THE Q: “I wish I would have known!”

OK, technically not a question! Regardless,

I had a real and awesome talk with my “CBF” (Co-worker Best Friend) this past week. It was real because I opened up completely to her about my struggle with depression for the first time since my diagnosis in 2012. We worked closely together for years and though she sensed there was something going on, she never knew what it was or the extent to just how much I was hurting. That is, at least until our talk.

She said something that, for lack of a better term, pulled on my heart strings. I’ve been thinking about it every day which is what inspired me to write this post. With her eyes filled with tears, she told me that she was so sorry for not being there for me when I really needed someone.

I assured her not to be sorry because there was nothing she could have done. I was in such a dark place mentally that I wouldn’t have let her in even if she knew and attempted to reach out. I didn’t allow anybody in for that matter, not even my wife during this time. Indeed, I was in a terrible place.

But she still felt bad about it even after my assurance which made me realize either she failed to understand the depth of this dark place, or I failed to effectively explain it.

Then it occurred to me: there existed a sort of gap of understanding between me (i.e. the sufferer) and my CBF (the supporter) with respect to my disorder. This in turn produced some degree of frustration for her. This real life observation paralleled my interpretation of the Rope of Support in the figurative “deep well” context (see “Rope of Support” page).

To summarize, I identified a very important limitation with respect to supporters who hold on to the rope of support: they cannot pull you out of the deep well of depression, or in other words, they cannot do the work for you. Hence, this can be considerably frustrating for some supporters who may not understand why the sufferer won’t simply let them in, to help fix the problem.

This frustration I believe stems from a lack of understanding about the sheer complexity of this disorder. The dilemma then is how do you make someone understand such a depth of mental debilitation (i.e. that ‘dark place’) if they’ve never experienced it? Alternatively, how do you make a visually impaired person understand sight? Inevitably, frustration pursues due to an inherent gap in understanding.

I attempt to bridge this gap by my explanation as to why supporters cannot fix the problem, in the figurative deep well context:

…the man treading the dark water of despair, oppressed by his depressive symptoms, is tired and worn down by the merciless strikes by the piranha of depression. He may hear his supporters instructing him to hold on to the rope so they can pull him out, but this can be a hopeless endeavour. The man in the well could very well reach for the rope with one hand, but he remains restrained in this disorder by the weeds of damaging beliefs, which he still has gripped in his other hand. This combined with the relentless attacks by the piranha of depression renders the man exhausted, both mentally and physically. Even if he could release his grip from the weeds, the man would lack the mental and physical strength in his disorder to hold on to the rope long enough for his supporters to pull him up to the surface. Without that …resolve to fight his depressive oppression, the man would eventually succumb to his symptoms. In the figurative context, this means he would let go of the rope of support, and plunge back into the dark water of despair.

This is my best attempt to bridge the gap in understanding between the sufferer in depression and supporter. My hope in this post is that supporters realize you have little to no direct control in terms of influencing a person’s state of mind when oppressed by depressive symptoms (this based on my own personal experience). I believe that the most effective thing you can do for a person suffering in this disorder is to be there for them by gripping tightly in hand their rope of support. Find comfort in knowing that they are aware you’re there for them. Furthermore, I believe that you need to be patient, and ready to pull when they reach for the rope.