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9 Things To Remember When Your Friend is Struggling With Depression

9 Things To Remember When Your Friend is Struggling With Depression

It can be hard to know how to be a good friend to someone who is struggling with depression because it’s such a difficult condition to understand. Even if you’ve experienced it yourself, it can be hard to understand a friend’s depression and to know how best to help.

Taking the time to try to understand how depression feels can be a great start; but it’s not easy. These pointers will help you in gaining a better understanding and becoming a better friend.

1. There may not be a reason

It can be tempting to try and explain depression by finding circumstances or experiences on which to pin it – and sometimes you will be able to identify contributing factors, but just as often there will be no reason at all.

This doesn’t make your friend’s symptoms, thoughts and feelings any less serious or severe though.

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2. Never assume – let your friend tell their story

Especially if you’ve experienced depression yourself in the past, you can sometimes find yourself thinking that you know how your friend is thinking or feeling, but you need to remember that we’re all unique and that your friend’s experience may not echo your own.

You should let your friend tell their own story, in their own words and never assume that you know or understand exactly what they’re going through.

3. They find most days really, really hard

Living with depression is physically and emotionally draining. It may leave your friend feeling completely defeated even before they’ve got out of bed in the morning.

You need to remember this and be as supportive and accommodating as we can. Your friend won’t necessarily start to feel better right away, so you need not to assume that the days are getting easier just because time is passing.

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4. They may not answer your calls

A good friend will keep in touch with no expectation of a response to the calls, texts and emails that you send. Sometimes your friend will find it overwhelmingly difficult to know what to say or how to say in in response to your messages.

That doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate the effort though, so despite the lack of response, don’t stop contacting your friend.

5. They think they’re not worth caring about

Depression can leave sufferers stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts and self-talk, which may leave your friend feeling unloved and unlovable. No matter how good of a friend you are and how much think it goes without saying that you care about your friend, take time to say it out loud and to actually show them that you care.

6. They can feel aimless and hopeless

Your friend may want desperately to get better, but depression can zap a sufferer’s energy, their hopes and their motivation, leaving them listless and unable to make the changes needed to support their recovery.

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Not following doctors’ orders is a sign of how much someone is suffering rather than a sign that they don’t want to get better – so if your friend seems stuck in a rut, don’t dismiss them. Instead, give them the gentlest of encouragement and hold their hand along the way.

7. They may get worse before they get better

Sometimes, you can equate mental health issues with physical health issues and expect to see more or less linear progress when it comes to recovery. It often isn’t so with depression and you may begin to feel that your friend is getting better one week, only to feel that things are worse than ever the next.

This is perfectly normal and can sometimes be a response to exploring difficult issues in therapy, starting or stopping a new medication or simply the cycle of the illness. Don’t get frustrated or upset by backwards steps, but instead stick by your friend as they continue to battle on.

8. If they have a good day, they want to enjoy it with you

Not every day is a bad day. If your friend has a good day, they may want to make the most of it with you. Never assume that tomorrow will be another such day, and instead, seize the moment whilst you can.

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Depression means a lot of low and often unpredictable moods, but that includes brighter moods at times too.

9. They need you to be the friend you’ve always been

Most importantly, your friend just needs you to be you. There’s a reason you’ve been friends all these years and just because they’re struggling with depression doesn’t mean they’ve fundamentally changed as a person.

Just be the you that you’ve always been and continue to extend the hand of friendship on darker days and on brighter days. Be loyal and listen but ,above all, just be you.

Featured photo credit: Womans hands connected with tangled string, Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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