It takes a village to heal depression

I have read about personalities who died by suicide, allegedly because of depression, including Korean K-Pop Shinee’s Jonghyun, and Korean actor Jun Tae Soo. Their deaths put on spotlight certain realities many of us have chosen to overlook. [ See related story here:]

I have family members who battled with depression. And while they suffered, I also suffered, and so were the rest of the household, extending to other people who know us. This makes me wonder how other families go through the same ordeal as ours.

I will skip the statistics because numbers do not matter at all when it comes to this topic. It is neither consoling to know how many people worldwide suffer from depression or which countries have the highest depression rates or suicide rates because of depression. Depression is never about “the more the merrier” situation. Depression is a test of human compassion as it is cathartic for anyone dealing with a loved one with depression.

What depression is not

One quote that struck me is this: “When you’re depressed you don’t control your thoughts, your thoughts control you. I wish people would understand this.” I do not know who authored this quote but it somewhat reveals how gripping depression is and it is not easy to deal with.

Depression is “infectious”, whether it is caused or triggered by physical illness, life changes, inability to cope with pressures, and a myriad of other things. It does not only attack one person but also the people who care for that person. As while the depressive suffers, the people around them would be in turmoil about how to help, to understand, to give comfort and even to attempt to heal. In many cases, if I may say so, professional help can only do half as much as what compassion of a family member, friend or colleague can give the person with depression.

My experience is that I was like walking on eggshell, afraid for it to break; at times I would walk on tip-toe, careful not to make the slightest footfall so as not to startle the depressive and make them defensive; and many times I had to put on a strong front even though I was breaking inside, feeling helpless.

Not in the slightest would I know if that was how depressives would want their family or friends to feel towards the situation. But that is exactly what makes the situation “fragile” for the people around the person with depression. The bond amongst them does not spare empathy. It is a 24/7 commitment to be able to take part in that healing process of the depressive; and to endure the seeming futility of the attempt on a day-to-day basis.

Personal experience is the best teacher: tips to get by

Nonetheless, this episode also poses a big challenge for people dealing with depression sufferer. This situation is a time for you to stay grounded so as not to fall into depression yourself.

Here are 9 basic things to remember when dealing with depression:

1. Maintaining calm, optimism, and cheerfulness may be the hardest then but you need to do it anyway, for yourself too.

2. We appreciate that sometimes it is convenient, for the lack of “better” things to say, to tell our depressed loved one this phrase: ” Be strong, you can do it”. Stop right there! There are times that silence is a virtue. Not saying anything can be more helpful than saying something, albeit with good intent, that can come off as more discouraging.

If your loved one tells you something and asks, do you understand [or implies to ask this], you may say ” I understand you..” or ” Even if you feel I still do not understand you, please know that I believe you.” In some instance a person hints only at being depressed. That’s why it is important to LISTEN to words being spoken and not spoken.

3. When your loved one gets angry and takes their frustration on you, bear in mind that it is not a personal attack. I cannot tell how is the best way to react, but my reaction to this situation is to keep quiet (than rebut) while the tension is up; listen to cues on what the person is really trying to tell; and assure MYSELF, that what is happening is not my fault.

4. Do not harbor guilt feelings. It is no-one’s fault. Even if it was, guilt cannot start the healing process but will just open more wounds and bruise old scars.

5. I am not sure if any expert would advise to acting normal. Regardless, we know that the situation is not normal. Nevertheless, try your best to carry on with your daily life, starting the day with a mantra, ” I am okay, and I can do this.”

6. You are your own ally. In my experience, the threat of “killing or harming” one’s self is too much to handle. So, when caring for a depressed loved one starts to weigh on you, excuse yourself from the scene for a while. Go outside, have some ice cream, sing, and dance, just do things that you normally would do when you’re stressed out from normal routines. In other words, do things that would remind you of YOURSELF, of your reality, and own life.

7. Remember, we can only do so much. The love that we feel for our loved one with depression is unjustifiable. Too, many times, this love cannot be expressed by mere words or by how many things we do. This love, in many instances, can solely be expressed by our mere presence, without words, and most especially without judgments.

8. Pray for strength, for understanding, for another day of grace and light.

9. Tell your loved one that you love them. Say, “I love you”, randomly even, and whenever there is a chance. When you do this, you not only assure your loved one that they have someone on their side in this battle, but it also opens up your heart and makes it lighter [That is, it opens your heart chakra].

Insights from someone who’s been there, done that

Ted Henick in this TEDx Toronto video talked about his own experience with depression, which led him to contemplate on suicide. His description of what went through his thoughts during those “dark” episodes provide me with key insights that have helped me deal with situations as I encountered them.

Be well, everyone. No matter what it takes.

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