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20 Things to Remember If You Love A Person With Depression

20 Things to Remember If You Love A Person With Depression

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 350 million people all over the world with depression. With that staggering statistic, it is highly probable that we will all interact at some point with someone experiencing a bout with depression. With that probability in mind, the very people you would not expect to be experiencing depression, such as friends, family, co-workers, and even your boss, will be the ones fighting it.

As a psychotherapist, it is crucial to disclose that in my years of experience working with individuals and even marriages experiencing depression, one of the most devastating aspects of dealing with depression is the stigma and negative criticism that comes from others. Furthermore, people may not even know that their behaviors and comments are being negative or hurtful and sometimes even make the depression feel worse.

With this in mind, here are 20 simple things we can remember when interacting with those that may be having a fight with depression. Any one of these points will not only help with the stigma surrounding depression, but may even help the individual dealing with depression.

1. They are strong in character

In a recent Tedx talk, psychiatrist and philosopher, Dr. Neel Burton explains that depression can represent a deeper search for meaning and significance in life. A person experiencing depression can be seen as working to make sense of life and trying to achieve more, fix more and improve more. Moreover, depression can be a way of preparing a better and even healthier future for ourselves and those around us. Dr. Burton goes on to mention that some of the most influential and inspirational people have dealt with depression such as, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. Their search for peace, happiness and peace led their hearts and minds into the pit of depression, but they ended up changing the course of history.

It takes immense will and transparency to acknowledge the presence of depression, but it also pushes people to create answers in the darkest moments in life. In conclusion, depression can take people into the deep woods of our souls and help clear out any unneeded weeds, or shrubs that may be hiding the beauty of life. It is not an act of fear, cowardliness, or ignorance.

2. They love it when you reach out to them unexpectedly

I believe that one of the biggest assumptions of someone dealing with a bout of depression is that they want to be left alone. Although that could seem true at times, it is a dose of healthy social medicine when a friend, a loved one, or a neighbor drops by to say hello. One growing theory about the root of depression in our society is the lack of social relationships in our communities and even in our families. There is a constant dose of emptiness and disconnection in our everyday interactions due to overworking, television and technology. People managing depression need more company, more friends, more people reaching out to them, and more people wanting to spend time with them, not the opposite.

The next time you find yourself thinking about someone that is going through a depressive state, think of a nice, engaging and friendly act you can show them, instead of choosing to stay away from them. If we use the example of Jesus, He was always with people. To take it further, Jesus chose to spend time with trusted associates and not be alone too often. In fact, it was when He was alone that Satan chose to tempt him the most.

Consider your loved ones and friends that are experiencing depression as a needing you and your presence more than ever. It is interesting to think about the times when I was growing up and my mother would always make it a point to lean on her sisters and brother during times of trouble or loneliness. Family and community is a natural remedy for depression. Let’s start to use it more often.

Mother Teresa put it very well, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”

3. They do not want to burden anyone

Only a depressed individual understands how hard it is to hide their feelings and thoughts from others to avoid being shamed. One characteristic of a person dealing with depression is that they are keenly aware of themselves, their thoughts, their feelings and the behavior of others towards them. The weight that depression can bring upon a person is enough to bury them for a day – the burying of those around them is not on the to-do list.

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Unfortunately, individuals fighting depression may push to be alone because they do not want to impact anyone negatively. Although this may not always be the case, depressed loved ones desire to manage their depression successfully and not allow it to touch anyone ever so slightly. This can be a paradoxical situation because being alone can actually exacerbate the symptoms of depression.

Depression can make someone feel as if they’re a burden to the world, especially to those around them. They are not seeking attention, nor want any coddling or rose-colored glasses handed to them. It is a valuable insight to recognize that managing their depression effectively is the most important goal of a depressed individual, not causing anyone any burdens or pain. If they do happen to hurt you or offend you, remember that they are not the enemy – their depression is the true enemy. Tell your depressed loved one that you accept them fully, unconditionally, and remind them of any and all positive traits you love about them.

4. They are not “broken” or “defective”

The human body is a complex machine. It is the oldest organism on Earth and we still do not know how to fully prevent it from breaking down. Still more complex though is the human brain and it’s many structures and functions. Although the cause of some forms of depression are not fully known or understood, many of us make the assumption that a depressed individual is defective, or flawed. The quality of the person is not correlated with the diagnosis of depression. Much like having a big chin, being overweight, or having a lisp is a characteristic without a given or specific cause, depression can come about in a person’s life for many reasons. It is not indicative of a broken or defective person.

The most helpful thing you can do is continue to value the depressed individual and continue to see them as whole, strong, and valuable.

5. They are natural philosophers

Individuals living with depression have many questions and opinions about life, about happiness and about their significance on Earth. It is not enough to simply make money, or launch a successful career. It is not enough to simply live the “American” dream. It is not enough to simply live in the present and hope it all works out. Depression has a funny way of making your perspective broader and more inclusive.

