I don’t explain things that cause my depression because I think ‘it’s just me. My explanation doesn’t help other people’ well… if there’s a meme, it shows it’s not just me.
I’m going to do my best to use my blog explain to people what the memes I find mean, certainly the thought process I go through, and perhaps what you can do to help those you love.
Often the biggest thing for people suffering from depression, anxiety or self esteem issues (forever personified in my posts as Gollum) is this concept of isolation. Certainly for me, its my biggest fear and is long rooted in my belief that it’s a deserved punishment and me not being around is ‘best’ for everyone.
It’s Gollum’s favourite breeding ground, mainly because there’s no one there to challenge its voice. No matter how strong you are, when isolated, you will finally succumb to it’s Sith mind tricks.
My Gollum, for example, isolates me when I feel an impending punishment. It’s never me hiding or trying to escape a punishment; it’s me going ‘I agree, I agree, don’t hate me… forgive me PLEASE don’t make me be alone’. This happens in my personal and professional life and has, in the past, been rather soul destroying.
For example, let’s say you’ve been informed that your sour face is pissing everyone off and it ‘has to stop’ (read- I’ve once been told by a job who knew I was suffering from depression ‘you look too depressed. Pick yourself up and stop being so depressed’). You’ve been fighting your voice’s comments of ‘yes, you’re sad and everyone knows it. They don’t care, they’ll just want it to stop because you’re pissing them off. You know you can’t just snap a finger and become happy so you might as well go and hide. ‘Come with me and we’ll be Quasimodo together!’
If that doesn’t work, Gollum will change tact; they know you well enough to have every trick in the book after all. They use the greater good approach ‘your upsetting everyone by being sad. You’re poisoning the water source. Sacrifice the thing you need to save the rest. Your happiness isn’t important and your absence won’t hurt anyone.’
Of course, to the outsider, the world revolves around them. Not in a narcissistic sense, but it’s our default setting to think along those terms. Of ‘how is this about me?’
So when a person like myself begins to isolate, the average person will take it as a slight and be offended. They sometimes will become defensive and hostile. Sometimes they’ll become so angry that they don’t listen when you explain ‘I’m doing this FOR you.’ and instead hear ‘I’m doing this BECAUSE of you.’
Once Gollum has found a crack and wedged their way in, its hard to not let them take root. They’ll use soundbites from people to reinforce a narratives that will isolate further.
One of the biggest faux pas anyone can do at this point, is speak for other people. That’s what Gollum does and they love these sort of people. It’s like cocaine to Gollum; they can’t get enough.
Upon trying to explain to someone that I isolated myself because I was told my ‘low moods’ (ie me being overly quiet post Christmas because while the office talk of the holidays was all jolly, mine was far from it. I didn’t want to ‘poison the water’ so I kept my mouth shut and internally isolating myself began) were pissing people off.
A complaint was made (rather formal, to Gollum’s delight) and I isolated myself further, only physically this time. This physical isolation can be seen in two ways; location is simple enough, a person would find somewhere that allows them to be alone and begin turning down offers for going out. The other isolation being social presence. I will make myself as small and as invisible as possible. My shoulders, head and arms curl inwards and my eyes remain firmly on the floor. In some extreme circumstances, I will stop eating in order to lose weight.
I’ve once found myself trying to explain to someone and they responded in a Borg-like fashion; ‘we’re pissed off with you for pulling away from us. We’re all just so angry at you.’ Which just made me retreat further into myself.
It’s not the first ‘we’ statement and it won’t be the last but they all reinforce Gollum’s narrative that my existence is corrosive and sometimes that the world would be a better place if I wasn’t born. I’ve found out later, in some cases, that people often misrepresent others when it’s said that ‘we’re all angry at you’. But by then, the damage is done.
It then becomes a rather vicious cyclic torture. One which sometimes a person can’t get out of without help. Sometimes mine ends quite sadly and I’m told ‘you’re going to end up very lonely if you keep pushing people away’ and I do worry sometimes I cut people off too quickly. Maybe I do, but (and it’s a story for another day) I am finding I’m much more content in my own company and cutting those people out removes a massive stress and toxicity from my life.
So, you’ve stuck through my rambles and you’re now looking for the advice. Depression, anxiety and self esteem issues come in all different shapes and sizes so this isn’t a ‘one size fits all’. Also, please remember that I’m not medical profession and if you are worried about a loved one and want further help and guidance, please head here for websites and contact details for the people in the know.
- It might be hard, but don’t take it too personally and don’t go in on the defensive. Don’t be poking them for an explanation, if one is not forthcoming. Chances are they might not be able to explain it.
- Don’t try and understand. It’s not for you to understand and that sort of knowledge will not help the person. In fact, it can come across as all you’re doing is prioritising your needs.
- Try not to speak for other people. Don’t use pluralised pronouns, what you say will be held as ‘evidence’ and out of context.
- Ask them if they want a hug. While i often come across as a bull in a China shop, a hug is the biggest thing that I’d want.
- And most importantly: if someone asks you for help; never deny them it. No matter how offended you It’s taken all their energy and power to break from Gollum long enough to ask. And with it came the fear that you’d prove Gollum “right” and that they don’t deserve your help.