This post was written last night, without an Internet connection, hence it is only being posted now.
I’ve suffered from depression more or less non-stop for the last 8 years, since I was 14 (see Mental illness: My struggle). Early on, I used to use that tired old joke, “I don’t suffer from depression, I enjoy every minute of it!” but it didn’t take to long for me to realise that that only served to further minimise and marginalise the all-too-real suffering I was going through in the eyes of others (“He can joke about it, surely that means it can’t be too bad”).
My support networks during those 8 years have ranged from the fantastic to the barely existent, changing with the various social circles I have mixed with during that time. Yet, when I think back to times where my support network has been all I could have hoped for, I find it hard to remember what it actually was that they did. In my latest especially depressive patch (as distinct from my routine depressive state), currently running into its 5th month, I certainly feel a lack of support, but I also have a total lack of an idea as to what I want or need.
Part of me longs for my friends to take the lead at this point – for them to gather together and do something, anything, to provide some support, even if it’s totally inadequate or not what I need. At the same time, I fear the patronising mentality that is so common towards sufferers of mental illness (even from fellow sufferers). I don’t want to have to deal with being patronised on top of everything else.
Because suffering from mental illness takes a radically different form for every person, even fellow sufferers are unable to provide any framework that is likely to be effective – I know sufferers who cope best when totally left alone, and I know sufferers who can’t bear to be alone for even a minute. Our differing experiences demand different strategies of support, which makes it that much harder to develop community strategies (see Building “mad” friendly communities) for supporting sufferers that can be readily applied whenever someone requires help.
I’m not really sure, at this point, of the purpose of this post. It’s about 20 minutes since I wrote that last paragraph, 20 minutes of sitting here trying to think of a positive, or at least constructive, outcome to begin to head towards. But I guess that I really don’t know where to go from here. I can only hope that this serves as a catalyst for people to take a good look around them and to question how they can best support their friends who are suffering right now. In the meantime, though, I’m sure I won’t be the only one crying alone tonight.