Depression has plagued the human race for ages. Misunderstood in times past, sufferers were sometimes placed in mental hospitals with little treatment available. In modern times medication and therapy have developed. Treatment is obtainable. Lack of understanding still exists on occasion among family and friends as illustrated by this fictional account.
Andrea had finished her last piano student of the day when the doorbell rang.
“Mom it’s Lisa.” James hollered.
“Come on in Lisa. I’m in the kitchen.” Andrea greeted Lisa with a hug. They had been friends since childhood.
“Lisa, you look tired,” Andrea commented.
“I’ve been feeling depressed. I’m not motivated, and I can’t concentrate on my work.”
Andrea put the rolls in the oven. “That’s not like you. What’s depressing you?”
“That’s the problem, I don’t know. It’s just there.”
“Daddy’s home,” James exclaimed.
Dave kissed Andrea dutifully on the cheek then checked out the pot roast.
“I better go,” Lisa said.
Andrea walked her to the door and patted her on the back. “We all get depressed at times. I’m sure it’ll pass.”
Two weeks went by and Andrea was on her way to visit Kate Emerson who had fallen and broken her leg. She invited Lisa to go with her.
“You OK? You seem withdrawn, what’s happened to the jovial Lisa?”
Lisa responded, “Still can’t shake this depression.”
“Maybe you need to get out of the house more and try to keep busy. I’ve found that helps me when I’m down.”
“I don’t think so. I’m thinking about giving up my PTA and church assignments.”
Andrea responded, “You need those activities to keep going! I think that would be a big mistake.”
Tears rolled down Lisa’s cheeks. Andrea was puzzled. Trying to comfort Lisa she recalled, “Several years ago I felt depressed for about three weeks. I almost felt suicidal.” Andrea sensed a deep fear come over Lisa, and she changed the subject.
As they walked into Kate’s home, Andrea took the chicken casserole and pineapple cookies into the kitchen. Kate greeted them with a smile, but appeared concerned. I’m going to be laid up for three months. How’ll I do everything?”
Lisa didn’t respond but Andrea reassured Kate, “Everyone understands. We’ll help.”
They gave each other a hug, “We can all help, don’t worry.”
“She’s got such a good attitude,” Andrea commented as they closed the door on their way out.
Several weeks later Andrea telephoned Lisa, “Dave fell and broke his hand. He won’t be able to go to work for a while. He’s in pain but he’s being brave.”
Lisa responded but with little concern, “That’s too bad,” she said.
The next day Andrea walked over to Lisa’s home. She was sitting on a chair staring out her front window.
“Let’s go for a walk,” Andrea said. “Another blue day, huh Lisa?”
“Please help me,” she sobbed. “I feel hopeless. It’s been six months and it’s not getting better.”
“You’ve got to shake it Lisa. Make up your mind to change and try to enjoy the sunshine,” Andrea added as they continued walking.
Lisa shrugged her shoulders.
Just then 7-year-old Jenny, one of Andrea’s piano students, came skipping up the walk. “Guess what?” she said as she proudly held up her index finger wrapped with a Band-Aid. “I cut my finger. I had three stitches and I’ll miss piano.”
Andrea kissed her finger, patted her on the head and said, “I’ll see you next week.” Jenny disappeared picking dandelions along the way.
“Such a sweet child and always so cheerful. Spring has touched her heart in spite of her pain,” Andrea said.
As they reached Lisa’s home Andrea reminded her, “Try not to think about the blues and keep busy. I’ll pick you up to go shopping tomorrow, that always helps me. I’ve got to take James to the doctor first. He’s got stomach problems. I feel so bad for him.”
About 10 p.m. Andrea’s doorbell rang. It was Lisa. Andrea thought it was a little late to receive visitors but she invited her in.
“Andrea, I’m desperate!” she blurted. “Why didn’t you tell Kate to go about her work anyway in spite of her cast? And your husband, he could’ve forgotten about his broken hand had he just kept busy.”
“Lisa, that’s cruel. I can’t believe what you’re saying.”
Lisa didn‘t listen. She became irate. “And Jenny, there’s no reason why she couldn’t tear off her Band-Aid and play the piano!”
Now Andrea became angry but she couldn’t get a word in. Lisa continued to ramble, “If Band-Aids could heal depression, and you could see inside my brain you’d see it covered with a thousand Band-Aids. You may even see my brain completely covered with a cast.” Lisa turned, slammed the door, and walked away.
Andrea was confused. She paced the floor. She went to bed but couldn’t sleep. She woke up Dave and related the incident to him. “I’ve always felt close to Lisa. She knows I’m her friend.”
Dave said, “Maybe Lisa really is sick. Maybe she just needs you to listen to her.”
Then Andrea hesitated, wondering if she had listened to Lisa. She slipped her robe on and dashed out the front door. Conversations of the past few weeks raced through her mind. She ran toward Lisa’s home. Her heart was pounding. A cold chill ran up her spine. Her eyes focused on the reflection and blur of a red light going around and around. Her head was spinning. Her own too recent statement began ringing in her ears. “Once I felt depressed. It lasted for about three weeks. I almost felt suicidal.”
Lisa’s life was spared. She was treated for depression with medication and therapy and became well. And Andréa learned to listen instead of giving unwanted advice.
Education, listening skills and empathy make way for accepting depression as a real malady. Listening to others by using genuine communication skills has great value in maintaining and building relationships. The interaction of experiencing adversity together can eventually reinforce the bond between friends.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” — Helen Keller