You may be upset, worried, frightened, and even a little angry at your loved one’s depression right now. Just try to remember that it is the mental illness that engenders so much emotion.
Not your loved one.
To get through this together, with your relationship intact and their assurance of your support solid, deliberate care, patience, compassion, and mindful, helpful conversation about their depression is vital.
Someone suffering from depression will likely not receive advice to “be positive”, “get over it, or “work through it” very well.
Advice like that simply cannot be the help you want it to be. Why?
Because depression for your loved one simply is “that bad,” to suggest that it isn’t widens the gulf between you and them. To hint that that they can just choose to be better, feel better, or get better really doesn’t make things better at all. Of course, you mean well, but there are ways to help without hurting your loved one unintentionally.
Your depressed needs to hear less judgment and directives. They are likely already down on themselves. Instead, they would likely appreciate much more your presence, kindness, and an open mind. You may find your relationship is a lifeline and one really good reason to push back against the isolation and shame that often comes with depression territory.
Consider the following five statements as a guideline for supporting your loved one
5 Things the Depressed Person You Love Really Doesn’t Need to Hear
1. “I know how you feel” statements.
I get depressed too sometimes.
I’ve been there.
I totally get it. I was depressed for a week once.
Be careful here. Your attempts to empathize or support can end up trivializing the depressed person’s experience. The truth is his or her pain is the worst thing in his or her life right now. It clouds everything and hurts deeply.
Instead of mentioning that “you’ve been there”, clearly state that you’re here now, ready to listen, support, and lean on.
2. “It’s not so bad” statements.
That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
There is always somebody worse off.
You’ll be a better person because of it!
This too shall pass.
You’ll be okay.
Unfortunately, these attempts at positivity are like salt in a deep wound. Depression is that bad. Attempts at positive thinking, or minimization, just emphasize the depth of the pit your friend or loved is in. He or she needs you to recognize how dark it is down there.
Acknowledge and empathize, rather than overlook or trivialize his or her pain.
3. “Pull yourself together” statements.
It’s time to get over this.
Aren’t you tired of being down?
Enough is enough.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
This approach suggests that depression is a choice. That “mind over matter” is the key to overcoming deep emotional pain. That is simply not the case. Depression isn’t a character flaw or self-indulgence.
Be gentle. Pressure to “get over it” is just more stress to fuel depression and isolation.
4. “What you really need is…” statements.
Think happy thoughts. Smile more.
You should buy yourself something nice.
You need a boy/girlfriend.
Get a hobby.
Avoid playing therapist for the depressed person in your life. It’s too much pressure on both of you. He or she is experiencing a real psychological problem that deserves real, professional care.
Of course, you want your friend or loved one to get better.
You hope there’s something you tried, or some direction you could give that would just end this for them. Unfortunately, that’s not how depression works.
Gently impress upon the person the need for therapy. Offer to help find a counselor, make yourself available to help transport to appointments, and let them know that you’re there for support.
5. “Why are you doing this to me…us… yourself,” statements.
Do you have to keep punishing us?
You’re bringing me down too!
Are you just looking for more attention?
Can’t you think of anyone but yourself?
Your loved one’s depression is not a manipulation of your feelings, even though it can feel that way.
Depression is hard on relationships, especially committed couples. Your desire to be understanding and patient can be tested. The strain can tax even the most loving, intimate connection.
Depression is deceptive. Your loved one may seem to use their depression to hurt or push you away, but before you react, retreat for some self-care. Remind yourself that depression is the problem, not the person dealing with it.
All in all, try to maintain as healthy and caring a relationship as possible. Also, practice persistent connection with respect for the relational limits of the condition. Though they may not have enough energy to show it, your empathy and availability probably mean a great deal.
To read more about depression treatment click here.