Will you help me?
“Where do I start?” This question was posed to me recently by a man who has struggled with depression and anxiety for years. The pain and fear within this question resonated deep inside of me as I contemplated my “first steps” on a couple of different occasions in my own life. As we looked at one another, he was clearly waiting for some solution, I thought out loud, “you just started.” He looked at me with complete confusion and I stated again, “you have already started.”
I think he was assuming I would tell him to go see his psychiatrist to start a new medication, search out a new therapist, start journaling, exercise more often, pay attention to the food he is eating, or any other of the litany of ideas people with depression get told to do. But, from where I sit, the first step is to ask for help. Be willing to be vulnerable for just a moment and acknowledge to another human being that you cannot do it on your own. Why? Because simply we need one another, for so many reasons.
To begin the road of recovery from depression (for the sake of this note I am looking at depression from the standpoint of inaccurate thoughts and beliefs about oneself, the world, and others) we need to get out of our own heads. We need to move away from our steadfast beliefs that we know best, we know what people think of us, we know how people are going to react to us, we know just how poorly it is all going to go. We need to turn off the tv, put away the podcast, set the self-help book aside, and find a trusted soul with whom you can turn to and say, “please help me” or “please talk with me.”
In my conversation with the man in question here, we simply connected. He shared his fears, I shared mine. He shared his sadness, I shared mine. He shared his dreams, I shared mine. The give and take nature of this conversation is more about seeing we matter to someone else than being given a solution. The intimacy and vulnerability of this conversation was about being cared for by another human being.
Fostering and building intimate relationships with others is treacherous and frightening work. Judgment from others can be like a dagger to the heart. Crafting your network of caring people takes time. Caring for these relationships takes commitment. And the rewards of these relationships far exceed the work.
There are no quick fixes, simple solutions, or other magic to recovering from depression or any mental health condition for that fact. But I believe there is one unequivocal truth, it cannot be done alone. We need each other in a way that is kind, understanding, loving, and supportive. There are plenty of people willing to tell you how to get better, but most of us are simply looking for someone who gets us, who listens, who does not try to solve our problems. Who is that person in your life? Will you put down your fears about being judged? Will you agree to be cared for? Will you talk to them?