It’s been over a year since I wrote my book The Man in the Pit about helping someone who’s dealing with depression. My own struggle with depression hasn’t slowed down. In fact it’s increased a great deal over the last few months. If you too are fighting depression and finding hope hard to come by, let me offer you these helpful thoughts.
Yesterday I found myself stuck, once again. My son Evan had a rowing competition near our home in upstate New York at a park about 45 minutes away. The wind added extra bite to the already chilly air as I stood around waiting to see him row.
I had woken up at 5:00 that morning so that he could be there by 7:00. He didn’t row until nearly noon and the race wouldn’t end until 2:00.
The more challenging part was the gray that was enveloping me that day. As much as I was working to be positive, it was overtaking me and the pain was overwhelming and any feeling of meaning was disappearing. I was fighting depression and finding hope non-existent while I did my best to hang on.
The parents I normally hang out with were working and the wait was long. It was cold, I was bored, and I struggled even to recognize a single face I knew. All of it just magnified the internal challenge I was dealing with, but, as we all must do, I stuck it out for someone I cared about.
The day wore on, and Evan finally was able to race. As he came toward the finish line, something was wrong. His form was completely off. He wasn’t rowing right. Normally the seats all slide forward in unison as their oars come back and then they all slide back as they push the oars through the water, propelling them.
But Evan wasn’t doing this. His oars were off and he wasn’t moving. I found out later that they were doing really well when his seat broke mid-race. When I talked to him he seemed to be doing okay, but he wasn’t going to place well.
As he went off with his friends, I went to get some food nearby to be back by 2:00 to pick him up. I arrived back in the parking lot a few minutes before 2:00 and waited. And waited. And waited.
By 3:00 I went to check on him. His mood had soured and he was touchy. It would be longer. Then 3:30 rolled around. Thinking something went wrong, I went to check in with him again. They were still loading up. At 4:00 they were still going.
Had I known they would have been going until after 4:00 I would have gone home. Instead I was stuck in my car for much of the day just trying to pass the time that I expected to be minutes but was instead hours, all while fighting depression and finding hope impossible.
It felt like such a metaphor for things I was going through: stuck. As the depression grew I sent texts to friends trying to catch a lifeline, but no one was responding. I felt alone and stuck and I was hurting.
I wanted to get beyond it, but was trapped, having to wait for my son and just throw away my day. My darkness turned to anger, and I brooded. When he was finally able to leave, he was brooding as was I. My nerves felt frazzled and my anger boiled at every other car on the road. I kept my cool, but my son knew something was very off.
I was alone, stuck, and hurting, and on top of it all, I still had to be on best parent behavior. It’s not easy fighting depression and finding hope, but I did discover a few tricks that helped me make it through.
Time, Connection, and Disassociation
There is no easy fix for depression, but there are a few things you can do to make it through when you find you are struggling.
First, there is time: one thing about depression is that, even though it may be because of something big, the trigger is often situational. Sometimes holding on and getting a good night’s rest will help.
Secondly, you can work to make a connection. I finally was able to connect with an old friend who also had struggled with depression. She simply listened, and helped me see I was okay.
The third thing you can do is disassociation. Depression is often triggered by a particular action or event. Sometimes tuning into something else can help. I’ve watched comedies that I wasn’t in the mood to watch, but would find myself laughing. Sure, once the production was over, I felt about the same, but it helped for a time.
Also, on that particular day, as I was doing the dishes feeling horrible, I thought about that friend. I wondered if she was doing okay. Instantly my focus turned to helping her and I reached out. That’s what led to her helping me.
Fighting Depression and Finding Hope
Dealing with depression isn’t easy. There are triggers that come up out of nowhere and sometimes there is no trigger at all.
But hope is out there. We need to keep searching for it. And on the way we can use time, connection, and temporary disassociation to help us deal with the pain.
If you are dealing with depression, be sure to seek out a qualified counselor to help you. You’re not alone.