How To Love | Ra Avis #DCfC

How To Love

When discussing mental health it is important to understand many points of view, which is why this series has focused on varying individual mental health issues.  My guest today is Ra Avis, who explains what it’s like to love someone living with depression.

How To Love | Ra Avis #DCfC



Once upon a time, I married a man with depression. He was also a diabetic.
His body didn’t make enough happy. His body made too many sugars.
Some bodies are just different than other bodies.

For some reason, the diabetic episodes were much easier to understand, even when his illnesses paralleled each other. One time, a cold glass of sweet tea made him shake for a month. One time a beautiful sunset made it difficult for him to speak for weeks. As a bystander of his body, I could only see the effect, not the complex body processes firing behind them.

Neither the blood sugar or depression mattered to me.
I held his hand through it all,
and hoped for the best.

That’s all you can do, when it’s someone else’s body, you see.
It’s normal, I think, to want to fix it, but…

Dave would become depressed for the same reason sugar would flood his body and immobilize him. Sometimes, his body didn’t take care of him as well as he deserved.
His body wasn’t like him.
Dave was a careful man.

He wore the same pair of boots for 15 years, and people still thought they were brand new. He wrote his books by hand. He was always on time. He knew how many calories he ate, and how many he burned, every day. He lived with precision, and much of that willpower was born from the fact that he could not trust his brain and body.

He had depression.

It’s a very big concept to throw in a tiny sentence, and it took me quite awhile to understand it.

I get sad, too. Sometimes, I get really sad.

When Dave died, I met a new level of sadness, and it crippled me, but here’s the thing.
I had some control over it because I don’t have depression.

Depression isn’t sadness. Depression is a chemical imbalance.
It’s not a one-lever malfunction like diabetes either

…. Don’t get me wrong.

Diabetes can kill you. Diabetes killed Dave.

Actually, actions Dave took– rooted from depression– caused him to be reckless in his care of his diabetes, and that’s what killed him.

Depression is confusing if you don’t have it. It’s this great big ball of weebly-wobbly lying-flying stuff.  For me, the easiest thing was seeing how it compares to the Very Big Sadnesses that we all experience.

I don’t have depression but I have some recent experience with Very Big Sadnesses, so I feel qualified to speak on that at least.

When I lost Dave, I felt it.  The sadness handcuffed itself to my life.  It didn’t seem like it would ever let go.  I felt like if I broke eye contact for even a second, it would grow bigger and bigger and consume me.

How To Love

My friends said that was normal. I just lost the love of my life.  They took out their matches, and moved the sadness a little farther away, so it looked a little smaller, even if it wasn’t actually.

How To Love

Now that the Very Big Sadness was a little smaller, taking care of myself helped wear it down.  I wrote, and read, and stood on thoughts that made me feel very powerful.

How To Love

And finally, I was able to start doing some Good things in the world again.  Good has a funny little residue and it eats away at the links that connect us to the stuff we don’t want.  Stuff like Very Big Sadnesses.

How To Love

I’m not all better, of course.  My Very Big Sadness still trots behind me, jumping on my back at the oddest of times.  Sometimes I walk right into its cloud.

But it is not chained to me any longer.  It is no longer in control of me.  That’s the eventual progression.

Depression is different, even though it looks so very much the same.  When I met Dave, he told me all about his.  Like my Very Big Sadness, it’s nearly invisible to everyone else.  I believed him when he told me it was there because I believed in him in every other way– why not this one?

I imagine it looked like this.

How To Love

Unlike Very Big Sadnesses, depression stays the same size when things are going really well on the outside.   I loved my husband very much, and he loved me– every day, every minute.  We were best friends.  He spoke to me more than anyone else on Earth, and yet–

I never got to see the exact shape of his depression.  I never got to talk to it directly.   

When I tried to scare it away, or distract it with Very Big Good things, I realized it didn’t help.

All it did was put me on the wrong side of the picture.  I wanted to be on Dave’s side, no matter what he was tied to.

How To Love

So I moved.