Depressed individuals would love to make the world a better and more just place. They would love to have answers to all of life’s challenges and then would like to share that knowledge with as many people as possible. At times, this inquisitiveness can be an enemy, since it will create your questions than there are answers.

So, recognize that at their core, depressed individuals are intelligent, inquisitive, curious and creative. This is a positive, not a negative.

6. They are fighting hard against depression and appreciate lots of support

In the biggest fight of their lives, depressed individuals need cheerleaders, not bullies. It is in the darkest moments that friends can become angels and angels become lifesavers – literally. You will have a choice at some point in your life to be a lifesaver or a lifetaker. Be a lifesaver. Give the gift of acceptance, help, encouragement and presence.

7. They like opportunities for fun and laughter

What’s the opposite of depression? Mania! It is a proven scientific phenomenon that laughter is good for the soul and the mind. Depressed individuals function the same way. I always like to remember the Jerry Seinfeld episode where Jerry has a sick friend in the hospital and tries to do his “set” to cheer him up and make him laugh.

Well, he ends up killing his friend because he made him laugh too hard. Don’t worry – you won’t hurt your depressed loved ones or friends with your humor and laughter. Dish it out and dish it out often.

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8. They are sensitive to other people’s feelings and actions

Depressed individuals care – and they care a lot. They care about how you feel, how you see them, how you see yourself and what others need. It may be that they care too much! Some of the most caring people I have ever met are people that suffer from some sort of depression. Let them know what you need and what you do not need.

Set boundaries with them that are respectful, clear and considerate. Also, ask about what their needs and wants are and let them know what you are capable of giving, or not giving. There is nothing better than a sound relationship based on healthy communication and boundaries.

9. They should be treated respectfully

There is a negative stigma attached to dealing with depression. And, it’s not the depressed individual doing the stigmatization. It is society. I cannot repeat this enough – reducing the stigmatization will help alleviate the societal effects of depression. Respect is a value much more than it is an act. If it was an act, I would rather pay for it, than expect it and not receive it. Respect involves seeing beyond the depressed individual and seeing the whole person.

Depression has the ability to mask many other positive and truly remarkable qualities of a person. Do not let depression lie to you and lie to your loved one. Celebrate what you don’t see initially by seeking out the goodness of those suffering with this tough illness.

10. They should be treated like anyone else

No need for eggshells, or tiptoes. Go about your business and assume your depressed loved one is 100% healthy. Sometimes just living a routine, but a predictable, purposeful routine, can bring such a boost and be a remedy for depression.

11. They have talents and interests

We all have talents and abilities. We all have stinky breath too. Your depressed loved ones love to do something too, no doubt. And, guess what? They can probably do it really, really well! If you don’t know what it is, then, you’ve just found your next mission. Go find out. Help them find what their true passion is. Seek out ways to grow that passion, to develop and hone that passion and ultimately erase that negative identity that comes with fighting against depression.

12. They are fully capable of giving and receiving love

Every human being on Earth is capable of giving and receiving love. And, you guessed it! Your depressed loved ones are no different. Give, and you shall receive. Treat others as you would like to be treated. And, the list of rules and laws could go on and on. It does not matter that someone is fighting depression. The quality and ability of love does not change. It is still there! Reach out for it, but also give it yourself. You’ll find much more love than you thought was there.

In the small windows of reprieve from the symptoms of depression, there can be wonderful episodes of remarkable joy, laughter and communion. If you have to wait for those windows to appear, then just think about the fact that not every scene of your favorite movie is perfect. You just have to wait for your favorite parts.

13. They love learning about how life works

In searching for ways to relieve their depression, individuals fighting depression are natural problem-solvers. Do not be surprised if they are voracious readers, or learners. Do not be surprised if they ask questions that cannot be quickly answered. Many of the world’s leaders and trailblazers were led by deep analysis, deep thinking and deep, but strongly-rooted beliefs and values. What an insight! Depression is not a disability, but an ability that has the potential to depress! No one person can answer all of life’s question, nor solve all inequalities. Sometimes, simply allowing the questions to be asked is enough.

14. They do not plan on losing the fight against depression

The fight against depression may be lifelong, or it may last a moment. Regardless, the fight is one that must be won. The question always is: when will this depression leave and how can I speed this up a bit? The plan is to win against depression. The plan is not to lose and live in self-pity. Of utmost importance is to remember that depression is treatable and there are many, many resources to help someone do so. One of the first steps in fighting depression is to acknowledge its presence. In acknowledging its presence, you can begin to treat it. Many times, a person in denial will spend countless amounts of energy hiding their depression, or trying to deal with it via their own will.

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15. They may feel sad for no apparent reason, so just be with them

Just like the fog invades the meadow, which eventually ruins your morning drive to work, depression can sneak up on its victims. Moods can be volatile and labile. It is not something that is easily controlled with a switch or a lever. Remember that fog? Can you just wish it away? Probably not. Your loved ones are trying very, very hard to be happy, pleasant and engaging, but what they need is simple.

