Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Baby steps

413 words on Washed in the Blood today. That puts me over 1000 for the week and gets the total over 18k. I would like to go over 20k this week. I'm off work Friday and Saturday, so I'll be able to put on a push. Just on a whim, I'm going to try for 25k by the end of the year. It will be a stretch, but isn't that what goals are for?

"The Easy Way Out" was rejected by Conversely. The score is now 22-5. That's an 18.5% acceptance rate. Not too bad, I think. This one did put me into double digits in the Great Rejection Slip Contest at Forward Motion. One goal down for this year! I still have some things out, so it may go even higher.

Mouth shut; ears open

My wife and I (actually just her, I just helped) started a support group for people with clinical depression and/or bipolar disorder that she runs locally. Nothing spectacular, just a group of people getting together and talking about things once a week. It's been a real benefit to some people, and that's all she expects to get out of it.

I threw together a quick and cheap Web site at OrgSites (a truly great place for small non-profits). That site has put me in touch with people all over the country. They all tell me the same things, and they are the same things that I have experienced.

People who are deeply depressed feel very much the same things: loneliness, isolation, hopelessness, muddled thinking, lack of energy, etc. I have found that most "normal" people are afraid to talk to someone who is depressed, even a loved one. They are afraid that they will say the wrong thing and push them over the edge, or they just don't understand how someone can feel so bad without having physical symptoms.

What depressed people need (besides professional assistance, of course) is someone to talk to. I did not say someone to talk to them, i said "someone to talk to". Sympathy and understanding go a long, long, way to helping them feel a little better. I have spent a lot of time on the telephone just listening.

Depression isolates people by reinforcing their feelings of low self-worth. They can't stand to be around other people, because other people all seem so happy and well-adjusted. They wonder why they feel so bad when everyone else feels so good. "What's wrong with me?" is a frequent thought, as is "Why can't I be strong like...?" Withdrawing serves two purposes. It takes away the torment of seeing other people's happiness, and it allows the feelings of worthlessness to feed and grow.

When someone is depressed, they need to hear that they are worthwhile, that they are valuable just as a human being just as they are. They need someone to believe in them. Many of them also need someone to give them permission to feel bad, to lie in bed and cry when the darkness is just too deep. They need someone to care whether or not they get up in the morning.

They also need to talk. They need to say how badly they hurt and have someone believe them. They need someone to hold their hand and tell them that it will be all right, that the darkness doesn't last forever, and that they do have the courage and strength to pull through. They need an ear to bend and a shoulder to cry on, even if it's over a phone line. Knowing that you are not alone is very important. The feeling that you're all alone in the world and no one understands you is the killer.

What if they're suicidal? What if they say that they have nothing left to live for and don't want to go on living? First, take that statement as absolute fact! People don't talk about suicide until they have given the subject a lot of thought. By the time they get to that point, they already have a plan and are only trying to get up the courage to put it into motion. They need intervention immediately!

While you're waiting on the paramedics, ask them to talk about the reasons they feel the way they do. These are probably things that they have never talked about with another person. Sometimes the very act of talking about it lets them see that their thinking is skewed right then. Do not patronize them! Don't pooh-pooh their feelings and their reasons and try to laugh it off. For that matter, don't joke around at all. These people need for others to take them seriously and pay attention to their concerns and to know how they feel.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when dealing with depression is that depressed people do not think the same way that others do. Depressed people can only see the down side. When you show them sunshine, they see the tornado that is inevitably coming. When they hear birds singing, they hear a grating, irritating noise that is almost unbearable. When they look at themselves, they see ugliness and failure and weakness. It is easy to lose patience with someone in this state. Encouraging them to see the good things in life seldom works, if ever. The depression blinds them to that whole side of the world.

Understanding. Sympathy. Listening. These are keys to dealing with depression in others.
Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy Kwanzaa, a Joyous Yule...Screw it, y'all just have an extremely pleasant Winter Solstice.


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