Note: Only three blog posts have made me cry the entire time I wrote them. This is the third. My New York friends will know I often joke that finding an apartment in the city was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but that’s not true. It’s not even close to true …
The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life was to love someone with depression.
It’s a job that comes with no training. That can bring you to lower places than you ever imagined going. According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 10 percent of Americans reported depression in the two weeks prior to the survey. Ten percent of the population! So, I know I’m not the only one out there who has been affected.
But depression was foreign to me. I couldn’t understand being in a dark, hopeless place. I just don’t think I have it in me to get to that place. As much as I wanted to, I knew depression was not something I could force him to snap out of. I couldn’t take on the depressed person’s burdens or shower him with love and gifts to make it go away. Believe me, I tried everything I could think of, and I would have done anything to make that darkness go away.
But I didn’t know the toll that period took on me until I found myself in the early autumn, feeling drained. Like a towel that had been wrung out, I had nothing left to give. I just wanted to let someone take care of me. Finally, I planned a week at my parents’ house. I dreamed of how relaxing it would be. I would go for a massage, walk around their quiet yard and eat homemade chocolate chip cookies while twisting in the swivel stools at the counter.
I wouldn’t have to walk on eggshells or try to keep things perfect so as not to disrupt. For one whole week.
Then my sister called to tell me she and my then-very-young niece were going to meet me there. My heart sank. “No!” I wanted to cry. This is my time. My time to be taken care of. I can’t compete with an adorable infant. But I didn’t say that. I turned on the cheerful voice that I’d gotten used to faking and said that would be great. I hung up feeling mad at my niece. How could I be mad at my sweet niece? It wasn’t her fault, but I did not want her there. I felt terrible.
That week came and went, and I did feel recharged. And I enjoyed my time with my sister and niece. But I didn’t learn a thing. I dove right back into doing anything and everything. Only years later did I learn that by trying to do everything, I made things worse. I was spinning my wheels trying to make him happy only what I tried wasn’t what he needed, and it didn’t force him to accept the situation. In the process, I was depleting myself of all my resources. I had nothing left for me or anyone else.
My heart goes out to everyone who is depressed. Please know your depression affects those around you. I know it’s all-encompassing for you, but they feel it as well. And if you love someone with depression, know it’s the hardest job in the world and take care of you, too.
I hope to never find myself in this position again, but if I do, I’d do it all again. Only better this time.