They need you to just be there. Literally. Simply sit with them and read a book together, watch a comedy together, or take a trip to the local coffee shop and have a sip together. No psychologist is needed here, only your presence and acceptance. Let the fog fade away as the morning sun rises and welcomes in a new day.

16. They may not have as much energy as they would like to have

One of the symptoms of depression is fatigue or lack of energy. One of the most helpful antidepressants that has been proven by research is exercise. I realize that maybe you have heard of this recommendation before, but let me be a little more specific. The type and duration of exercise can vary, but the minimum that could have an effect is to do fast walking at least three times a week for 30 minutes each time. That is the amount of exercise someone needs in order to feel an anti-depressive effect.

Isn’t that convenient? So, if the sun is out and the breeze is whispering for you to come out and play, invite your loved one out for a walk. They may not see an immediate effect, or they actually may! Either way, exercising in this way is increasing their chances of beating depression and increasing their energy levels.

17. They may seem irritable at times – do not take it personally

Irritability is another symptom of depression. Although there is no excuse for treating people disrespectfully, it is important to let any friction with a depressed individual to slide off your back. On the other hand, it is acceptable and important to set expectations and even boundaries with a depressed individual. An expectation is a minimum standard that you expect of someone. A boundary can also be thought of as an expectation that is set in order to keep a harmonious relationship.

If a depressed individual has hurt your feelings in some way, it is okay to tell them so; however, as with any relationship, it is recommended that you remove any blaming from the exchange. Simply let your depressed loved one know how you are feeling and what you would like from them instead. Also, if your depressed loved one is not willing to listen, try again later when emotions are cool. Let them know you love them, but that you love yourself too. Not only are you modeling good self-love, but you are also modeling good communication skills and boundary-setting.

18. They do not want to hear “shoulds”

As in, “you should go out more with your friends.” If there is a kryptonite for depressed individuals, it is this one – the “shoulds”. Depressed individuals already have a deep and ingrained habit of “shoulding” themselves to the limit. In case you don’t know what a “should” is, it is a statement that has a “should” inserted in the middle of it. For example, you “should” go out and exercise more. You “should” just snap out of it. If I were you, I would do x, y and z. You “should” do it like I would.

Not only does this set up a relationship of condescension, it assumes that the depressed individual does not have a mind and will of their own. The bottom line is that it feels like the person making those statements is being a parent. And, depressed loved ones do not need a parent telling them what they “should” do. Instead, a depressed loved one should be asked as many open-ended questions as possible. This will help the depressed individual think through their options, consider alternatives, explore ideas, expand their abilities and so on and so on. “Shoulding” them is only going to put up a wall and nothing will get accomplished in this way. Remember, an open-ended question is not a yes or no question.

A yes or no question: do you have a favorite color? Yes.

An open-ended question: what are your options right now? Hmm…

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19. They need lots of family support and encouragement

This one is a must. It is not true that family makes depression worse, or that it doesn’t help. In fact, there are treatment models for depression that involve family or a marital partner. And while it is probably that depression can make a relationship suffer, there is also a great power in utilizing a relationship as a tool for helping depressed individuals learn about themselves and to learn how to regulate interactions.

One of the best ways to make a difference in a depressed person’s life is to let them know you are there for them. It is something that must not be simply assumed. It is something that has to be communicated directly, face to face. Something that must be considered is the way in which you show support and encouragement. Here is a small list of recommendations:

– Give a small, sincere compliment.

– Notice their strengths and positives.

– Include them in events or plans.

– Remove any kryptonite from your language (shoulds).

– Respect their feelings and thoughts, but use open-ended questions as much as possible.

20. They need positive reinforcement more than criticism or negative reinforcement

Sea World trains its killer whales via positive reinforcement. In parenting training, positive reinforcement has been shown to work better than negative reinforcement in getting the behavior you want. In almost any relationship, highlighting the positive and celebrating that, is a healthy and effective way to increase desired behavior. On the other hand, being the recipient of positive reinforcement is a wonderful feeling. All of us have been employees at one point or another in our lives. Even in the workplace, receiving compliments for our work, and being cherished for our efforts, increases both our productivity and our dedication to the job.

Your depressed loved one will receive a boost in self-esteem whenever you decide to use positive reinforcement. Try it.

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    Last Updated on August 12, 2020

    When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

    When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

    Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

    In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

    How to Listen to Your Gut

    The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

    Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

    1. Tune Into Your Body

    Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

    However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

    Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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    Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

    In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

    2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

    Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

    There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

    3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

    Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

    As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

    This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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    4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

    As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

    Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

    5. Challenge Your Assumptions

    When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

    In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

    A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

    6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

    Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

    There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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    Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

    Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

    Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

    We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

    The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

    We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

    7. Trust Yourself

    It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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    Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

    If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

    The Bottom Line

    The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

    Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

    More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

    Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
    [2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
    [3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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