I am not living with depression in the typical understanding of the term. I am not living my life while depressed. Instead, I am living in an apartment with a man who is sometimes depressed. This depression comes and goes in waves, but because depression can take hold of someone so completely, when it takes hold of him I stop living with the man, and start living with Depression.
While it may be difficult to believe, with an unwelcome visitor like Depression you’d rather the intrusion be big and obvious. When Depression first came into our lives, it was so quiet we didn’t even notice anything was wrong. Like a cat burglar who replaces all your valuables with cheap knockoffs, Depression can take so much without you realizing what is happening. But over time it became forceful and loud. It would grab the man I love and hold him down on the couch. He couldn’t get up, even when he was dressed and ready for work. Depression would cover the man’s body in molasses so he couldn’t move fast, if at all. Depression would put a hand over the man’s mouth so he couldn’t speak. Depression tried to keep itself secret, but I could tell. It was obvious. I knew there was an intruder in my house.
Depression ran away for awhile, and it didn’t come back much. Occasionally it would surprise us, showing up suddenly one Monday morning, but we would act quickly and get it out of the house within a day or two. We were on to it. We knew its weaknesses. We were winning. Depression had to make a new plan.
These days Depression doesn’t break down the door and wrestle the man to the floor. Instead, it sneaks in quietly while I’m away at work. It does its work in tiny batches, never being too obvious. That’s when Depression goes from a guest to a roommate. And Depression is a terrible roommate.
Unlike the man I love, Depression doesn’t do the dishes. The man and I divvied up chores when we first moved in, and part of the agreement was that he was fully in charge of the dishes. However Depression wasn’t present during that discussion, and it never agreed to do any dishes. Normally the man does his chores on a daily basis; he stays on top of it. But Depression doesn’t care about dishes in the sink. Depression lets them pile up until one whole sink is full, then the other. And when Depression does finally get around to doing some dishes, it only does a few. The dry rack isn’t even full and Depression stops working.
Depression never wants to talk about anything exciting that may have happened to you. Oddly enough, Depression is very good at being polite, and will say all the words a person is supposed to say when someone relates good news. But there’s no substance when Depression congratulates you. It’s like telling a good story to one of your customers, only to realize she just wants her coffee.
Unlike the man I live with, Depression can’t really get mad at me. It’s a trade off Depression has to make in order to never be happy about anything I’ve said – it can’t be unhappy either. It can be polite, responsive. But that’s it. It sounds like living with a robot but it’s not. A robot would be programmed to try its best, even though it will fail. Depression never tries.
The man I love creates things, some big and some small. But Depression hates to create. Depression only wants to consume. Depression likes reading forums online, even the ones where everyone is just being nasty to each other. Depression can read a single forum for hours on end, while most of the other users have come and gone. Depression never writes comments. It only reads. It only consumes.
Depression doesn’t encourage you when you’re struggling. Depression doesn’t do things when you ask. Depression doesn’t kiss you on the forehead to be sweet. Depression doesn’t kiss you at all.
When Depression breaks through the window I know what to do. I know how to fight back. I know how to defend my home. It’s like seeing a baby that’s fallen into the river. I don’t blame the baby and I don’t wait for it to figure something out. I just jump in head first and know that whatever happens it was worth trying. But when Depression crawls in during the daylight, I don’t recognize it. I see the baby in the river and I just think, “You’re going to get your clothes all wet, don’t you know any better?”
There is no way to compare my experience with the suffering of the man himself. I am lucky in that regard. I don’t know what it’s like to be Living With depression, I only know what it’s like when you are living with Depression. Once I know it’s there I can help chase it away, but by the time I realize it, so much damage has already been done. And I can fight and claw and lock the doors all I want, it doesn’t matter. Depression never really dies. It is not cured, it is not defeated. It knows where we live. It will always find its way back in our house.
NOTE: The above piece was posted with both permission and encouragement from man in question. I hope this post helps to open up the conversation so often left in silence.