My introductory post today is not necessarily directly for the Blue Hacker that finds themselves visiting today but rather to those who support a Blue Hacker as a mate, partner, or other support person. Off the usual post trend, I simply bring an aspect of my story that I am prompted to share. It comes with a message that in essence that just being there for someone who facing depression can make a difference.
Before I start this story though, I clearly state that I am not an expert of any kind when it comes to depression. I, myself, have only dealt with depression on a reactive basis to what life has thrown at me, albeit at times on a cyclical basis as for many years I was held back by chronic illness that had me a hostage in my own house. Beyond that, my experience with long-term depression, bi-polar disorder (manic depression) and also obsessive compulsive disorder are all from supporting family members each with their own conditions to be managed.
As a support person to members of my family I, at first, found the call overwhelming because I did not know what I could do, what I should do and moreso, what limits I should put on myself in terms of the support I offered so that I too did not start to drown. So, today I write about that first real step of just being there.
My father was diagnosed with depression just before I turned fifteen. With the events to follow, including the divorce of my parents, I was estranged from my father by both distance and his inability to sustain or rebuild relationship with me as he we went through years of being on and off medication for his condition.
Many years later, married with two children and in the midst of exams I got a phone call from an uncle. My father had been admitted to hospital and they were concerned that he did not value his life sufficiently to want to make it out again. After barely speaking to my father for over a decade my uncle simply stated, “It’s up to you what you do but I thought you should know.”
Life, to me, is worth far more than is exhibited in the way we treat our bodies these days so there was no question that I needed to do something. I also would have been denying a strong burden on my heart to know my father as a person if I did not. So, between Monday and Thursday exams, I found my way to a photo processor and printed two digital photos each one featuring my boys at that time. They are still today the only digital photos I have ever had processed. I put them into a couple of frames, packed our bags and drove myself and my children over 600km to where my father was hospitalised.
During just one of those mid-exam days we saw my father. He, for the first time, saw my second son and spent time playing with both of my children under two. He marvelled to the nurses about the frames with his grandsons in them in a vocal tone I have only ever heard from a person who is enduring deep depression. Along with the Soduku book and pencil I grabbed his entire perspective changed over the course of the days that followed not only as a result of our visit but also the assurance that we would continue to be in contact after we had returned safely home.
Now, I cannot say that being there for someone will change their ability to manage their depression because it most likely will not – especially in the long term which requires intrinsic motivation. Managing depression is a step by step process that needs to be initiated and journeyed by the individual. However, simply being a part of their lives can assist them to feel ‘connected’. Connectedness allows a person to see a purpose outside of themselves for seeing through each day.
Connectedness is something that seems to be becoming something that is harder to find as we become so heavily network oriented as a global society. John Taylor Gatto in his book ‘Dumbing us Down’ written over 10 years ago speaks quite clearly on how networks force us to segment ourselves to our interests or quests for information and it can bring us to a point where we do not know who we are as a whole and therefore cannot determine the purpose we hold in this life.
Networks, including social and interest-based clubs are great, but being a support person is more than that – it is taking an interest as the person as a whole. No, it does not mean that you should take on their struggles, but it means that when you are there for them by your sheer physical presence you are saying that are there for them in each step of their journey to finding wholeness and purpose – no matter how long the journey may be – simply because that is what friends are for.
Being there to support a person through depresssion is sometimes a difficult task and I am not going to say ‘just be there and everything will be okay’ because often it is not. However, just being there is a great first step as you learn for yourself about the nature of what depression is and how, as a support person, you too need to find personal strategies for managing it’s presence in your life.