Witnessing a friend struggling with mental illness is a sad and confusing experience. I have seen this occur in the past but at a distance; this was close, within arms reach. Although standing on this side of the loss I can find patterns, it is mostly an illogical, irrational progression. Their behavior shifts, arriving in survival mode of sorts where they cannot see out of a fog of despair. Depression is all consuming, when in its grips one is incapable of seeing beyond their pain. There is no timeline for healing or guarantee it will not return with a vengeance.
In this case it struck suddenly, one day I was standing beside them, enjoying their presence, sharing their life and it all collapsed. As if a sinkhole opened up and consumed them. I had one foot on firm stable ground and the other was dangling over the sink hole; do you climb in with them and try to save or do you stand on solid ground waiting for them to reach out a hand and help them recover. It was as if the world started spinning off its axis and you cannot tell what is up from down. Consumed by the pain and darkness of depression they seems to be gone, lost in the muck of irrationality, filled with guilt and pain that spills over and effects everything they touch. Pushing people away and retreating to isolation to suffer I worried very much in the early days about the safety and am still concerned about their well-being.
The person I knew seems to be nowhere to be found but I have faith they are somewhere hidden deep inside. The words from their are replaced by those of depression; clinging to a few thoughts centered on guilt, they ruminate over them until they lack reason. They say things that have never before been discussed and make little sense, especially when the words do not align with any of their past actions. I need to assume it is the fault of depression because the other alternative would be I was deceived about the person all along. They behave with little or no regard for you although they had professed to love and care; I must believe that it is not an active choice but a symptom.
Depression consumes their kindness, compassion and empathy leaving them with nothing but pain guilt and burdens in its place. It steals trust and understanding, replacing it with what actions filled with doubt and distrust, for the self is gone and depression is all that remains. Self-confidence is stolen, replaced with uncertainty, indecision, and self-criticism, joy is replaced with emptiness, happiness replaced with negative thoughts making it impossible to see beyond the darkness engulfing their life.
It is painful and sad to watch being helpless in the storm. To know there is nothing that can be done other than to offer patience and care. I watched them taken away in just moments they went from a loving caring person sharing my life to a hollow shell of themselves just trying to function and seeking isolation at all cost. I can offer support, to listen, to drop off meals, to have coffee in silence but the person needs to be in a place to accept it. For all the patience, kindness and love in the world cannot fix this for it is an inside job. They said before they have managed to push everyone away, to ruin everything in life worth living for and yet again depression has struck wielding its blade of isolation and destruction. I was pushed away, treated without regard, and a few times the brunt of a lashing. It has gone from small interactions to being ignored. The person I know before the sinkhole opened would never behaved this way so I must deduce it is the illness. I must have faith they will return one day or I will become as hopeless, depression would again gain a larger foothold. I have to focus on compassion and prayer, knowing they face anguish and pain that extends beyond comprehension, their version of reality has shifted. They have mentioned before that their thinking has become distorted, they misperceive situations and actions. Unfortunately I cannot beg to care and support someone so I must focus on my compassion at this point and have faith if they need something, they will reach out. I need to remember that the actions, while I feel the impact they have little to do with me, for the world is not clearly black and white, this is a very dark grey situation. In the moments when the grey begins to permeate my thoughts I have to hold tight and have faith that they will return. I hope one day the pain in their eyes will be gone. Until then I can offer patience, forgiveness, understanding, friendship, and support from my position in the periphery and trust they will reach a hand out when in need.
“….cause I don’t shine if you don’t shine…”