In dealing with depression, you either have the experience or not. There is an “us” and a “them.” Those wearing the “US” jerseys in the game of life know and understand how someone can think or react in a given situation. We know this through personal experience, or through having watched a close friend or family member go through the war of depression.
The words I’ll use sound divisive. My thoughts are not intended to divide but to clarify, encourage and explain.
We All Speak Our Own Language
For instance military personnel, particularly career people, speak a different language. They have a different mindset toward life. Perhaps the group most extreme in this is former Marines. Their shared experiences in training and perhaps in battle connects them in a way that the rest of us cannot participate in. Such people are forever part of “The Marine Corp.”
The Depression Corp
Those who endure depression are also a select group. Their being part of this group is not by choice. The group of people has an experience in common. The experience of depression is profoundly impacting. If you have not experienced clinical depression, you cannot belong in “The Depression Corp.”
Those who have endured can try to tell you what depression is like, but words are inadequate. Because of this, someone who has experienced depression is likely the one who can best help someone now going through it.
A family member who periodically deals with deep seasons of darkness put depression this way, “It is feeling like you are bleeding to death inside and no one can see it because the outside is held together so well. The feeling of invisible pain is the worst part of it.”
Us Versus Them Mentality
In her book, Why am I Crying? Martha Maughon used the words “us” and “them” (pg. 65 – 66)
The other team – those who have never dealt with clinical depression – is “them.” They are not bad people – they just cannot wear the t-shirt. They’ve not been there. It is like being a Marine. Either you are or you are not! You have either been there or you haven’t. “Us” and “them.” “Veterans” and “non-veterans.”
I’ve read a number of books about historic battles. But, reading of the experiences of war does not give an understanding of war. Two dear friends had fathers who were on the ground in Europe during World War II. One had the responsibility of driving the dead truck. He was part of a team that recovered the bodies of men killed on the battlefield. The second man was part of a force that was first to arrive at a Nazi extermination camp. Neither man ever had much to say about their war experiences. They avoided talking about it.
To speak intelligently of military life has to have been there. To speak accurately about depression a person has to have been there!
The “Them” Group
So, using Maughon’s words every person is part of either “us” or “them.” The “them” group usually does not have the foggiest notion about what a depressed person is dealing with. There are a lot of “them” in the church. They mean well and honestly are trying to help. But their tendency to make sweeping statements or to use clichés about faith, salvation, and joy are seldom helpful.
In one of his excellent books written primarily from a Biblical perspective, Dr. John White warned those who have not dealt with depression. He suggested, “. . . be cautious of judgmental attitudes toward men and women struggling beneath the weight of depression, and of glib and inaccurate explanations of their condition. The godliest of men have been gripped by profound depression.”
Would it be acceptable for me, a non-soldier, to tell the fellow who did two tours in Afghanistan how he “ought” to feel? No! If you are one of “us” and someone on the “them” team is trying to help but is really hurting, put their effort in perspective. Don’t let it further weigh you down.
Filtering is OK
If you are part of “The Depression Corp” please filter through what people you know, respect and trust are saying. Instead of getting angry at them or becoming even more disheartened, walk away mentally saying, “There is another ‘them’ who doesn’t know what they are talking about.” You don’t have to say it, just think it and move. Don’t let the good guys get you down!
I have written several articles on depression. For a direct link, please click below.
Your experience with someone who has not been through this particular battle may help someone else. Please share it in the comments below.