I Began to Inch My Way Out
. . . of Depression
The Connected Disconnected
Part Three of a Continuing Series
Connection and isolation are the strange bedfellows of our always-on society. I say that I talked to someone on social media or someone commented on something I said. The truth is, I didn’t talk or comment—nor did anyone else. We typed. I also say I was in touch with a friend, but no touch was involved, except my fingers to a keyboard or a cell phone screen.
Much of what we call communication and connection now takes place in isolation. Even when we are with others—friends, family, colleagues—in physical form, one touch to a keyboard or screen re-creates isolation.
I don’t fault social media, texting, and electronic communication for the isolation that plagues many in our culture. But I know that in my darkest days this summer, most of my contact with people was through screens. Few voices were heard and little physical presence was felt.
In that isolation, my fears, once nebulous, took solid shape and grew. Not all my fears were unfounded, but in the sunless medium of isolation, mushroom-like, they expanded and took on a presence that dwarfed my own.
The advice—and it’s good advice—when we’re low is to seek the company of friends and family. However, during my recent bout with depression, the last thing I wanted to do was call or visit a friend or family member and burden them with my despondent state. I was aware my depression was serious and that I was nearing a dangerous level of despair. The thought of calling someone crossed my mind, but I shied away from reaching out. I felt guilty about feeling bad. I did not want my negativity to envelope those with whom I interacted. Worse, I believed people were as weary of my depression as I was. No way was I going to call anyone. I didn’t want to share that I simply felt awful, bleak . . .
I did speak with family, and as I noted in an earlier installment of “Inching My Way Out, . . .” I kept those conversations superficial.
I contacted no one, but someone contacted me. A long-time friend calls me to chat from time to time. Because we have been friends for decades, when she asked how I was, I was honest. I shared how I felt, how low I was, how despondent I had been. Even as I shared, I apologized for my honesty. I didn’t want her to feel bad because I felt bad. Dear friend that she is, she waved aside my apologies. We spoke for a long time, and just having that connection, being able to verbalize what had been happening, to say my fears out loud, loosened the grip of those fears. Sharing on a deep level connected me once again to thoughts, feelings, to the give and take of friendship, of conversation, of caring.
After I spoke to my friend, I realized how I had disconnected myself in many ways. I resolved then that I would reconnect, that I would stay in touch. A few days after the conversation with my friend, I called my sister. She didn’t answer, but when she saw my missed call, she called me right away. “Is everything okay?” she asked. “You never call, so I thought something must be wrong.”
Her words resonated with my feelings that it was important to reach out more often, to call, to speak, to visit.
The Catch 22 is that when I was at my lowest, I ignored the phone calls I received and made even fewer calls. Therefore, the advice to reach out to others—although fine advice—doesn’t work if you have fallen into a well of darkness. Before you fall into that well, if you are susceptible to depression, my advice is to check your social activity. How long has it been since you spoke to or visited a family member or a friend? How long has it been since you gathered with others to celebrate and/or sustain your spiritual beliefs?
My advice doesn’t end there. Most of us know people who suffer depression, who have dark days, who are sometimes overcome with the demands of simply being human. If you haven’t spoken to a friend or family member whom you know has struggled or struggles with depression, contact that person. If you haven’t spoken to a family member or friend you miss and love, contact that person even if depression isn’t a factor.
One invaluable benefit of contacting a person who is suffering depression or experiencing a life challenge is they realize someone does care about them. That small act can be an open window to look away from depression.
Human contact—and I mean voice or in person—keeps us anchored in the world. Knowing someone cares enough to get in touch sends ripples of care and concern throughout our existence. Human contact also generates love and laughter in our lives, keeping us functioning and whole. Interaction with others signals a healthy life, a healthy psyche.
A phone call or visit with family or friends isn’t a magic pill to chase demons away, but it can be a valuable effort to reach out if we are battling demons or to connect with someone whom we know battles demons. Human contact, voice, touch, involvement, are essential components of inching toward wholeness that don’t take much effort.
If someone you love suffers from depression and you haven’t spoken to or seen that person for an extended period of time, make the effort to get in touch. When you do, ask how they really are doing. If necessary, encourage them to seek help. Seek help yourself if isolation and disconnection have become a pattern in your life.
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I am not a therapist, so if you or someone you love suffers depression, reach out, get help. However, I do believe we can do some simple things to help ourselves. My own continuing counsel about inching away from depression follows:
Ask yourself if you have spoken to or visited with a friend recently. Ask yourself if you have spoken to or seen a family member recently.
If your answer is no, then pick up the phone and make a call. Text messages, e-mails, and personal messages on social media do not count. You don’t have to discuss your depression. At the same time, you don’t have to pretend that life is perfect. The simple act of connecting with people can be the beginning of inching your way back to wellness.
Aside from getting out of bed, taking a shower, and connecting with friends and family, an article I saw on Facebook also helped immensely. I was not contemplating suicide, and was not ready to give up, but I was darker than I have been in years. Please read the article and if you are having dark days of your own, take the suggestions to heart.
The original can be downloaded in printable form at the following URL:
I will continue to share additional steps I took to inch my way out of depression.
Note: I welcome comments, even private ones, especially because depression is not something we want everyone to know we experience. If you would like to speak further about this subject, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can communicate by e-mail or I will share my phone number. Be well. ~ Chris