, we also hope someone is paying close enough attention to us to see what’s really going on; we’re hoping that person will be brave enough to call us on our bullshit.
That doesn’t always happen though, so we stop expecting people to notice at all. We keep on pretending.
We are programmed to say “fine” when asked how we are doing by strangers and friends and family alike. Maybe some people mean it when they say it, but we don’t when depression is hitting us hard. It’s just easier to go along with the accepted script.
I’m not going to tell you to reach out, but I hope like hell that you do. I am going to tell you that you are beautiful and loved and ask how I can support you until the fog finally lifts. And I hope you will do the same for me the next time I fall back into the fog. Ask me if I have seen my psychiatrist lately and if I am taking my anxiety and depression meds as recommended, because sometimes my ADHD means I forget.
Let’s stop putting all the responsibility on the depressed person by telling them to reach out and instead take some of that up to share and lighten the load. Let’s start reaching in for each other. It’s time to start reaching in.
If you or someone you know may be at risk for suicide, immediately seek help. You are not alone.
Calling the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
Calling a friend or family member to stay with you until emergency medical personnel arrive to help you.