The Black Dog

A while ago, I met someone special that I am proud to call my friend now. Upon meeting this person, I had no idea what I was about to experience. It was a journey, in opening my eyes up to a world that I had little knowledge, nor understanding of. A journey throughout which I developed strong, yet foreign feelings that I had never quite experienced before. A journey that would teach me many lessons.

This person had clinical depression and before I had met this person, it became apparent, very quickly, just how little I and many others know about mental illness. Which is why I have decided to write about it from my point of view. Keep in mind that everybody’s story is going to be very different, but this was my experience and hopefully, by sharing my point of view, I might be able to help someone else who might be in a similar situation.

Depression is no joke. It’s heavy, it’s dark and it is heartbreaking, not only for those who suffer from this illness but also for those who are close to the sufferers and who stay by their side to help.

I wanted to write about depression as a means to get more people to understand the illness. As I know for me, I was looking everywhere for help advice on what to say and what to do or even just for someone to explain to me what this person was going through in a way that I could understand. But in all honesty, we’re not inside their heads. Therefore we will never truly understand the demons they constantly battle – the only thing we can do is being there for them.

I think that an important thing to realise is that someone, who suffers from depression isn't just sad. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain that can make the sufferer feel flat, detached and even numb. You might think this would be a welcome relief, but I can tell you from what I’ve observed that there is a big difference between choosing not to feel anything and not being “able” to feel anything. Can you imagine being stuck in this dark tunnel that seems meaningless because you can’t feel anything, which includes the things you once used to love doing?

You’re bored and you feel alone, and it becomes harder and harder to connect with people because you now have to think about the right things to say in certain situations or the right way to react because the feelings have been taken away from you. Consequently, you find that you don't want to be around people because you don't want to explain to them what you're going through. You don't want them to think of you in a different light, or pity you or worse dread being near you. So you feel it becomes easier to just deal with it on your own because it hurts less that way.

As a supporter - friend, partner or family member, your heart will get hurt. Sometimes they will push you away or shut you out - and trust me, it hurts a lot. Then let them know that you’re still there, should they ever need you. You might feel helpless and think you're not doing enough, but simply staying by their side will make a world of a difference, whether you believe it or not. Similarly, you're going to experience this person being frustrated and angry because they are so fed up with not being able to feel like anyone around them. Sometimes they might take their frustrations out on you and as much as it sucks, always know that in a pretty weird way, it’s a good sign. It means that they trust you enough to confide in you.

Love yourself!

I can’t stress this enough: You NEED to ensure that you are keeping up your healthy lifestyle, hang out with friends and family as much as you can, exercise, eat healthy, go for walks to clear your mind and whatever you do, don't stop doing the things you love. Sometimes, caring for someone with depression can take a great deal of energy from within you, it can play on your mind and make you second guess your worth. You need to be strong. Love yourself and look after yourself, surround yourself with the positive.

Hope - you can’t guarantee that it’s going to be ok, but you can let them know that there is always hope. To have faith, to know and trust that it will get better, and that you will always be there for them - no matter what the case is - will be one of the most important parts.

As heartbreaking as this all was for me, I’m very grateful for the experience. I learnt a valuable lesson. Before, I used to be very self-centered when it came to relationships and other people. I was always stuck in my own world until I met this lovely person, whose friendship I cherish and who is someone I care for very much. I learnt how to be truly empathetic towards human beings, I learnt the importance of compassion and of listening. In 9 times out of 10, what someone says isn't what they're trying or actually wanting to say. You really have to listen and try to learn reading the signs and their body language.

I learnt how to put my feelings aside and look at the greater picture. Above all my biggest lessons, this one was the one that taught me to be truly selfless and rise above.

Love, Kails xx

If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression, visit Beyond Blue to get the help and support you deserve!