I want to begin this post by saying that I am not a mental health professional in any way. I’ve had no training and I can’t show you any official certifications or documentation. I’m just a dairy farmer who has felt the pain, numbness, and stigma that comes with being depressed. And I want to talk about it.
Life is hard; we all know that. Especially this time of year, when the sun rarely shines and low levels of vitamin D make everything seem that much bleaker, life is truly hard. But for some of us, it’s a little bit more. If you’ve never felt the pain, numbness, and loneliness of depression, it’s difficult to understand it. And if I’m being honest, as someone who has, it’s often hard to explain it. But if you truly want to help someone you know is struggling, I think that knowing these three big things will help:
1. You don’t necessarily need a reason to be depressed. Yes, it can be triggered by hugely tragic, life altering events, but it doesn’t have to be. And that doesn’t make it any less traumatic. I honestly believe that most people don’t even know they’re living with it for months or even years. It took me years to even admit it to myself. We’ve created such a negative stigma around mental health that even admitting it to myself felt embarrassing.
2. The darkness comes and goes. That’s a line from one of my favorite songs. The first time I heard it, I had to sit down. It’s one of the best descriptors of depression that I’ve ever heard. Every day isn’t gloom, but some days are. It reminds me that even when I’ve been living in the light for months, that doesn’t mean I don’t need to worry about my mental health. It also reminds me that even when I am living in the darkness, that doesn’t mean there won’t be moments or even days of light. That simple little line reminds me to feel what I feel when I feel it.
3. Depression isn’t always an increase in sad feelings. Sometimes it’s a decrease in happy feelings. Read that again. Some of my worst moments aren’t because I’m sad, but because I can’t feel the joy. For me, depression is mostly a kind of numbness, which is a whole different kind of pain.
If you want to help someone you love who suffers through depression, remember this: Just because you don’t understand why someone is depressed doesn’t mean it isn’t true or powerful. Remember that they’re still them. They’re going to have good days and bad days; embrace them. Above all else, let them feel the good days. I know you’ll worry no matter what I say, but there’s more to depression than suicidal thoughts and self-harming. But often, the lack of happiness is just as terrifying.
The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.