Shut up and listen.

You can’t wake up normal from this. But you gotta wake up.

My family keeps secrets. Secrets that are only shared when you are close enough to smell last week’s laundry rotting in the garage. And my mom does her laundry almost everyday. The thing is, most of what is kept is done so due to fear of others’ stigma and ridicule.
Like mental illness.
When you read that last sentence, did you feel uncomfortable? I hope so. Both of my parents have siblings with a mental illness. And my sibling has a mental illness. Not even friends we have known for twenty years know this. In our lives, psychiatry, psychology and counseling are not just career options, they are what we live everyday. But, we operate in two realities; that of home and that of the public. Even when our friends have similar circumstances, the confirming words are seldom spoken aloud.
There is a saying the outpatient clinic uses that is something like “Mental illness affects us all.” I think it is overused to us all.
The limited number of hospitals specific for treating mental illness and limited resources creates more stress on a family that has been up late with a loved one when the darkness came. Sometimes, the darkness comes suddenly, swiftly, and violently. Other times it comes in like a fog, hazed and grey, but nonetheless there. You learn how to “talk” and what to listen for.
But you really learn to listen the most.
Listening, not just hearing, is the most important action you can take. Listen to your friends. Listen to your family. Listen to what they are saying, how they are speaking, how they are changing. Look up from Angry Birds and look at those in your life. Look at yourself. Stop trying to drown the pain, escape the reality, or distract through disconnect. Educate yourself on how deep depression is. I wish I could say it gets better over time, but it doesn’t without help. The right help. From our own experience, it takes a family that listens as well as providers who will listen to the patient when the medication is just not working. A team who can recognize that the darkness is getting heavier and the fog thicker. Take depression seriously. Really, shut up and listen. Then, get help.