Recently my daughter came to visit. It is always a treat because, although in touch regularly through emails and facetime, there is nothing like having the person in front of you to hug and hold. We had a good time hanging out and doing various things. When mail of a neighbor’s was delivered to our house by mistake, we both walked over to deliver it. The young mother of five was talkative and welcoming, very pleased to see us. As the conversation went on, it inevitably turned to the young mother’s struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). She has suffered from it for several years and finds winter one of the most difficult times to handle.
After we returned home my daughter asked me a simple question: Don’t you ever get tired of talking about depression?
It stopped me in my tracks. It was not something that I consciously thought about but with my husband, several friends, neighbors and acquaintances dealing with the disease and with having to do presentations on the subject and hear the tales of others dealing with depression, I had to say that I did indeed get tired of talking about depression. I had to watch that it didn’t color everything I said or did with someone. My antenna was highly sensitive to even the slightest hint of depression in the person or persons I was speaking with.
As I answered my daughter, I realized that I had to take the time to remember that life without depression was the norm for a great many people and that life with depression could achieve that norm. I had to remind myself of the importance of laughter, of taking care of myself, of looking to relate to people as people not people with depression. Sure people wanted to talk about their experience with depression either as a person with it or as a caregiver, but that did not have to define the relationship I had with them.
When people have depression or any life threatening illness, it is important to relate to the person as a person, not as someone with a disease. Relating only to the disease causes people to back away, avoid each other, treat each other differently. There is a deep human need to be treated as a person who laughs and cries and works and plays in his or her own unique way. Yes, the disease is present but it should never define the person and when we catch ourselves always thinking about it or relating to the person as a person with depression, we need to stop and see that the person is not depression. And we need to examine ourselves and if talking about depression is too much with us that we look through depression colored glasses at each and every person we meet, it’s time we stepped back and smelled the depression free air that does exist and is a part of many people’s lives, even those with depression.