A Malignant Sadness

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?

5 Responses to “A Malignant Sadness”

  1. Jackie Says:

    “Malignant sadness”. How true is that? And as an onlooker, there are days when I feel so helpless. Nothing I do or say can help in any way, and we just have to ride it out and wait for things to get a better, although it never really is because we never know when the downturn will start again. And the smallest thing can trigger it. Pole, I understand, and am with you in spirit and if I can help, as you have helped me in the past, let me know. xxx

  2. TatuMbili Says:

    Yes, it does! To her it does. I have Depression but have been lucky enough to be able to handle it on a daily basis without external help in all but three terrible times in my life. I know it is getting worse as I get older because Seasonal Affective Disorder is now overlaying it with its own special mantle and a cloudy day is becoming a dreaded phenomenon. My two daughters do not talk to me because “your depression is your problem, mum, not ours, so we won’t help with things like keeping the house tidy cuz that’s your job, not ours, even when a messy house plunges you into despair”. Your mum is lucky that she has you all and that you recognize how deep and black that pit is for her, even if you can’t see it yourselves. My kids don’t see that it is a disease, like cancer or arthritis, and that just as you would bring someone chicken soup or give them a hug when afflicted with those, either one is a tremendous gift to those of us stuck in the bottom of that pit. Seeing a clean floor is, for me anyway, a magical thing! I know for you, your sibs and kids it is extremely hard but as with any disease, we don’t want to have it, we really don’t, we’d give anything to take that burden away from you. Too long, but the bottom line answer is yes, it helps.

  3. Ellie Says:

    This is so hard. For me, it is not my mother who has the battle, but my 25yo son and my 17yo niece. This past year has been just awful. It is such a helpless feeling, knowing that no matter how deeply we love them, no matter how perfectly we support them, they have to battle their way through, in the end, on their own. This is so hard. Sending you much love and support from afar, at least, as much as can be, from a long time reader / stranger inside the computer 🙂


  4. chris Says:

    This piece of writing has absolutely nailed what depression is in a nutshell.Your writing is a wonderfull help to me, and I am sure to many others. Thank you for your writing.I wish life is on the up for you.

  5. sustainablemum Says:

    Depression is both intangible and pervasive. It absorbs you whole and wraps you up to a point of suffocation. I spent most of my twenties on anti depressants and have made peace with demons that set it off some time ago. I am a strong believer that it stems from our childhoods and how we are cared for by our parents and other adults. It is logical to me that it would run in families as we learn our own parenting skills from our own parents.

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