I've long read, and loved, the blog Hyperbole and a Half. So when the author went away over a year ago after mentioning she'd been suffering from depression, I was concerned and fretful. Thankfully, she's back, with possibly the best explanation of what depression is and does that I've ever read.
It's a fantastic post that I'd urge you to read. It's one of those things that if you can relate to it, you'll be yelping 'YES, EXACTLY' every 10 seconds (so probably best to wait till you're not in a public place when reading). It wonderfully captures so many things that I thought only happened to me: the difficulty of interacting with people when you feel like you're separated from them by a thick glass wall, the uselessness of well-meant advice to exercise more/take up yoga/get some sun, the awkwardness, but at the same time, the urgency of mentioning to people that you might not want to be around any more, and the comparison of being in that state of mind and wanting to mute an unbearably repetitive noise.
I'm urging people to read it so forcefully because we need this kind of understanding, especially when articles like this are being produced. When an blog read by millions can claim that antidepressants are no more effective than placebos, and put the word 'so-called' right before 'mental illnesses', it needs challenging.
I don't think people can fully understand a mental illness unless they've had it. I don't mean this in an elitist, 'lol join our mental club' kind of way; I've never broken a limb, so while I can read about breaking limbs and understand the effect it has on somebody, I can't really empathise with it. In a similar way, I don't have bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. They're mental illnesses I've never experienced, but again, I can read about it and educate myself and try, at least, to understand.
While I've said I can't empathise with a broken limb/bipolar disorder/schizophrenia, I can certainly sympathise. I can go 'Ugh, that sounds pretty rubbish. Would you like a cup of tea and a biscuit?' From people who aren't medically qualified or who can't empathise, that is all I would ask for. I don't want advice, and I mean that with the best will in the world, because just as I wouldn't ask a friend who'd never broken a limb to help me make my bones knit together again, I wouldn't ask a friend who'd never suffered from depression how to make my brain work normally again. This is why we have mental health professionals, and that's why they prescribe antidepressants. They work. They're not perfect, they often have quite strong side effects, and you might have to try out a few different kinds before finding the right one for you, but they help millions of people cope with a condition that had previously been unbearable to them.