Recently, Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half returned after a long absence, first with a warning that she would be posting again, and then with an actual post about her depression, which she previously described here. As many around the internet have noted (it seems they like it, alot), the post as a whole is a great description of what depression is like but I want to focus on the part where she discusses the experience of others trying to help her and the reasons that their help failed. I think that she does an excellent job at capturing both the desire of others to help and the frustration that arises on both sides from the lack of intersubjectivity. I imagine that this is how a lot of the advice we give our students comes across, as well. I have excerpted this section below, but you really should read the whole thing.
And that’s the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn’t always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn’t even something — it’s nothing. And you can’t combat nothing. You can’t fill it up. You can’t cover it. It’s just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.
It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared.
The problem might not even have a solution. But you aren’t necessarily looking for solutions. You’re maybe just looking for someone to say “sorry about how dead your fish are” or “wow, those are super dead. I still like you, though.”