Depression & 7 Seconds of Peace
The promo for Wayne Brady’s exclusive interview on ET in November of 2014 in which he opened up about his struggle with depression caught me off guard. Once again the pain of depression in another human’s eyes stopped me in my tracks.
Brady talked about his complete breakdown that happened on his 42nd birthday and the negative impact that depression has played in his life. He attributed his depression to leading to his divorce. In this interview he aptly described the reason that depression is so debilitating when he says, “You can’t move around in the darkness.” He was absolutely correct.
Depression impacts every area of your life, because you cannot respond to anything, whether positive or negative, appropriately when your mind is frozen in darkness. This pain is unimaginable to someone who has not experienced it. It can be completely debilitating to those of us who have suffered (and I truly mean suffered) with depression. However, for so many of us depression is invisible to those around us, because we have developed ways to survive for at least a little while. But as Brady says when speaking of his friend, Robin Williams’ death, “These secrets kill.” We can only hide for so long, and if those around us do not recognize the depression when we finally fall, we retreat to our own devises.
If someone is truly suffering from depression, then why is it those who suffer with it are often some of the most entertaining people we know? Whether it is actors, such as Robin Williams and Wayne Brady, or our closest friends, those with depression often go long periods in their lives without anyone recognizing a problem simply because they are the life of the party. They can make us laugh. I am not talking about just small laughs. I am talking about serious laugh out loud laughs. They write some of the best music and portray some of the deepest characters, because they are deeply in touch with emotions. They care when someone else is talking, because they want someone to really hear them.
These connections to other people make it appear that they are fine. In fact others will often wish they could be like the them. The reality is that it is not uncommon for those who suffer with depression to go home and cry by themselves after having a delightful evening with friends. While we cherish these moments of almost forgetting, they actually drain us more. In order to appear okay to our friends, we have to really turn it on. We go full blast. That is why you will often see us having a marvelous time, and then suddenly we must go. We have used up all of our reserves. We must retreat before you find us out.
If these events are so taxing on us, then why do we put ourselves through it? For one, we want to be normal. We want to go out into the world and enjoy it. For another, we are seeking our seven seconds of peace.
Last year, Rick Springfield did an interview for Oprah’s “Where Are They Now” in which he spoke of his lifelong battle with depression. In this tearful interview, which makes me cry every time I see it, he talked about his rise to success and the impact that depression had on his reaction. He referred to the numerous women that he slept with during his time on “General Hospital” and Top 10 radio. He stated that his reason for sleeping with so many women was his way of chasing “seven seconds of peace.” Obviously, he is referring to the short lived orgasm.
The seven seconds of peace principal applies to most of us who suffer from depression. Springfield’s seven seconds came via sex, while others may chase a good laugh, winning at anything, getting high on drugs or low on alcohol. Seven seconds comes packaged in most any excessive behavior. For those who seek it in commonly held negative behaviors, the depression beast may catch up with us more quickly. For those of us who become laugh junkies, the spiral downward into the dangerous depths of depression is far less likely to be recognized by those around us. But even for those who get called out for their negative behavior, all too often it is not connected to the root problem of depression.
SO how do you help a friend who is depressed? The best way to help a friend is to learn to recognize the symptoms of depression. If you have a friend who seems like the life of the party in groups, but demonstrates some of the symptoms of depression in every day life, talk to them about it. A real friend cares enough to ask questions. If you see any of the following signs found at Mayo Clinic, then offer to talk about it:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, such as sex
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so that even small tasks take extra effort
- Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness — for example, excessive worrying, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that are not your responsibility
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches.
Offer to help them find a doctor. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website has links to providers and support groups. It is important to get them real help.
Recently it has become popular among psychologist to bolster the idea that if you want to be happy, you can be simply by deciding to be happy. This advice works for people who are just simply unhappy for a moment in time. THIS IS TERRIBLE ADVICE FOR ANYONE WHO IS TRULY DEPRESSED. Refrain from referring your friend to articles like “Strategies for Happiness: 7 Steps to Becoming a Happier Person.” Articles appearing to be medically based, such as those on WebMD, are not always a comprehensive source for illnesses that should be treated by a medical professional. While the topics of these articles may be helpful in getting you pointed in the right direction, typically depression requires a combination of medication and therapy prescribed by a doctor.
Believe me, if we could decide to be happy, we would. After all, we continually seek the source of our seven seconds of peace on a regular basis, even to the point of destruction. Depression is an illness and must be treated as such.