As an advocate around mental health and, particularly, depression, I often get asked the question of how one can support a friend or family member who is struggling with depression. Actually, I had no idea how to answer that question when I was in the midst of my own major depression.
I had invited two of my best friends to my house the night before I checked myself into a partial hospitalization program in order to let them know what was going on with me…and to request their support. Of course they asked, “What can we do to support you?” While I really didn’t know a good answer, I asked them to check in with me via texts once in awhile. I also asked them to invite me out for a coffee, alone, without a group of friends, now and then. My last suggestion was to ask one of them to reach out to an acquaintance of his who worked with men and depression and to ask him how they could support me.
My wife wanted to help me. She, too, asked, “How can I help you?” I really didn’t know what she could do for me. I asked her to join me at a therapy session or two, which she did. This was comforting to me, although I’m not so sure how much it supported her in helping me.
One of my most memorable times in which a friend helped me out happened to be on a bitter cold Minnesota day. My friend, Dan (one of the two I had mentioned earlier in this post), called me up and said, “Get dressed, I’m coming over and we’re going out with our cameras”. He arrived to my house and, as is common for many when clinically depressed, I made as many excuses as I could to stay inside the house and on the couch. He persisted. He even brought some extra, warm clothes for me in order to eliminate the lack of warm clothes as a possible excuse. Dan happens to be a professional photographer and, as a very close friend, he knew of my passion for photography, as well. We’d been out to shoot on several occasions prior to this.
We geared up, long-johns, Sorrel boots, hats, gloves, wool socks, the works! The weather was frigid. I trudged my way from my house door to his car, feeling that my body movements were slow and heavy due to the depression. As close friends often are, I was comfortable with Dan and knew that I could be silent, sad, or simply emotionally numb and he wouldn’t judge me for it. He drove the mile or so to the Mississippi River. We got out, each with a camera in hand, and made our way to the slow moving, nearly completely frozen river. The air was incredibly crisp and sun was shining brightly. It was actually a beautiful day and the frigid temperature actually, in some odd way, was refreshing and even invigorating.
I still remember that day like it was yesterday. We walked up and down the banks of the river exploring through the lenses of our cameras. The reflection of the sun off of the ice and water was just beautiful. It allowed me to get outside of my head (and out of my house), even if just for a short couple of hours. I got exercise, I had social contact with a trusted friend, I had fresh air, and I was able to enjoy one of my hobbies for which I had lost interest in during my depression.
Was I cured from my depression? Absolutely not. Did it give me a glimmer of hope that is so crucial to recovering from a major depressive episode? Absolutely! Lessons learned: Ask for help, accept help, use every ounce of effort possible (dig deep) to find any bit of energy to do something!
As with all of my posts, I encourage and welcome comments!