How To Love

It didn’t make his depression any smaller.  It didn’t give me magical insight into it, or the ability to shrink it down or push it down or transform it into a Very Big Sadness.  All it did was give me a chance to love my husband– and it gave him a hand out to reach out to when he could, if he could.

Both of us knew that might never make a difference, because depression is a disease.  And sometimes, diseases get the better of us.

All it takes is a wrong turn, and he could have walked into his cloud.

There’s so much shame, blame, guilt and confusion around this topic. I see a lot of articles that say “How to love a person with depression”, and I always hope that the author has written a series.  That his or her next post is “How to love a person with diabetes”.  “How to love a man who thinks Star Wars is better than Star Trek.”.  “How to love someone with talent.”

Because I did all those things, all while loving one man, and the answer to all of them is the same.

You just love them.
Even when diseases win.
Especially when it’s hard.
Because that’s how to love.


Ra lives and loves in Los Angeles and the internet, where frightfully wondrous things happen. She is a once-upon-a-time inmate, a reluctantly-optimistic widow, an exponential storyteller, and also basically a dinosaur. Her own story is a long one, but the short version is she (probably) loves you.  Visit her at

Each piece in this series will be linked on my page Depression: Catalyst for Change and the hashtag #DCfC will be used when sharing on any/all social media.  We will also use the hashtags #MHA #breakthesilence and #hope.  Please help us advocate for better understanding of mental illness and those affected.   Share the pieces in this series on every platform you have at your disposal. Splash them across the internet. Spread the word. Join your voice with ours as we combat the stigmas surrounding these issues – together, we can make change happen.Fight With Us

69 thoughts on “How To Love | Ra Avis #DCfC

  1. I am kind of in love with this piece, Ra ❤ You break down the truths of depression so well, you make it relatable and easier to understand – it's just incredible! Thank you SO MUCH for being part of this series, I am forever indebted to you! And btw, the doodles are EVERYTHING! XO – Abbie

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m glad you were able to share this. I really enjoyed reading it the first time, it gave me some great insight on the subject. My wife has depression and anxiety. It’s hard to understand what triggers certain people until you BECOME the trigger. (That’s a post I’ll have to write for Stories, when I have a moment) I’m also very happy with how much I see you on the internets these days. I’ll always remember the letters I got from you, you wondering if you would be able to do it again. I think you’re even better now. 🙂 Much Love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you DonBroJo for your insights before I posted– they really helped. I trimmed out a whole paragraph based on what you saw as the big takeaway and I think it made the whole piece stronger. I look forward to your Stories story– and maybe your wife’s, too? 🙂 Love you (and your beautiful girls) very much. ❤


  3. As someone with depression, this is so perfectly illustrated from the point of view of want or need and how I feel. Love you for sharing this ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Staying on the right side of the picture means so much. Whether the other is a loved one or a patient/client (Should there be a difference?) it is so easy, even easier for the clinician, to see ourselves doing battle with the disease when we should be standing with the person. Thank you Ra.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is… perfect. Thank you for sharing this. I love the illustrations that went with it too. Now all I need to do is figure out how to love myself (also a diabetic [type 2] suffering from depression). Thank you Ra for writing this and thank you Abbie for hosting this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jen. One of the things we have most in common, I think, is our love of beautifully simple things– when you see it in the things I write, I am touched. Thank you. ❤


  6. Ohhhh Sparkly One…I’m so sad for your Big Sadness and for all the things. I had the same double-deal to manage, and I’m afraid I didn’t, because there wasn’t the love…there just wasn’t, and I’m learning that. I’m discovering ever-new levels of just how much was lacking, when I read beautiful pieces like this where it patently was full and rich and right.

    Thank you for sharing this, you amazing, wonderful human bean 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Learning about depression was a work in progress for me, even though I got to expert level with “Dave’s depression”, I realized how that was just one tiny universe. Everyone’s depression is so unique… I’m glad if this helped unlock the mystery a little! Thank you, Leigh. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ra,
    I just hope some of my words have helped you with your very big sadness. I think its critically important for folks to know and respect how compassionate of you that you shared your journey so far. There are no right or wrong answers in dealing with the loss of a soulmate because the only answers come from within and only apply to that person’s journey.
    The cheetah and I send you a “rawr”.

