Suffering depression and/or anxiety doesn’t let you off the hook of being a good human to hang around.
At one point some 10 years ago, I was forced by my mother to take radical responsibility for my depression and the consequences that stemmed from allowing it to control my life. See, I didn’t know that I was sitting on the edge of a really bloody uncomfortable conversation. One that pained me greatly — but in hindsight has served me greatly ever since.
I can’t recall where the conversation took place but I remember telling mum, “I feel like my own family doesn’t like me. That I bore them, and that they are sick of me.” Well, any band aid that was keeping me together at that time was ripped off really fast. There is no one on this earth that loves me more than my mother. I am 100 per cent certain of that today. But she knew that she needed to have this conversation and paint a picture of ‘where the land lies’ so to speak when it came to my father and my two younger brothers — and indeed other family members and friends.
She said that quite frankly — even though everyone understands I suffer depression — it gets really wearisome dealing with me when on such a regular basis I was always down.
Mum said: “Darling, people just don’t always want to be around that – they just don’t.”
And she’s right. Of course, we don’t. As humans, we gravitate to happy people, people that make us feel good, people up for adventure, up for a laugh. We want to spend our precious time carefully where it complements our lives.
“You can be really draining Ingrid, my darling,” she went on.
It was absolutely coming from a good and loving place but it really hurt to hear this. It was easy to switch into ‘you don’t understand depression’ mode, but I went home and for about a week I REALLY thought about what she said.
Family can absolutely see you at your worst, I agree. And they should love you! Hopefully they do. But enjoying your company when you are always flat, uncommunicative and negative is a tough ask. Family are still human — and they don’t operate from enjoyment when the company does not exhibit those traits.
But what my mum did was act on her own integrity, drew a line in the sand, laid her (and the rest of the family’s) cards on the table and was prepared to accept the emotional consequences, depending on how I responded to her truth.
And for that I am grateful.
Every person deserves to be loved and appreciated for EXACTLY who they are, without considerations. But in order for that to be a possibility, you have to harness enough courage to actually SHOW people who you are — and this means, depression or anxiety or not, you have to show them some of your AMAZING traits sometimes. You need to water the garden with positivity sometimes! Even occasionally when you don’t feel like it.
So, what did I take from that conversation? Well, to be honest, I was actually bloody mortified that I was THAT draining to the people that I love the most.
I don’t know about you but I want to show my best side to those closest to me — not to strangers, randoms at the supermarket or people who are only on the peripheral of my life. So, after feeling kicked in the guts (which was just a dose of reality, not a deliberate hit), I decided then and there to change some things.
I decided that even if I felt like shit — for a few weeks, to give my family a reprieve from the ‘depressed Ingrid,’ for a few weeks at least. I decided not to involve any of my family or good friends in a deep-and-meaningful for a good while, where I was seeking help on some level. I knew I could turn to them if I needed to. But nothing was going wrong in my life at the time — I was just flat.
So, I started peppering my conversations with some smiles and some, “Yes, I’m good, working hard, throwing myself into business, yada yada yada…” I tried to impart some small stories that were going on in my life with clients, I talked about my training a bit, I talked about playing ball with my dogs. Little things — because I wasn’t doing AMAZING, CLEVER things at the time — but I wanted to send them a different message. That message being :“I’m ok. I can be positive. I can show interest in you.”
And so, on the days I didn’t have much to say, I would ask everyone about THEM. And then I’d ask questions stemming from their responses. I would demonstrate interest, even if inside my head I was still all wrapped up in Ingrid.
Yes, it takes effort. It means getting out of your own head. Being stuck in our heads is usually a sign we’re trying to maintain control of what’s happening. We’re locked into seeing things a certain way, which doesn’t usually lead to a good solution, regrettably.
It can be hard. It will take practice. But oddly enough, it will not only make you more fun to be around, you will end up feeling better too.
Now this comes far more easily to me. My depression is a lot better nowadays, more confined to short bouts that only last 24-48 hours. I’m too busy helping others and being pro-active in my own recovery to dwell on negativity. I know unconditionally I am a lot better person now to spend time with. I still catch myself sometimes before I decide to launch into a pep talk that I might be needing or confiding a problem. Of course I still do — but I am more mindful of the impact that I may have on others and it’s worked out for the better for me.
I now trust that whatever happens has a potential lesson in it for me — good, bad, painful, easy, happy, sad, effortless, tough. I even look forward to these lessons — I seek them out! Leaning in to the struggle becomes easier because you know that all outcomes offer the chance to grow, change and improve. So, I hope if you are a fellow depression sufferer that you too can LEAN IN to your struggles.