I think the reason people often make simple suggestions to how to just miraculously heal from this imaginary condition depressed people tell them about is because they think a simple answer will address something they can’t imagine is more complicated than it is. People with depression or mental illness can have it their entire lives without understanding it. I feel like trying to manage mine is like shooting moving targets with only half a round of ammunition. Sometimes I get lucky and most times I just get frazzled. It’s not a science and the more you fail, the more fatigued you become with every episodic wave that hits you.
Try imagining the frustration the decoders had in The Imitation Game as they dealt with constantly changing rules and codes of an evasive enemy while racing a clock to solve a problem you can’t see. It’s like that scene in Catching Fire where the tributes figure out the logic and sequence of the arena only for it to be turned on its side as soon as they get it, forcing them to start over. That’s what it is like navigating having a mental illness. You constantly feel pressed to the clock to figure a solution to this problem that affects your finances, your happiness, your well-being and the needs of those affected by your mental illness as the problem morphs at random. You don’t have any reason to believe you are going to figure it out because you have failed the last one hundred times, all for reasons you don’t understand, but you keep throwing Hail Mary passes every time because there is nothing else to do.
I get that it is frustrating if you love somebody with mental illness and just want them to get better so you can do all of the things you know deep down they want to do, if only they would, because maybe if they faked it until they made it, they could have the life that is just beyond what they’re able to have right now. But here is the thing: they want it too and chances are, they want it much worse than you want it for them because you can always choose to walk away from them, they can’t walk away from their own minds. I would give ten years of my life, without a moment’s hesitation, if I knew I could live even eighty percent of the rest of it without being caught in this muck. Hell, I would be an easy sell to see coming because I’d be eager even to haggle far below that because living at eighty percent for ten years is a whole lot more life than living at twenty percent for an entire lifetime.
We don’t get a manual that tells us if x happens, then troubleshoot with y. I speak one language and my depression speaks another, not to mention it has logic and rules and reasoning that go far beyond my comprehension, making me simultaneously both a stranger to myself and the only person who can possibly know me. It isn’t a “sexy” topic that brings a lot of respect in many fields so it isn’t as if cutting edge researchers necessarily want to look into mental health. There is such a limited body of knowledge on mental illnesses in general before we even begin to address the fact that each mental illness is its own mirage and maze all in one, let alone tailored to each individual experiencing it.
With that being said, I have had a lot of people suggest simple things to me that believe me, were the first things I have tried. And the thing is, as frustrating as it can be, I totally get it and appreciate them saying anything at all. How can I expect them to understand something that can’t? Truthfully, I just want them to get comfortable with the uncomfortable realization that there is no quick fix and no perfect ending to this. This isn’t the Pursuit of Happiness, as much as I wish it was. So I think my next entry is going to be me making an exhaustive list of the exhausting amount of things have tried, sort of like a field notes sort of thing, because maybe if people knew the length to which depressed people go to fix themselves, they might be able to grasp just the tip of the iceberg.