Depression is a serious medical condition that is often misunderstood by the general public. Unfortunately, many people who have never suffered from the disease tend to underestimate the detrimental effects it can have on a person’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Many well-meaning friends may say or do something intended to help a loved one that will ultimately make things much worse for the suffering individual. If you want to help a friend through this incredibly difficult stage of life, avoid saying any of the following:
1. Have you tried…?
Yes, yes I have. Listening to music, going outside, seeing a psychiatrist. I’ve tried everything. I’d do anything to not feel like this all of the time. Unfortunately, going through depression is a work in progress. There is no single way to get through it. But believe me, nothing you suggest is going to flip a switch in my head and turn off my depression.
2. You shouldn’t dwell on things so much
You’re right, I shouldn’t. But I can’t help it. That’s literally what depression does. It takes all of the negative aspects of a person’s life and magnifies them a thousand times over, so it’s impossible to see any sort of silver lining through the gigantic dark clouds above. It’s almost impossible not to dwell on the negative when it’s the only thing your brain is allowing you to see.
3. What are you so sad about?
If I knew, I’d work on it. Depression is an enigmatic disease which makes it difficult to pinpoint the problem, and so it’s impossible to figure out how to fix what’s wrong. I know there are good things going on in my life, but I just can’t be happy about them. Bringing this to my attention only serves to make me more sad. I know you want to help, but just let me be sad without pointing out the reasons I should be happy.
4. You just gotta have fun!
Oh, it’s that easy? Let me get right on that. Actually, depression hits the hardest when you realize you no longer enjoy the things you used to enjoy doing. When you’re in a “bad mood,” it helps to watch a comedy, or go to the driving range. But when you’re depressed, even these fun activities aren’t enough to improve your mood. And, again, when you realize you’re not enjoying yourself when doing something you used to love, this only digs you deeper into a depressive hole.
5. You shouldn’t rely on pills to make you happy
Not everyone suffering from depression relies on medication, but those who do usually do so as a last resort. Depression medication has a ridiculous amount of side effects that no one would voluntarily put themselves through unless they absolutely had no other choice. We didn’t just get a friend of a friend who happens to be a doctor sign off on medication for us; we actually need it to be able to function semi-normally.
6. Don’t cry
Why not? I’d rather feel sadness than nothing at all. At least when I’m crying I know I can still feel something. And sometimes, it actually makes me feel better. If I stop crying, it will only serve you; you’ll probably think I’m “over” whatever I was sad about. But if I withhold tears for everyone else’s sake, I’m most likely just bottling things up and am doing myself a disservice.
7. You have a lot to be happy about
I know I do! I know I have a roof over my head and food in my fridge, but that’s not what this is about. I can’t even enjoy the taste of a good meal because my mind is playing tricks on every other part of my body. I know I have a good job, but that’s not enough to get me up and out of bed on my worst days. Like I said before, pointing out all the reasons I should be happy is only going to have the opposite effect.
8. Snap out of it
Why didn’t I think of that? This should never be said to anyone who’s visibly upset, let alone someone suffering from depression. If you broke your leg, you couldn’t just decide not to have a broken leg anymore. The same goes for depression. It requires medical attention, therapy, and a gradual return to baseline in order to be cured correctly. Pushing it before you’re ready will only exacerbate the problem in the long run. Just give me the time I need to get better, and I’ll get there eventually.
Featured photo credit: Depression / Victor via farm9.staticflickr.com