    Thank you for giving folks a voice on your blog….

    Liked by 2 people

  8. David was incredibly fortunate to have you on his side; it’s hard for people to see through the cloud, and rare for people to understand there is another side to be on. Much love your way for the understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We were both pretty lucky. We tried to see each other as clearly as possible, whether through depression clouds or jail bars. 🙂 Much love to you. 🙂 It is good to see you!


  9. You put thhis so beautifully. I have depression and couldn’t say it any better. If I tried; depression would just call me stupid and I would believe it. Depression is not big sadness. 💘 you.

    A…thank you for this. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Depression is a jerk, just remember I said so whenever it tries to call you stupid. But more importantly, remember I love you, and seeing your name — any variation of it– in any context– brings me much happiness and joy. Love you. 🙂


      • (((Ra))), while I have not been as faithful with blogging/reading of late, I do try to read everything you post. Unfortunately, my work computer will not let me like or comment, so if I forget to go back and do that when I get home … well, you get the picture. Please know that every post you write moves me in some way and I am better for having discovered your amazing words on the internet.

        All my love,

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you Ra for sharing, and Abbie for hosting. Depression is a big elephant in the room that no-one talks about or seems to know how to deal with so I’m always pleased to see people sharing their experiences as I feel that’s the only way we can raise awareness and break down the stigma.

    As you say, it’s not just ‘feeling down’ and it can’t be fixed in the same way that other illnesses can. Whatever the medical mumbo jumbo behind it, it’s a very personal condition and, while some medications do help, it’s a constant balancing act finding the middle between euphoric highs and devastating lows. Sometimes medication only brings numbness.

    Mental illness runs in my family, from bipolar (historically known as ‘manic depressive’) to schizophrenic, in both current and past relatives. I don’t have depression despite some utterly miserable lows, but I’ve seen the effects first hand, from the compulsive, manic, highs to the stereotypical can’t-do-anything lows, ‘sectioning’, and attempted suicides (thankfully, in my lifetime, unsuccessful)

    Depression is a hidden illness that even the most seemingly self assured, happy person can have and it grates that people either say you should just ‘cheer up’ or completely look the other way when you exhibit any behaviour that is deemed ‘other’.

    I don’t have any answers but I’m a big believer in just being someone to talk to; even if that just means listening rather than having a conversation. That also means not playing down people’s anxieties, nor passing judgement, and certainly not any blame – because how can you be to blamed for the unprompted thoughts of your own wonderful, complex, mysterious mind?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank YOU, Dan, for being here and sharing your thoughts. These conversations are all part of shattering the silence and it’s so important we do that ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’re so right. One of the most startling and clarifying pieces of depression I ever read was in Hyperbole and a Half when she talks about how — in her universe– her fish is dead. And everyone keeps saying things like “Have you tried thinking it alive again?” or “Maybe sing aloud and go into nature.”… and she just keeps repeating “But… it’s dead.” It’s hysterical as a story and really really sad in it’s accurate depiction of how most of us are trained to deal with depression. We’re really not trained. We’re taught how to deal with Very Big Sadnesses and we apply a similar fix… and end up just making everything worse. All of which is fixed by breaking down these silences. Dave was never silent about his, and so I won’t be either.

      Thank you for helping smash a stigma or or two. 🙂 And for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This is amazing and I’m so glad to have read it and get to know Ra. Abby, this series is incredible and so so important. I love that you’re doing it. I’ve been trying to think about what I can write about and just don’t know. But I so WANT to, ya know?

    Liked by 2 people

  12. The horrible thing about depression is that it affects each person differently so even the physical signs are different. The important thing is to not just dismiss someone when they confess what’s going on in their head. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Thank you so much for sharing this, Rara, and to you, Abigail, for hosting. Depression is insidious. It steals your joy. Much love to both of you ladies for speaking about it and by doing so, robbing it of its mystique and stigma. I would love to talk to you about this. I’m trying to work through my own rough time right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It has been an honor hosting these incredible writers, and I will be just as honored if/when you are ready to write here 💛 Thank you for your support and for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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