Unless you live with it, you couldn’t possibly understand. I’m talking about people who suffer from depression, you know.
This is my pitiful attempt at introducing depression. Depression is paralyzing. It can transform a perfectly sunny day into a dark pit of despair. For those who suffer, it can seem almost impossible to escape this pit, and we need all the support we can get. I fight this battle as well.
People fail to look outside their own perceptions. Unfortunately, what works for some people in certain situations, doesn’t always work for others. Those who do not suffer from depression, just cannot understand how it feels.
When you know someone is suffering from depression and you want to help, you sometimes blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. I bet you’re wondering if you’re guilty of saying insensitive things to people who suffer from depression, aren’t you? Let me just go ahead and tell you what not to say. I’m warning you, I am going to be blunt and to the point, and tell you how I feel about some choice phrases.
Please, dear God, never say these things to people who suffer from depression. You’re better off being silent.
1. “Just stop talking about it.”
I’m sharing a secret with you. I was told, not too long ago, that I should stop talking about my illness and it would go away. What makes it so hard is that the one who told me this is my spiritual leader. First off, I’m not trying to come down on spiritual leaders but I’ve tried talking the darkness into light and it worked momentarily, but it did not stay away. The point is, depression is a real thing, whether I wish to talk about it or not, no one else should have the audacity to tell me to ignore the problem and it will go away. How mature is that, anyway? Don’t do this, plain and simple.
2. “You look better when you smile.”
Yeah, we all look like Mary Poppins when we have a huge grin plastered across our faces. I guess the smile will dig down deep and wash away the horrors of bleakness-not. I may look better when smiling, but it’s going to take some entertaining to coax that smile. Instead of pining for a smile, why don’t you fall in love with the truth of me, scars and all? Maybe you could smile, it’s better than criticism.
3. “Look at all the things you have to be happy about. Why are you sad?”
I could have every material object my heart desired and still be unhappy, or depressed rather. As a matter of fact, I have a husband, children and a home. I have plenty of food to eat and many books to read. I have pets, both cats and dogs and the location where I live is peaceful with almost perfect weather. There you have it. I have everything I need, but guess what, sometimes I still want to end it all, and sometimes I have no idea why. Depression is not sadness. It’s something much worse than that.
4. “I miss the old you.”
I mean, come on, this one is ridiculous. If you miss the old me, and you love me and know me for who I really am, then you already know about my illness. That’s one way to look at it. Another idea is this: If you love the old me (happy me), then instead of reminding me that I have failed you, why not sit and watch television with me, or grab a book and read to me. I may not want to do these things, but you can spend your breath asking me to do something instead of telling me that I’m not the best company.
5. “You need to seek help.”
Chances are, I have already sought help on many occasions. I may be currently seeking help. This doesn’t mean that I should be cured of my illness. In fact, illnesses, such as bipolar depression, cannot be cured, it can only be maintained. So, been there, done that. Any more suggestions?
6. “Happiness is a choice.”
You know, I’m not even going to harp on this one. If I could be happy, I would be happy. What do you think I am, a glutton for punishment?
7. “Maybe you should take meds.” Or “Are you taking your meds?”
Not everyone who suffers from depression takes their meds, but I do. I still have ‘wanna-be’ psychiatrist loved ones telling me that I should take my meds. Sometimes when it’s bad, and I mean excruciating, my loved ones ask if I’m off my meds. Well, the truth is, the medicines can only do so much and the depression leaks right through. I wish I could tell you that I was off my meds or whatever, but sometimes, they just aren’t strong enough for some levels of darkness.
8. “I get sad sometimes too – I know how you feel.”
Being sad and having depression are two different things. Sadness goes away, usually in a short period of time. Suddenly something comes along and brings a smile back to your face. With depression, sometimes even a laughing baby, a cuddly puppy or a chocolate cake cannot make me smile. It’s not the same, never will be, so stop comparing the two.
9. “Get over it! You’ve been sad long enough.”
Once, in my twenties, I watched my dog get killed by a car. I cried for a long time until my husband told me that I had cried enough. At the time, I was heartbroken, not only for my puppy but for the fact that my husband thought he knew the limits for grieving. I don’t care who you are, or how much you think you know, never tell someone how long they are supposed to grieve. I have encountered this in many areas of my life and each time it happens, I cringe.
10. “You’re being selfish.”
I know there are starving children around the world and homeless people with nowhere to sleep tonight, but guess what, I still hurt. Nothing’s changed. I wish you wouldn’t think that I am selfish because I hurt so badly that I cannot function – get out of bed, eat a meal or comb my hair. I’ve tried to function, but my arms and legs won’t work and I cannot talk without crying. I don’t want your attention and I will help someone tomorrow. Stop attacking me.
11. “You must first love yourself before you can be loved.”
This statement limits the remote possibility that someone with depression can be loved. Seriously, loving someone is unconditional, and true love sees beyond the putrid veil. You will be loved, I will be loved and it has nothing to do with the fact that I hate myself for today.
12. “But you’re always so happy.”
I guess you’ve seen me on my best days, and this is the first time you’ve seen my monster. Well, welcome to the other side of me, the dark side of me. News Flash – I’m not always so happy. It’s just by chance that you’ve dodged the demon, for the most part. I have depression, this is just as much a part of me as my smiles.
13. “You’re not going to kill yourself, are you?”
Well, I’m not planning my suicide, not today, but it’s not wise for you to ask me that. You should never bring up death when I am battling death itself. It just makes perfect sense. But honestly, depression doesn’t automatically mean I want to kill myself, so stop asking that asinine question.
14. “You need to get out more often.”
I want you to know that for the most part, I don’t like being around people. I do get out but at my own pace. I will never give in, feel better or come out of my shell for you. People scare me and I will endure them when I feel comfortable. I don’t want anything making the depression worse. You don’t always know what’s best for me.
I won’t take up any more of your time since I explained so many pet peeves. I will leave you with this: Please, whatever you do or however you feel, be considerate of those who suffer from depression or other mental illnesses. Your words can both enlighten and destroy, depending on your motives. If depression irritates you, then you should consider taking a look at yourself instead.
Keep an open mind and an open heart for people who suffer from depression. It’s the best for all of us.