I have been suffering from depression since I was a little girl. It first manifested as anxiety where I suffered many panic attacks. Once I hit adolescence I saw my first set of psychiatrists and was put on medication to help balance my mood swings.
It took me many years to accept my depression and realize this is how I was made. I now know that depression is a chemical imbalance the runs rampant in my family. Fortunately, I am blessed to have an understanding family and to have received proper treatment to deal with my depression. But not everyone is as lucky. Not everyone gets the amount of support they need to cope.
What can you do to help a loved one that suffers from depression? Understand that sometimes what you think is supportive is actually insensitive. So please don’t say any of the following things to a woman who is depressed:
Everything happens for a reason.
Okay, we know this! We understand there is a reason why the sky is blue and the grass is green. That doesn’t mean we’ll suddenly feel wonderful because there’ a divine plan for why we feel like shit. Instead of spitting out this cliche, say: I am here for you when you need me.
There are people going through worse things than you.
No kidding! We totally understand it could be worse, but we also know it could feel a lot better. Just because we don’t have physical battle wounds doesn’t mean we are not suffering. Understand that what we feel is real to us. Try saying, “I am so sorry you’re feeling this way. What can I do to help?”
You’re always so depressed. Smile and cheer up.
Just because you’re uncomfortable dealing with our depression doesn’t mean we should hide how we feel under a fake smile. We know you mean well, but instead of telling us to cheer up offer to take us on a walk or shopping – anything to keep our minds busy.
I know exactly how you feel. I was so sad when my kitten ran away when I was six.
You’re trying to empathize. Got it. But your brief grief and sadness is worlds apart from feeling terribly somber on a daily basis. You can’t put yourself in our shoes unless you’ve been depressed yourself. So, instead of bringing up how sad you were when (insert moment here) say, “While I can’t fully understand what you’re going through, I sympathize and I am here for you.”
All this sadness is in your mind.
Of course this is in our mind. Where else would it be? Yes, our depression may seem irrational and unnecessary, but if we had the power to stop it don’t you think we would? Tell your friend that you understand that she’s hurting and that you’re there for her. If she’s in a really bad state, mention she can receive professional help.
You shouldn’t have to depend on medicine to make you happy.
With the many side effects that come with some medications for depression, we much rather not take any pills at all. But, when there’s an imbalance, medication is often necessary along with counseling. Sometimes the positive effect the medication has in stabilizing our moods outweighs the side effect or stigma. So don’t add to our shame, confusion and hardship by saying any of these things.