Many people find it nearly impossible to talk about their depression, especially to their loved ones. I’ve found that for some of my patients, it helps to put it in writing. I’ve drafted this letter for anyone and everyone who thinks it might be useful. Customize and share as you wish.
Dearest (loved one),
It was hard for me to write this letter because avoidance comes more easily to me. I am writing this because you are somebody who is very important to me. I like to think that if you were going through a difficult time, you would feel free to talk to me openly, and feel listened to and supported.
I care about you so much and yet it’s really hard for me to talk about this to you. I am going through some very difficult times right now, and I want to help you understand why I might have been acting in ways that might not seem like me lately. I want to explain, and maybe ask you to support me in some helpful ways, if you would like to.
You may be wondering why I have not asked you to talk about this before. I’m writing instead of calling or speaking to you in person, because it’s a really difficult thing to talk about. It’s also not something I’m used to doing. Expressing myself in writing feels safer right now. One day I hope to be able to talk with you about my depression and anxiety, in the same way that we talk about every day stuff.
The big D, depression, is a daily struggle in my life. It’s hard for me to articulate what this illness feels like. It’s like having a fog between you and everything else in life. It’s like having a backpack full of rocks that you carry with you everywhere. It wears you down. It’s like walking through quicksand that no one else can see and hoping that today is not the day that you go under. Sometimes it’s one minute at a time.
It’s hard to talk about, because you tell me all of the beautiful things in my life I should be grateful for. How I have so much. I cannot argue, but it does not minimize the fact of the darkness. I understand that your understanding of depression may not match my own experience. Also, because depression has a stigma and it’s not talked about much in our family, social circle, or in the world, it’s unfortunately common for people who have never been through it themselves to underestimate just how painful, difficult, and burdensome it can be.
The most important thing that I want you to understand is that suffering from depression is much more than having a bad day or feeling stressed out. A bad day is just that, a bad day, and for most people sadness may be a temporary emotion.
Depression can make people feel miserable for weeks and months, or even years at a time. It is exhausting. It can make people hate themselves and their life. Surviving can become the goal of the day and surpasses all other ambitions. It is a gut wrenching, torturous, and incredibly courageous thing to live with depression.
I also want you to know that depression is an illness. It’s to be taken very seriously, and not something where you can just pull yourself up by the bootstraps. It’s a complicated one, with no easy fix. There are literally hundreds of millions of people who suffer, often in silence.
Yes, every day I try to fight it, with all my tools. Some days I win and others not.
This letter may leave you feeling helpless. If you’d like to help, there are some things you can do. Although they may seem small, they are incredibly significant.
First, please don’t judge me. It’s hard enough to have to deal with it without feeling that I am minimized for it. People who are depressed often feel extremely alone or abandoned. They feel incredibly vulnerable and exposed. Second, just listen. It can be very cathartic to talk about what hurts.You have no idea how wonderful it feels to know that I can talk to you and vent without fear. Third, even when I don’t respond, and you text me or check in, it makes me feel cared for. Sometimes I don’t have the energy to respond right away. But I know that you are there. Last, it helps me if you remind me that it’s possible to overcome. Depression is an evil sorcerer that makes your brain think that this is all there is.
Without being fake, when you remind me that there is hope, that I have won the battle previously, there is light ahead, and that things will change, it makes me want to get help and keep on fighting.
Thank you, and I love that you were able to read this. It means more than I can say in words. Writing this letter makes conversations possible.