A is for ADHD, which my kiddo has.
B is for Books, which has kept me grounded.
C is for Cancer, which my father has.
D is for Depression, which arrived unexpectedly, like a sword dropping from the sky.
In a whirlwind of texting, commuting, and very little sleeping, I found myself explaining the biological basis for major clinical depression — the kind that no amount of well-meaning advice will cure — to family members and feeling horribly inadequate because I’m not a medical doctor.
Just today we were in a spare, windowless room that reminded me of police interrogations, all staring at the family member (henceforth called The Patient) who viscerally oozed “Please don’t look at me.”
We all spoke, round-robin style, facilitated by a nice, late-middle-aged female therapist named Doris, all speaking in turn at the therapist’s prompts, as The Patient sat mute, as was my dad, who has been the most shaken of all us by this sudden journey into Depression.
In the past, The Patient would say that what I would say as advice mirrored what the therapists would say. I thought of this as Doris proposed a cognitive behavioral exercise that I had given, but in less words, many months ago.
“Don’t feed The Beast.”
The Beast are all of those automatic negative thoughts (Doris called them “Ants”) that pop up in response to outside triggers that can lead to the downward spiral of a full-blown depressive episode. To stop that spiral in its tracks, a quick mental brake — “Don’t feed The Beast” — makes the person acutely aware of those “Ants.”
Once aware, the person can then rationally choose to counter those “Ants” — to regain control when one’s feelings lie.
That’s what The Patient needs to learn — for the very first time, as it seems — to do.
It won’t be easy.
But nothing worthwhile ever is.