(Repost from my first blog)
If you were to visit me in a hospital and saw me covered in a full body cast, you’d understand why I can’t get up, why I don’t have the energy to do something. Maybe you’d even understand why I’m easily irritated and randomly burst into tears from time to time, without there being a specific reason.
If I had a cold and was lying in bed with fever, you’d ask me what symptoms I have, a sore throat, a cough maybe and if there was anything you could get me. That I’m still in my PJs, for the third day in a row, hair untamed and without make up is perfectly acceptable in this scenario.
So why isn’t it as acceptable or understandable “just” because I have a depression?
The best thing you can do for someone with depression, is accept that it is a serious illness and treat them that way- treat them the way you’d treat anyone with a visible illness, we don’t have the full body cast to draw attention to the help we might need but aren’t any less broken. Understand that there are good and there are bad days- but there are no miraculous overnight recoveries.
Talk to us about our experiences, ask how we are feeling but don’t make us feel like you aren’t taking it seriously by saying ‘cheer up’, ‘it’s not as bad as it seems’, ’you’ll feel better soon’ or I’m sure it will pass’. Depression isn’t a mood that just passes.
When talking to us, try to get us to express more than ‘I’m fine’- because F.I.N.E stands for: Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional (Aerosmith). Create a space where we feel like we can express ourselves without fear of being judged or nor taken seriously. If, when talking to us, you have the feeling that we might be a risk to ourselves take us to the ER or call a therapist for help. Sure we might get angry at you for interfering, but rather someone who is angry at you, because that will pass, than someone who tries to kill themselves and maybe even succeeds.
We all are familiar with the feeling of hopelessness, helplessness and loneliness, in Depression these feelings are gigantically magnified. Share your feelings of loneliness, misunderstanding and confusion with us, show us that we are not completely separated from this world, that everyone has their personal hardships, that what we are going through isn’t alien to you, that things that affect us affect you too.
Remember Depression is a medical condition, so by listening to us and giving us a shoulder to cry on you give us a form of support, but don’t get frustrated if your best efforts and support doesn’t ‘cure’ the Depression, Depression requires medical care, you would take someone with a broken leg to the doctor, same goes for Depression. Sometimes we need someone from the outside to help us take the first steps in seeking medical advice -this is where you come in- because often we are in denial, blaming the symptoms on too much stress for example.
Get us involved in something. Even if it’s only getting out of the house to go for a walk. We tend to isolate ourselves because we don’t want to be burden to anyone, but believe me, we feel better when we feel like a part of something and exercise is always a good thing. A weekly routine, like playing tennis once a week, is something we might be extremely hard to motivate for in the beginning, but is helpful in the long-term, and might even become something we look forward to.
Connection, connection, connection is the best way to help us -we aren’t best left alone in isolation. Connection to you, to others going through something similar, to medical help, to the rest of the world.