7 Things To Remember When You Love a Person Who Has Depression.
Depression is an extremely common disorder, affecting an estimated 300 million people worldwide. Chances are, either you or someone you love will experience some level of depression during the course of your life.
Depression is an unbelievably horrible state of mind to be in, and someone suffering from it can be fragile and unpredictable. Knowing how to handle delicate situations when someone is suffering from depression can make all the difference between them suffering even more and having some relief when they’re in your presence.
- They’re not choosing to be depressed – although many people frequently believe otherwise, depression isn’t a choice. It’s not simply having a bad day or being in a bad mood – a person who is depressed can’t simply ‘get over it’ or pull themselves together. There are a number of different reasons why a person may become depressed. Often, a chemical imbalance in the brain is the cause; this is known as clinical depression, and is usually treated through medication aimed at re-balancing the level of serotonin in a person’s brain.
People can also become depressed due to circumstances and events that take place in their life that significantly and negatively alter their mood, point of view, and outlook on things for an extended period of time. This form of depression can in many ways be harder to treat, requiring extensive therapy in order to re-frame a sufferer’s perspective on life and the difficult things that have happened to them.
This is why saying hollow phrases like ‘you just need to get out of the house / get some exercise / eat better / change your attitude / stop being depressed’ do nothing but make a person with depression feel even worse. Even if there is an element of truth to what you say, a person who is seriously depressed will not be able to reap the benefits from doing any of these things until they’ve had a real change in their perspective or the chemicals in their mind. If this hasn’t happened, saying things like this will only hurt them even more and make them feel useless and guilty for being unable to simply change the way they feel.
2) Being there for them in whatever way they need you is the best thing that you can do – people that are depressed tend to feel confused about how they are perceived by others. They often feel very strongly that they are alone and that they are a burden on the people around them, regardless of whether or not this is actually the case. The best thing that you can do for someone who is suffering from depression is to simply be there for them; not in any specific way, but connecting with them, one human to another.
Rather than putting pressure on them to open up or seek help, focus on being a way for them to connect with another soul in the present moment.
Be right there with them when you’re around them, rather than being distracted and distant. Provide an environment for them to come out and share with you if they choose to do so. If they want to sit quietly, let them sit quietly. If they want to talk, then talk. Be the open, receptive, honest, compassionate person that they need you to be. Ask them how they’re doing, and let them know that they don’t need to answer. Simply being a way to anchor them with another soul in the present moment is all that you can do – the rest is up to them.
3) It’s okay for you to feel frustrated – you’re only human, so honor that. The more annoyed at yourself and guilty you feel for being frustrated with the person that is depressed, the more your negative self-feeling will rub off on them. Instead of feeling bad for being frustrated, try to accept however you feel. When you do that, you can approach interactions with them in a very grounded and positive way – you’re just two imperfect human beings participating in a shared life, and there’s nothing whatsoever that is wrong with that or how you feel about it.
4) How people treat you is a reflection of how they feel about themselves, rather than how they feel about you – this is an incredibly important lesson for us to learn, and it extends far beyond interacting with loved ones who are depressed. The way that people treat us reflects their interior feelings, the ones that they have to live with constantly. They project these out and externalize them on to the people they interact with, so don’t take it personally if a person suffering from depression is short or rude with you or pushes you away. Sometimes they need to push you away a bit before they can let you in closer, and that’s okay.
5) Discussing and setting boundaries is important – being depressed doesn’t mean that someone has free reign to treat you however they please, and you shouldn’t have to put up with them walking all over you, taking advantage of you, or otherwise treating you badly. That’s why it’s so important to discuss boundaries in order to hammer out what is and isn’t acceptable, and what you will and won’t put up with. Discuss the personal boundaries that you wish to set, and then enforce them. At the end of the day, you need to look after yourself. Just because someone close to you is depressed doesn’t mean that you should suffer unnecessarily too.
6) People with depression can become easily overwhelmed – when someone is depressed, they can easily become completely overwhelmed and frustrated by even the most minor of things. Depression isn’t weakness, but rather a state of mind where negative events and experiences become so heavily stacked and unbalanced that any tiny straw can break the camel’s back and unleash a wave of negative feelings at any moment. When a depressed person experiences a minor setback, they don’t just experience it in isolation like others do. Instead, they experience it through the filter of their depression, meaning a tidal wave of negativity and helplessness washes over them and leaves them choking and gasping for air.
For example, when a mentally healthy person knocks over a glass of water, they clear it up. When a depressed person knocks over a glass of water, it’s just the latest in a very long string of gut punches grinding them into a more and more negative state of mind. They feel useless and tormented by life – each and every negative moment is torture. What many people mistake for weakness is actually the result of an extremely delicate and negative mental state that can be very easily agitated to the point of despair by relatively minor occurrences.
7) It’s not about you – many people make the mistake of taking other people’s depression personally. They think that because they are on the receiving end of a depressed person’s behavior that they are somehow to blame for how they feel. The truth is that depression is very complicated and is often the result of various interconnected factors. It’s not your fault, so don’t take it personally.
Written by Maverick, Staff writer at Lessons Learned In Life Inc. ©