My neighbor, who is eighty-four, won’t answer me directly when I ask how she’s doing. “Tomorrow will be better” is her reply. It always amazes me that she never complains. Not even when asked! And in my estimation she’s got some things she could. She had surgery on her back last year for pain. It didn’t work. Now she’s home bound (not allowed to drive any more) and a few days ago, when we talked on the sidewalk, she told me she is suffering from “what you had Melody.”
Depression. It is huge that she would admit it to me. At least for me, the telling to others was so difficult! The feelings of shame and failure and personal weakness are overwhelming.
For two days since that conversation, that knowledge has ridden on my back everywhere with me. It is heavy on my mind and heart when picking up my kids, shopping at the Goodwill for Halloween, chauffeuring children to church and back, walking the dog past her house morning and night, washing the dinner dishes at breakfast. I can’t stop thinking of it. Jeanne told me she’s depressed and I should know what to do. But I don’t.
Should I bring her flowers? She loves plants. A happy pumpkin. A copy of Not Alone and tell her about my essay in there? What should I do? Experience does not bring knowledge of what to do. Everyone is different. And I’m so upset by the realization that truly depressed people are scary.
That shouldn’t be — not for me. I know what she’s feeling (as much as one can.) I can picture her over there, in her darkened living room, sitting alone, unable to stand at the kitchen sink any longer because of back pain, or cook, or do any chores. “The only thing that doesn’t hurt is sitting.” she told me last summer when I asked.
I know I need do something. Give her a call. And I am afraid.
I think sometimes when we know someone is depressed we get overwhelmed by how to respond. And so we don’t do anything.
I am here to tell you anything is better than nothing. All a person really needs is contact with another human being. How easy it is to forget how very alone one feels.
I will search for my lost ones who strayed away and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak…” (Ezekiel 34.16 NLT)
I am thoroughly glad to not have had a depressive episode for months and months. So I can freely say that I am in a good place and I feel so grateful! I recently had an essay published about my experience with depression called Hope Heals. It’s published in the book Note Alone: Stories of Living with Depression.
Whatever the outcome I will give her a call. I don’t have to fix the situation in fact, of course, I can’t. I just need to show her that she is not alone. That someone cares.