The funny thing about life is that it is such a roller coaster. One day you are up, then you are down – this can be a gradual process, or a quick one. It can happen within a day, or creep up on you over a couple of weeks. All you know is that for a while things had been going well, then all of a sudden you don’t want to get out of bed.
The more self-aware are able to figure out what is going on and try to take steps to avoid it, embrace it with the hopes that it will soon pass, or otherwise remedy the situation. However, having self-awareness does not always allow you to see it coming, only to recognize when it is already there – that darkness in which you find yourself.
Upon realization that the darkness is descended, it is very difficult to find any good things in life – even things that everyone tells you seem irrelevant. Someone can point out something that you know logically to be true, but nevertheless it does not feel any better. You feel as if no one in the world cares about you or that no one in the world likes you, or both. You see only the negatives, and no matter how hard someone may try to shine a light into that darkness, it seems complete.
You act in ways that people don’t understand, and generally don’t like. You desperately want to be told that people still love you, but are afraid to show this part of you to people. Yet they see it anyway, and most turn away from it, misjudging it for something it is not. It is not a bad mood. It is not a bad day. It is not inherently something “bad” about the person, and the behavior is not a good indicator of who the person really is. What it is is a reaction, a reflection of the self-loathing that is currently battling with the person’s self-esteem. You are witnessing the battle the person is raging against the darkness. This is why most people who are depressed withdraw – they don’t want you to see this, to think differently, to be afraid. They know it has nothing to do with you, but you don’t.
The worst part about depression is the clean-up. After the darkness finally lifts, there is always damage that has been done, and repair work that needs to be done. Often, it is nearly enough to cause another episode of depression, to realize what has happened, and to know how judgmental and unforgiving people can be. It takes a great deal of time and work to try to fix things that may have happened, more than people realize or appreciate. Every day is a challenge, a struggle against the darkness that is always there, and it is exhausting to not only fight this, but to act as if you are not.
So next time you see someone who seems bothered, sad, angry, or otherwise not “happy” or not the person you thought you knew, be kind, be compassionate. If you ask how the person is, actually listen to the person’s response. Don’t judge based on a short conversation or encounter. After all, someday it just may be you who needs the compassion.