May 29 2024 08:52 AM

    As we end Mental Health Awareness Month, here are three considerations to keep in mind when helping yourself or others through this pain.

    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.

    Everyone has been depressed, but not everyone has depression. Life is hard and overwhelming at times for everyone, 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. 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 who is struggling, I think that knowing these three things will help:

    1.You don’t necessarily need a reason to be depressed. Yes, it can be triggered by tragic, life altering events, but it doesn’t have to be. That doesn’t make it any less traumatic. Depression crept up on me, as embarrassing as that is to admit. I was so afraid to label what I was feeling because of the stigma wrapped around mental health that it took me years to see it for what it was. Labeling it, though terrifying, was eventually empowering and the step I personally needed to take to start to work through it.

    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 when I am living in the darkness, that doesn’t mean there won’t be moments or 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, more of depression is 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 these things. 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 and treat them that way. They’re going to have good days and bad; 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-violence.

    Jessica Peters

    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.