by Andrea Watson | December 3, 2020
My son watches a lot of YouTube videos. He was watching one the other day and I heard the host say that depression is the act of being depressed. That had to be one of the stupidest damn things I’ve ever heard. Depression is not something you do, it is something you live with involuntarily. Not an act, a state. But this stupid comment got me thinking about myself and some of my beloved people. How do you help someone who lives with depression? What can you do for someone who literally can’t escape the darkness? This post puts forth some ideas.
My best friend and I both live with depression. Sometimes I am able to cope better than he can. Often, he can’t even get off the couch and shake the sleep off. He just has a very hard time functioning. I want to help him so badly and sometimes I think I do, but maybe not enough. I’m sure I can do more. So here are my ideas.
- Skip the pep talks: You are never going to fix depression by telling the affected person to just “put in effort” or “get over it”. They do not want to hear about how they are not doing enough to help themselves out. And if you do say these types of things, you are only making yourself look like a big jerk. Nobody can just “make an effort” to be well and have it miraculously happen. True depression requires treatment, usually medication and therapy together. Remember depression is not a choice. We can’t just choose be get better.
- Accept them as they are: A real friend accepts you for who you are, even when you are going through hard stuff. If you have a friend who lives with depression, be there for them when it’s really bad. Don’t just ditch them because it brings you down. Friends stay. Friends help. Accept that the depression is where they are, not who they are. Let them know that you are not flaking out on them because of it, then show them by sticking with them through it.
- Laugh together: Laughter may be the best medicine and it may not be, but it sure does help. There will be times when your friend is up enough to take advantage of this. When you have the chance to laugh with your friend, take it! This will help you both, and it will show your friend the strength of your friendship. Not everything has to be serious. A little bit of silliness goes a long way.
- Don’t say stupid stuff: Platitudes will not help here. They will only earn you a roll of the eyes and a little less respect. Don’t say stuff like “this too shall pass”, or “it is what it is”. This only serves to show that you don’t take the problem seriously enough to think about something meaningful or intelligent to say. Realism can help here. Instead, ask a caring question such as “what do you do to help the situation”. If the answer to this question is “nothing”, then you know the problem is bigger than you thought.
- Be a problem solver: You may want to suggest some places they can go to get help, even if they have rejected help before. Ask what they need from you. Offer your services if they need them. Give them rides to appointments, help them remember to go. The stigma surrounding mental illness is real, and it is big. They may be resisting help because of this. Don’t be judgemental of their need for help. Don’t go around telling other friends or anyone else about it. Be supportive, but don’t turn your support into an intervention type situation. Approach them on your own, not with a group of concerned people. This will only make them feel like they are under attack.
- Respect and work with “The Fog“: Remember that a person with depression is almost always operating under a foggy brain. They are often confused and distracted. They lose track of time as it stops holding meaning for them. Little tasks can be overwhelming and nearly impossible for them to complete. Don’t forget that it is super difficult to live under this kind of mental state. Give them credit for the things they do accomplish and remember, and assist them where possible, however they need it.
So that’s all I’ve got on the subject for today. I hope this gives you some ideas on how to approach a loved one with depression, as well as some ideas of what not to do. Just love the person as you would anyone else who is important to you. Patience and understanding are key as well. Be ready for any changes that may come along, because they will happen. Don’t crawl into the covers of depression with them, but let them know you are there and let them express themselves the way they need to. Be a real friend. Til next time,