I was going to write a book spot on Anne Sheffield’s book “How You Can  Survive When They’re Depressed: Living and Coping with Depression Fallout”. The book, from what I could see, received nothing but unanimous praise from anyone that had read it and thus I was eager to read it. I noticed, while reading it though, that I was uncomfortable.

The books offers support and advice to the friends and family etc. of someone who suffers from depression. From reviews and other articles on the book it became clear that the book legitimised what many of those around people with depression thought, and felt guilty for thinking – that someone who suffers with depression isn’t always the best character, they can be selfish, clingy, self-absorbed and the list goes on.

I am wary of this for many reasons. One of the reasons being that it confirms one of the suspicions that my depressed brain had – that I was a nuisance, a handful and nothing more than a drain on anyone I touched.

I think the reason that this makes me so uncomfortable is in the implications – if my depressed brain was right about this then what else was it right about?   What other things, that I had dismissed as depressive delusions, were right? Does this mean that depression was merely a lifting of the veil, an ability to perceive things that I may previously have ignored? These questions and more are question that I don’t necessarily want an answer to. It’s one of the few cases where I am content to simply not know.

In all likelihood, these less than likeable traits are present in those that suffer from depression. But I’m not sure how ready I am to accept that fact, or indeed, if I want to accept it.  I feel as though a depressed person simply doesn’t need the criticism (this isn’t to say their perfect, who is?) as they are, probably, beating themselves up over minute things, and if they’re anything like I was they would be brimming with self-loathing that rarely finds expression.

When I was depressed I was acutely aware of what a bastard I had become. When you’re depressed you have a Tourette’s view of yourself, your internal voice is telling you you’re a cunt or that this is because you’re a wanker or oh I’m such an asshole etc. So, if it’s true that depressives aren’t exactly perfect human beings (who is?), then what does this mean? How does one escape the perpetual cycle of acknowledging their faults without excessively beating themselves up over them?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. Perhaps someday I will know the answers. If anything, reading a part of this book and analysing my discomfort has shown me that I still have a way to go in terms of understanding what depression does first and foremost to me as a person and to those around me. It’s this pursuit of understanding that is a key thing to remember as this year’s mental health awareness week draws to a close.


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