Don’t tell us to snap out of it.
Don’t tell us to look at the bright side.
Don’t tell us to be positive.
Don’t tell us about all the starving people on the planet or homeless veterans or all the people that have it worse off than us.
None of it matters.
If we could will ourselves out of the pit of hell that is depression, we would.
We don’t want to be there. Just like you don’t want us there.
But if you have never walked through it yourself, nothing you can say will help us.
Get that through your head.
We know you are only trying to help, but what you’re really doing is pissing us off.
You’re making us feel weak.
You’re making us feel like we’re horrible people who don’t care about our families or friends.
You’re making us feel like outsiders.
You’re making us feel even more alone.
Depression isn’t something that can be turned off like a switch. I know my husband wanted his wife back. My kids wanted their mom back. I wanted myself back. But depression wanted something else. It wanted to hurt and destroy and fill me with guilt and pain and self hate. It lied to me and told me my kids would be better off without me and that I should just end it all and save everyone all this misery.
So what would have helped?
- Don’t try to fix it.
The best thing my husband could have said to me when I was suffering through depression would have been, “I want you to know that you’re not alone. We are going through this together. You and me. I will stand by you.”
- Be present.
Some days I needed him to be quiet and let me cry. Some days I needed him to drive the kids and make lunches and do the laundry. Sometimes I needed to be alone, and sometimes I needed him to take me out to dinner to remind me that I was still alive.
- Get professional help.
Are you a licensed psychologist? No? Then don’t try to act like one. As stated above, you have no idea what it’s like to be suffering from depression. Don’t pretend like you do. Call a therapist or psychiatrist. Drive your loved one to her appointments. Make sure she is taking her medication if any has been prescribed.
- Don’t be afraid to go to extremes.
If your loved one is telling you he is thinking of hurting or killing himself, take him seriously. Take him to the Emergency Room of your local hospital. This goes beyond the level of help you can provide. Are you scared he will be mad at you? Who cares! Wouldn’t you rather have him alive and mad at you than dead? Don’t be afraid to go to extremes.
- Take care of yourself.
Get enough sleep. Talk it out with people you trust and who can support you. Join a support group. Cry. You can’t be a cornerstone forever without getting a few cracks. It’s okay to feel your own pain too.
Thankfully, I got the help I needed from a team of professionals that got me on the right medication and into the right therapy. I still have bad days, like everyone else. When those days come, I’d be lying if I said I don’t get scared. I fear the day that depression might return and drag me down again.
So I keep taking my medication as prescribed. I keep all my doctor’s appointments. I talk with my therapist about my problems. I talk with people who have been in depression and have walked through the same fire. I help others who are in pain.
If your loved one is suffering, you can assist in every way possible, but remember this: In the end, it’s up to the person to be responsible for her own recovery.