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Depression Fallout, a bewildering cacophony!!!
Aim: To develop support groups for patients with depression
This is a compassionate and mature account of what can lie in wait for the legions who are captives of the fallout from the depressive’s agony;
It’s difficult to make others understand how desperate a deep depression can make you feel, how lost, how cope-less, how grim. And no light at the end of the tunnel. And there is no way properly to describe the anguish that a depressive can put his family through.
Gloom, doom, no love, no real communication, short temper, and leave-me-alone fault-finding. Why more relationships don’t break up under those desolate circumstances is a puzzle, for you know deep down the damage you’re doing to the ones you care about, the ones who have to live through it with you and suffer from depression fallout, and yet you feel somehow incapable of doing anything to lighten the burden for them.
The average layperson whose knowledge of depression is limited to some of the recent educational efforts probably does not understand the value of this information source, although history may help. The whole idea of depressive illness stemmed from the observations of the “alienists” stationed in the insane asylums of the nineteenth century. These hospital superintendents lived on the grounds of the purposefully isolated asylums and were, all day, every day, in contact with their charges, who often remained for years. Many of those patients had brain syphilis, others the last stages of alcoholism, others pellagra (a nutritional deficiency of the poor), various forms of epilepsy, and brain trauma.
Treatment was essentially nursing care and regular meals. Of great importance was the fact that if a patient was discharged and became ill again, he or she would very likely return to the same hospital.
For every person suffering from depression, at least the same number, and probably many more, suffer from depression fallout. They are the people closest to those with the illness: the spouses, lovers, parents, and children who experience the consequences of living in close proximity to someone else’s despair. Yet most of what one reads and hears about depression fails to look beyond its sufferers, as though they existed in a vacuum. For the intimates of depressives and manic- depressives, this is as puzzling as it is painful. We wonder why no one notices that we are as inexorably drawn into the force field of the illness as iron filings to a magnet. We wonder why no one understands that another’s depression directs and colors our lives, our thoughts, our feelings, just as surely as it does those of the depressive.
Living with someone who views the world through a prism of despair is a daunting task. Proximity to them gives rise to many of the same feelings as does the illness itself: futility, worthlessness, and an inability to enjoy or cope with life. The depressive’s outlook is biologically driven, steered by a malfunctioning of the brain’s chemicals. Ours is psychologically derived, the byproduct of someone else’s misery, but no less crippling to the spirit. Depression and depression fallout are mirror images of each other, distinguishable by the fact that the former is a recognizable illness and treatable by medication, while the latter is neither. We have the symptoms but not the illness, and they originate not in our brain’s faulty neurotransmitters, but in the other’s behavior and our reactions to it.
It is virtually impossible to share life with a depressive and remain free of the miasmic net the illness casts.
where the doctors and psychotherapists see a patient, we see our wife or husband or lover, our parent or child. That’s where our problem begins, out of the public view, in the privacy of our relationship. As we witness a close friend or family member transformed from the familiar to an alien being, we rush to help them, to make them well with our love, our sympathy, our support. As we gradually come to realize our efforts are for naught, we begin to lose our sense of self. Confronted with the unrelenting despondency and negativism of the other’s depression, we match it with a painful gloom of our own. And when our love, sympathy, and support are rejected or ignored, we slip into irritability and anger that mimic the depressive’s. Guilty and ashamed, we long to escape the source of our black feelings. We do this silently and secretively, persuaded that our aberrant thoughts and feelings are unique to us. Such is the progression of depression fallout.
This is to everyone working to keep us safe, to everyone suffering in silence, to everyone putting in their best and getting no commendations·I see you, I salute you.
Stigma breeds shame and silence where neither should exist. There is nothing shameful about mental illness; an illness is an illness, whether of the brain, the heart, or the lung.
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