Humans are social beings. We are surrounded by monuments to this truth. Yet, in many ways, nothing reveals it more starkly than the sheer effort undertaken by depressive episodes to promote isolation and malaise.
Depressive episodes crush you. They silence your voice. They impose a melancholic worldview, one that shrinks reality and replaces it with an ever expanding black void. All this in an effort to get you alone, and vulnerable. Once you are there, the predations of The Black, unfettered, grow more fierce.
The isolation causes you to lose yourself, to first lose your self esteem and then to lose your identity. You cannot conceive of yourself as a being apart from The Black. Who you once were is a faint memory.
The isolation denies you the support that social involvement brings. You don’t want to be a burden, to bring others down. In time you simply feel unworthy. You withdraw deeper into your black world, the void, where emotions are defined by their absence. In this world, reality, society, can be seen but not experienced.
Added to this stultifying isolation is a lack of motivation. Your mind has slowed, and your body with it. Every task is monumental requiring exhaustive effort. The exhaustion wears on you, your reserves get depleted. You surrender to malaise.
Together, the isolation and the malaise work against the natural you, the social you. They work against your humanity.
The Black darkens, the void expands, reality shrinks and the depressive episode deepens. As it deepens, the downward spiral speeds up, continuing to erode self esteem, increasing your sense of unworthiness. All seems lost.
But know this: the downward spiral can be halted. It takes will. It takes action. It takes a voice.
My recovery began when I recognized and openly said that I needed help. All of my prior efforts to escape had only served to feed the malaise. Something more was needed, something external, something ingrained in my DNA – my existence as a social being. Only by tapping into this, only by asking for help, could The Black be overcome.
Once I sought help, I began to share. I began to heal. It wasn’t a smooth process. I was unused to it both by virtue of my nature and by virtue of the predations of The Black. Depressive episodes don’t want to lose their hold. They use your deepest, darkest fears against you. They work vigorously to keep you alone. Nonetheless, just as The Black once grew imperceptibly larger, so did social interactions. The Black receded, the void was filled.
My voice grew stronger. It took the form of blogs, tweets, mini-autobiographies, public advocacy. As it grew the depressive episode weakened. The malaise faded. The isolation dwindled.
I was shown how valuable sharing a life story can be. Whether it’s Twitter DMs, chats on FB Messenger or WhatsApp, or speaking at an eHealth panel, sharing my story allowed for a connection with another that I didn’t expect. It has power. It’s a connection borne of honesty and frankness. It’s a connection that goes to the root of what it means to be human – the truth that I’m a social being.
I say this despite my comfort with solitude. I prefer my own company, but it was too easily exploited by The Black. Solitude so readily became isolation.
But speaking out, reaching out, broke through the isolation. I remind you that your story has value, just as you have value. When you give it voice, you open yourself to connection, a connection that reminds you that you’re part of a larger family. It’s a connection that challenges depressive episodes at their core, a connection that opens the door to healing.
Find your voice. Speak out, share. Make that connection. Recapture your lost humanity. Take back the power lost to the depressive episode. Take back you. Become, once again, a social being.