Maybe like me you have come across many articles and posts about depression and anxiety and wondered why those affected seem to need to write about it so much. Disproportionately, almost. I was giving this some thought.
Some of us need to write to make sense of things in our heads, and feel better if we can share with others who affirm us. Some of us are lonely and want to connect with the outside world. Some of us feel that as depression and anxiety are fairly invisible, that the internet is a safe way of raising the topic and that Doing Something is helpful, even if it means someone else who is suffering learns that they are not alone and that there is Hope Somewhere. For some, it is a way of explaining behaviours we are not proud of: isolating, self-absorbing behaviours or irritability and moodiness. We are not happy with living like this and want to give some reasons for it. We crave unconditional affection regardless of where we are, knowing that that is part of the key to healing. We don’t mind accountability if it means moving out of the darkness. The little black puppy nipping at our heels for the past few months has grown into a beast which controls us, and we just want someone to help us put it on a lead, walk it with us through the journey ahead and learn how to live despite it.
And as I was thinking about how isolating it can be to feel depressed, which is a place I have found myself in again recently, I realised how similar the experiences of lonely older people can be. I was in the shop in the village with the children this week, chatting about jam or bread or something trivial, and one of them got in the way of an elderly lady. This is a typical event for our family, and as usual I apologised to the lady, but I made a point of making eye contact, though that doesn’t come easily to me. I recognised her isolation and felt a connection, so I smiled. She smiled back and commented on our jam (or bread, or whatever we were talking about) and we exchanged a couple of sentences. For me, they were two or three of the hundreds of lines of dialogue I had had that day. For her, perhaps they were far more significant.
When I see someone on their own in the shop, especially an older person, I am not going to get upset with the children for getting in their way. Instead, I can use the opportunity to smile and perhaps talk with them briefly, lessening their isolation to a degree and showing the children how to tackle loneliness. Because being depressed doesn’t make you less sensitive to others’ needs; if anything I find I am far more sensitive and concerned. It means I need time sometimes to absorb, to process, to live. It also means I want to help out, in whatever way I realistically can. And taking little steps to connect means training that black dog, taming him, taking him in hand.