I recently heard a statement about a difference in depression between men and women. Of course, it was a generalization, but it claimed women tend to turn the majority of their blame inside while men look for external factors to blame. I started thinking it through. I know many who struggle with depression chronically or seasonally. With a few exemptions, I began to sort through the examples I know and saw them line up with the claim on gender differences. There was one major exception – one male friend who beats himself up more than anyone else even though several of the factors I know feed into his bouts of depression have to do with ongoing situations outside his control.
I thought of several women who deal with depression on an ongoing basis and will state some external factors such as the season of the year, yet they all shift the responsibility to themselves and their ability to respond to whatever those external factors are. Taking some responsibility probably helps at times. It gives some sense of control. But it can also be discouraging when nothing seems to change.
It’s not easy for anyone to deal with depression – for the people personally wrestling with it or the people around them. Women might retreat and get quiet, and the people around them don’t know what to do to help. Men often get angry and lash out at the people around them, pushing them away and refusing help. Setting gender differences aside, depression can look different on people.
I’ve watched the effects of depression up close and personal. I’ve seen how it can be disguised as anger, hatred, and judgment and consoled with alcohol, deception, and inappropriate relationships. I’ve been desperate to help and shoved away.
I’ve also had more casual relationships where a thoughtful word or two have helped a bit, at least momentarily. Time and availability are often the biggest helps. An invitation for someone to process or simply hang out has been a great option at times.
Look around and notice people today. Listen not only to what someone says but put together the pieces of what you’re noticing in their lives. Refuse to notice only the signs and symptoms most familiar or comfortable to you. Care for others better than that. Invest in others better than that. Love others better than that.
They are worth the effort.