There are more than 350 Million people in the world who currently suffer from depression. With such a huge statistic its virtually impossible for anyone not to interact with someone suffering from a bout of depression at some point in their lives.
Often it is the people you least expect to be suffering from depression and those closest to you who may be concealing it well. It could be your friends, family, co-workers, partner or neighbour fighting this often debilitating illness.
One of the most challenging aspects of dealing with depression is the stigma and negative criticism that comes from others. Often people may not even know that their comments are being negative or hurtful and sometimes even make the depression feel worse.
So with this in mind here are some simple thing to remember when interacting with someone you love who is fighting depression.
1-THEY ARE STRONG IN CHARACTER
A person experiencing depression works hard to make sense of life and trying to achieve more, fix more and improve. Moreover,it takes immense will and transparency to acknowledge the presence of depression, but it also pushes people to create answers in the darkest moments in life. They fight to deal and overcome it, this takes strength or character and incredible resolve.
2-THEY LOVE IT WHEN YOU REACH OUT TO THEM UNEXPECTEDLY
Many people think that when someone is dealing with a bout of depression they want to be left alone. Although that could seem true at times, it is a dose of healthy social medicine when a friend, a loved one, or a neighbour drops by to say ‘hello’. One of the roots of depression in our society is the lack of social relationships in our communities and even in our families. It is very difficult to keep on top with the constant dose of emptiness and disconnection in our everyday interactions due to overworking, television and technology. People managing depression need more company, more friends, more people reaching out to them, and more people wanting to spend time with them, not the opposite.
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” Mother Teresa
3-THEY DO NOT WANT TO BURDEN ANYONE.
Depression can make someone feel as if they’re a burden to the world, especially to those around them. Only a depressed individual understands how hard it is to hide their feelings and thoughts from others to avoid being shamed.
The weight that depression can bring upon a person is enough to bury them for a day – the burying of those around them is not on the to-do and so individuals fighting depression may push to be alone because they do not want to impact anyone negatively.
If they upset you, instead of reacting to them, tell your depressed loved one that you accept them fully, unconditionally, and remind them of any and all positive traits you love about them.
4-THEY LIKE OPPORTUNITIES FOR FUN AND LAUGHTER
What’s the opposite of depression? Hilarity! It is a proven scientific phenomenon that laughter is good for the soul and the mind. Depressed individuals function the same way; laughter is truly medicine for the soul. You can’t hurt your depressed loved ones or friends with your humor and laughter (as long as it isn’t at their expense of course). Laugh and the world laughs with you.
5-THEY ARE SENSITIVE TO OTHER PEOPLE’S FEELINGS AND ACTIONS
Depressed individuals care – and they care a lot. They care about how you feel, how you see them, how you see yourself and what others need. It may be that they care too much! Some of the most caring people I have ever met are people that suffer from some sort of depression. Let them know what you need and what you do not need but don’t forget to set clear healthy boundaries as well.
6-THEY SHOULD BE TREATED RESPECTFULLY
There is a negative stigma attached to dealing with depression. And, it’s not the depressed individual doing the stigmatization. It is society. I cannot repeat this enough – reducing the stigmatization will help alleviate the societal effects of depression. Respect involves seeing beyond the depressed individual and seeing the whole person.
7-THEY SHOULD BE TREATED LIKE ANYONE ELSE
No need for eggshells, or tiptoes. Go about your business and assume your depressed loved one is 100% healthy. Sometimes just living a routine, but a predictable, purposeful routine, can bring such a boost and be a remedy for depression.
8-THEY ARE FULLY CAPABLE OF GIVING AND RECEIVING LOVE
Every human being on Earth is capable of giving and receiving love. And, you guessed it! Your depressed loved ones are no different. Give, and you shall receive. It does not matter that someone is fighting depression, the quality and ability of love does not change. It is still there! Reach out for it, but also give it yourself. You’ll find much more love than you thought was there.
