Warning: contains triggering material about depression and addiction.
I met a friend that deeply cares about her best friend. She calls her, makes sure everything is fine and supports her. She also knows her best friend has depression and she sympathizes with her, even when she does not understand it.
So what’s the problem?
That friend luckily does not know depression except for television and social media. Like many of her other friends and colleagues. Like many of my friends. The problem is that her best friend cannot tell her everything, she cannot tell she is also fighting with addiction
Depression is never just depression
Most of the depression cases are a result or cause other mental health problems. For example too strict parents or family can cause personality disorders which can result in OCD which results in Depression. A person who survived trauma can experience post traumatic anxiety which can cause depression. A person suffering depression, may experience insomnia, anxiety and addiction.
While luckily most of those issues are starting to be talked about more and more often, there is still a huge stigma surrounding Addiction.
Remember our two best friends?
She calls her best friend, makes sure everything is alright. She knows she carries around the heavy weight of depression and supports her, even if she doesn’t understand it. But when her best friend tells her she is struggling with addiction, the reaction is dangerously different.
Addiction is not a choice.
The reactions we get when opening ourselves to people are based too much on the struggle we describe. Depression is not a choice and the society is coming to a point when it starts to be obvious. Addiction also is not a choice but people are denied help and marginalized.
Maybe we could change that starting with a better understanding of the relation between depression and addiction
Triggers ahead, please take care and don’t read if you think you are at risk
Depression is not being sad, it’s not being just tired. Depression makes emotions and sense disappear. There is no future, there is only a blank here. There is no ‘missing feeling’, there is only a ‘without’. Depression could be compared to a state of partial consciousness caused by something that accidentally hits you in the head, a state in which you don’t feel the pain at all and you are not conscious enough to worry but you are still aware you are of no utility in this situation, there is nobody around you and you are just fine with slowly getting to the ground so you can rest.
The human nature sometimes pushes us to find a way out of the numbness, a salvation in the form of a feeling that needs to be pleasant or powerful.
Out of the frying pan, into the fire
As human beings, we have the ability to get addicted to almost anything, depending on our mental state. Another step to understand the problem is to realize that addiction is not only to drugs or alcohol, we can get addicted to sex, shopping, success, food, dictatorship, domination, the list is never ending…
A pleasant sensation may be buying something new on which we can focus, to not think about the emptiness. A powerful sensation may be social power itself. If a person relies on those emotions, the brain can easily get used to them and just one time without this double-edged support is enough to trigger heavy somatic symptoms, breakdowns or panic attacks (is important to remember they come with an overwhelming psychological and physical feeling of dying). After we observe what happens if we give up our habit, we quickly get to the conclusion we cannot live without it, even if we wish we could break it, we believe for us there is no way out of that too. No way out of what was supposed to be our salvation.
There wasn’t a moment in which a person fighting addiction said “Yes, I’m going to keep spending money no matter how destructive it is”, or “I could give up alcohol but I don’t feel like it today, it’s rainy”.
There is no laziness in mental illness. There is not much of a choice. There is no blame.
Instead there is hope and need for help. And we can bring it, by starting to listen and not being too quick to judge and dismiss.