The worst thing about loving a person with Depression is that you lose them when they’re ill.
Depression steals their voice, their vigour, their very essence.
I have two mums. My well mum. My sick mum. That’s how much her illness changes her; she morphs from brave to timid, chatty to silent, upbeat to downhearted, energetic to enervated.
I have spent 35 years in the presence of Depression – sometimes at closer proximity, sometimes at greater distance. I feel its chill no matter how near or far. It’s like a damp sponge; the coldness permeates, soaks through every single conversation, whether across a table or the ether. Depression has a long reach.
For a time I felt sure that if I willed it away hard enough, educated myself long enough so that I could outwit it, bullied it, it’d go, Depression, it’d feel unwelcome vibes and shuffle off, embarrassed, afraid to return. But it’s not like that. It’s a cumbersome, thick-skinned illness that, once in residence, sits firmly. It doesn’t matter how much you love a person, or how desperately you want them to get well, if Depression has made itself at home, it’s difficult to evict. Drugs. Talk Therapy. ECT. Vitamins. Mum’s tried them all. It’s hung around for nearly a year this time.
It strikes me as I write as peculiar that so intangible an illness bears such a dead weight?
And there is another curiosity: that negative thinking can be so profound, so powerful as to obliterate even the tiniest positive? I am not sure Mum is sad when she is ill. But she is not happy? Her thought processes are so tangled and clouded that she can no longer pick a single bright strand and follow it through and know that if she keeps following it she’ll find the beginning and the end and be able to unknot the whole unwieldy mess. It looks so simple to do from the outside.
But I know that it’s not. I know that because Depression is like a cancer – Malignant Sadness Lewis Wolpert called it – that eats away so that a person’s sense of self and direction and drive and motivation begin to crumble for the structures built of confidence and belief, and cemented with vigour and smiles, have been consumed by the Beast within, dissolved by the seeping apathy.
Having a mum that suffers with Depression is not the worst thing in the world.
But I know that being a mum with Depression is.
That I – we, my siblings, my children – endorse her illness as real, does that help?