9-THEY DO NOT PLAN ON LOSING THE FIGHT AGAINST DEPRESSION
The fight against depression may be life-long, or it may last a moment. Regardless, the fight is one that must be won. The question always is: when will this depression leave and how can I speed this up a bit? The plan is to win against depression. The plan is not to lose and live in self-pity. Of utmost importance is to remember that depression is treatable and there are many, many resources to help someone do so. One of the first steps in fighting depression is to acknowledge its presence. In acknowledging its presence, you can begin to treat it.
10-THEY MAY FEEL SAD FOR NO APPARENT REASON, SO JUST BE WITH THEM
Just like the fog invades the meadow, which eventually ruins your morning drive to work, depression can sneak up on its victims. Moods can be volatile and unpredictable. It is not something that is easily controlled by a switch. Your loved ones are trying very, very hard to be happy, pleasant and engaging, but what they need is simple.
They need you to just be there. Simply sit with them and read a book together, watch a comedy together, or take a trip to the local coffee shop and have a cup together. No psychologist is needed here, only your presence and acceptance. Let the fog fade away as the morning sun rises and welcomes in a new day.
11-THEY MAY NOT HAVE AS MUCH ENERGY AS THEY WOULD LIKE TO HAVE
One of the symptoms of depression is fatigue or lack of energy. One of the most helpful antidepressants that has been proven by research is exercise. I realise that maybe you have heard of this recommendation before, but let me be a little more specific. The type and duration of exercise can vary, but the minimum that could have an effect is to do fast walking at least three times a week for 30 minutes each time. That is the amount of exercise someone needs in order to feel an anti-depressive effect.
Isn’t that convenient? So, if the sun is out and the breeze is whispering for you to come out and play, invite your loved one out for a walk. They may not see an immediate effect, or they actually may! Either way, exercising in this way is increasing their chances of beating depression and increasing their energy levels.
12-THEY MAY SEEM IRRITABLE AT TIMES – DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY
Irritability is another symptom of depression. Although there is no excuse for treating people disrespectfully, it is important to let any friction with a depressed individual to slide off your back. On the other hand, it is acceptable and important to set expectations and even boundaries with a depressed individual. An expectation is a minimum standard that you expect of someone. A boundary can also be thought of as an expectation that is set in order to keep a harmonious relationship.
13-THEY DO NOT WANT TO HEAR “SHOULDS”
As in, “you should go out more with your friends.” If there is a kryptonite for depressed individuals, it is this one – the “shoulds”. Depressed individuals already have a deep and ingrained habit of “shoulding” themselves to the limit.
Not only does this set up a relationship of condescension, it assumes that the depressed individual does not have a mind or a will of his or her own. The bottom line is that it feels like the person making those statements is being the parent. A depressed loved one does not need a parent telling them what they “should” do. Instead, a depressed loved one should be asked as many open-ended questions as possible. This will help the depressed individual think through their options, consider alternatives, explore ideas, expand their abilities and so on and so on. “Shoulding” is only going to put up a wall and nothing will get accomplished in this way.
14-THEY NEED LOTS OF FAMILY SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT
This one is a must. It is not true that family makes depression worse, or that it doesn’t help. In fact, there are treatment models for depression that involve family or a marital partner. And while it is probably that depression can make a relationship suffer, there is also a great power in utilizing a relationship as a tool for helping depressed individuals learn about themselves.
One of the best ways to make a difference in a depressed person’s life is to let them know you are there for them. It is something that must not be simply assumed. It is something that has to be communicated directly, face to face.
15- THEY ARE NOT “BROKEN” OR “DEFECTIVE”
The human body is a complex machine. It is the oldest organism on Earth and we still do not know how to fully prevent it from breaking down. Still more complex though is the human brain and it’s many structures and functions. Although the cause of some forms of depression are not fully known or understood, many of us make the assumption that a depressed individual is defective, or flawed. The quality of the person is not correlated with the diagnosis of depression. Much like having a big chin, being overweight, or having a lisp is a characteristic without a given or specific cause, depression can come about in a person’s life for many reasons. It is not indicative of a broken or defective person.
The most helpful thing you can do is continue to value the depressed individual and continue to see them as whole, strong, and valuable.
Do you or someone you love suffer from depression? What advice would you offer to assist loving someone who has depression? Please comment below…