6 Ways To Help People Who Are Struggling With Depression
From the outside looking in depression makes no sense. The lack of emotion, the lack of desire to do the things they wanted to do before, the crying for no reason – all confusing. But here’s the thing: from the inside, it feels just as senseless.
Most of the time we don’t know why we are in the state we are in. Sure, some people go through major life changes or tragedy, and depression and anxiety is a natural result. In those cases we may be able to articulate to you the reasons, we may be able to make sense of the darkness.
It’s just as common that there is no outside reason for the darkness that surrounds us. As much as I’m sure the tragedy scenario is horrible, I can attest to the fact that feeling the downward spiral of depression for no apparent reason is frightening. It doesn’t get much worse than feeling like your own mind is turning against you.
While depression is a journey that we walk alone, there are ways friends and family can help us through it, ways we need help to get through it. The more a person isolates himself, the more likely that the spiral will go deeper and deeper. We need to be drawn out gently, with love and patience. And there are a few things we need you to know:
- There is a difference between “feeling depressed” and dealing with the disease of depression.
Everyone has times in his or her life when they feel depressed; it’s part of our human existence. Yes, you have had valid times of “feeling depressed” and I’m sure being reminded of all the good things in your life helped you. Going to the beach with friends or having a good laugh brightened your outlook. This is not the same thing. In fact, if you remind us that “some people are dealing with real things like cancer, death, etc.” it can actually cause us to spiral further down. We know these things and are already confused about why this doesn’t help us, please don’t remind us again.
- Don’t take it personally; it’s not your fault.
It’s very easy for someone close to a person dealing with depression to wonder if they did something to cause it. You didn’t. The hard truth is that being around someone dealing with this day in and day out can be hurtful. Depression hurts everyone it comes into contact with.
- You will not be able to “fix” us, so it’s better for both parties if you don’t try.
When you’ve never dealt with this condition yourself then your advice could be hurtful. All the sunshine and rainbows in the world cannot drive away our emptiness. Just be there. Listen. Validate our feelings without making us feel like they make us weak or wrong.
- Ask us how we are doing and genuinely listen when we answer.
It’s very hard to articulate to anyone what we’re feeling and because of that, we shy away from it. Draw us out; we need to talk. In her book When We Were On Fire, Addie Zierman explains it so well: “This is another thing about depression, it seems to exist somewhere outside of language, and I cannot wrangle it. I can’t seem to wrestle it into a manageable size using the thing I have always been able to use: words. I reach into the great cloud of unnamed feelings, but no matter how I try, I can’t find the one true thing.”
We want to talk about it, we know we need to talk about it, it’s just hard to “wrangle it” into words so please be patient.
- Please don’t make it sound like this isn’t a big deal or use Christian clichés to try to make us feel better.
This is a big deal. It’s not just a blue day or something that can be helped with a joke or a hug. Reminding us to “let go and let God” or that we should pray more will do nothing except bring more guilt and probably a little anger.
- Encourage us to get help.
Whether it’s talking to the pastor or a counselor or going to the doctor, we need encouragement for this step. Depression is embarrassing; it’s not something we want to admit to people. It feels like weakness, so having someone close to us persistently encourage us to take the next step in recovery may be the only reason we ever do.
I’m sure those of you who have dealt with this before could add a dozen more ideas to this list. Saying this list is all we need would be like saying that a pill will cure diabetes and there is no other change you need to make in your life. But it is a start, and we need so badly for you to make that start.
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