Dealing with Depression
Symptoms of depression can build over time. They can also come on suddenly. Those dealing with depression often describe it as heavy, dark, and accompanied by feelings that it will never go away. There is often an inner ‘narrative’ that tells us we ‘shouldn’t’ be depressed and if we tell anyone we are feeling this way, they will remind us of all the reasons to NOT be depressed. Now we feel shame for feeling depressed because on some level, we know those reasons too. We know how ‘good’ our life looks to everyone on the outside. It just feels entirely different on the outside and no one understands. If we try to tell someone about it, it feels like it is too much to handle. So we stop sharing. We try to ‘fake’ it when around other people. Until it becomes too hard to fake it. We start to isolate and avoid social interactions. Being alone feels easier than pretending to not be depressed in order to help other people feel better about our depression. No one understands. No one really wants to understand. They just want us to feel better and everything will be ok.
Caring about someone who is depressed is so hard. We feel helpless. It’s only natural that we want to help him feel better or help her see how great she is. Symptoms of depression can look just like anxiety or ‘being in a funk’, so we don’t always know really what is going on. We might tip toe around the subject by offering words of affirmation or encouragement. We might even say ‘You have such a great life’, hoping to help our loved one see their life the way we do! We have no idea that our depressed loved one is hearing that the are letting us down, they shouldn’t be depressed and they need to ‘get over it’ and just stop being depressed.
The most helpful thing you can do, is also the hardest: do nothing and just BE there. Be in the depression with your loved one. Be curious about their inner world and let them know they aren’t alone in it. An effective way to help your depressed loved one is to ask:
~ I noticed you haven’t been yourself lately - are you ok?
~ Would you like to talk about what’s happening?
~ It sounds like things have been really hard - I’d love to know more so you don’t have to be in this alone.
~You’ve been hiding this so well. How long have you been feeling this way?
~ How can I be there for you during this tough time?
~ I’m not going anywhere. You don’t have to pretend with me.
Ask questions. Don’t try to change anything or fix anything. The most powerful thing you can do for someone who is depressed is to be with them and let them know you sincerely care. Being ‘in it’ with them will help them ‘get out of it’ faster than anything else.
With all of this being said, depression needs to be taken very seriously. If you worry that your loved one will hurt themselves, it is important that you act. Help them find a therapist who is skilled in depression, call a local or National crisis line (listed below) or call your local police department for help. If you sincerely fear for their safety, keeping them safe is the most important thing.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline