Five things you need to know about depression:
*It is the loneliest illness to have. Even if you are surrounded by your loved ones, you cannot help feeling alone. What breaks my heart is hearing the story of those who don’t have a safety net — those who isolate themselves because of their illness, and don’t have a loved one to catch them when they fall.
*When you have a mental illness, every day is a battle. Some days, you fight and win. Other days, you count getting out of bed as your victory. The important thing is to live in the present. The past is harrowing, the future terrifying. The present is what you hope to have the strength to contend with.
*The end of fall is not a good thing. More than 10 million Americans are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, or winter depression. There are millions more in the other parts of the world far from the equator. The onset of cold, coupled with suddenly short days, is not good for any of us, but it is particularly hard for those with a pre-disposition to depression.
*A disproportionate number of creative people suffer from mental illnesses. Science has not found a causal relation in this, but it is a common belief that suffering is necessary for art. I don’t subscribe to this belief. Like Elizabeth Gilbert, I believe your creativity is meant to be pursued with joy and discipline. Unfortunately, joy and discipline are hard to find in the midst of depression.
*Hugs help. Phone calls help. Encouragement to make healthy choices helps. When your depressed friend is curled up in a ball, tucked away inside his own shell — that is when he needs you the most. As the season of giving comes upon us, remember that those around you may be fighting battles you don’t know. Give them the gift of your kindness.