Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.
It works when our depression renders us isolated from the world and we are able to tell someone about our isolation and depression and are supported. Talking to someone can act as a release valve for our feelings. We want to talk to someone who has some under- standing of what it’s like to be depressed. We need to be heard by someone who is not trying to get a word in edgeways, as this leaves us feeling more displaced than before. If we have some- one to listen to us and not judge what we are saying, it gives us an emotional ‘leg up’.
Talking to someone won’t help if the other person is having a great life and doesn’t know what it is like to feel depressed. Common responses from people I have opened up to while feeling downcast have included:
• Pull your socks up, you only have one life. Make the most of it.
• What have you got to be so miserable about? You have a roof over your head and a good job!
• Look at all you’ve got, don’t you know how lucky you are? Look at all the starving children in the world!
• I know many people far worse off than you.
• Don’t worry, it’ll all turn out OK, you’ll see.
Speak to someone who knows how you are feeling. This is when organized groups like -Step groups come into their own. By sharing your experiences – and hearing those of others – you can begin to come out of isolation. Find a way to feel safe in another’s company by testing the water. Offer a littleof yourself and your struggle, and see how you feel afterwards.
The healing can begin when you feel accepted by another person. You don’t need the whole world to accept you – just one person will do. This will help you to feel less ‘mad’. We’ll look at how to find this person in a later step.
Be aware that you may feel uncomfortable when talkingto others because this breaks our society’s ‘no talk’ rule. Our culture advocates the ‘no-talk’ rule and praises the ‘I’m fine’ approach. This is because many of us are scared that someone may talk about his or her pain, which would be too uncomfortable or embarrassing for us.
Many of us have grown up with the notion that having feelings is weak and pathetic. We have ignored them and, as a consequence, have become depressed. It is time to break the ‘no talk’ rule and start to verbalize how we feel. It’s quite amazing how people respond to us when we open up. Indeed, the majority of people will say, ‘I have felt like that too.’
It is important to be careful what you talk about and to whom you talk about it. For example, don’t talk to a policeman about the crime you undertook in your darkest days. No matter how much you want it off your chest, he might not see it that way. Don’t express your rage at the traffic warden who has just given you a ticket; you will feel worse about yourself in the end. It is also important to establish the difference between expressing your feelings and acting on your feelings.
If you go to the doctor for help with depression, it is appropriate to talk about your feelings and your despair and pain to allow him to identify how he can help you. It isn’t appropriate, however, to throw yourself onto him, bury your head in his lap and sob your heart out for a good half-hour.
It can be difficult finding the right person to talk to. If you find yourself talking to people and not getting any good feelings from it, there is help available. Remember, you are not alone; there are many people who are in a similar position. According to the British Medical Association, at least 10% of the adult population is depressed at any one time – that amounts to millions of people.