- With enough willpower, anyone can overcome depression
- It's all in their head
- Depression is something to be ashamed of
- You can't be productive if you're depressed
- Therapy doesn't work
- Medications are addictive or at least create a dependency
- Depression is the same for everyone
- Substance abuse and depression are unrelated
Now I can sigh with relief that at least you know those because our society is seriously lacking when it comes to mental illness education.
I would like to provide an analogy to you to use in the future. From now on I would like you to act like everyone with depression has had their arm chopped off because mental illness should not be treated as less important than physical illness. So... you would not tell a person who has just had their arm chopped off that they just need to exercise or not take it so seriously or that they need to suck it up and move on with their daily lives because people depend on them. The same goes for those with depression... it is a REAL illness that needs REAL medical attention and I am sick to death of hearing that "eating clean" will fix their depression. Sadness and depression are NOT the same thing.
How to REALLY Help
With that out of the way, as someone who has had multiple people in my life suffer from depression I can reassure you that I have done almost everything wrong and I learned a lot of this the hard way. I'm taking this information straight from a depression recovery manual for how to help ourselves and those we love suffering (yes... SUFFERING) from depression.
1. Make sure YOU'RE in therapy
This is so important! Even if you're not the one who is depressed you can't pour from an empty cup and having someone in your life with depression is very, very traumatic for you as well. Even just having an independent party tell you it's not your fault is going to help immensely.
2. Educate yourself
If you're depressed this might be very difficult for you, but learning about your illness and getting justification for your actions will really help you articulate to others what is really going on.
You also cannot be an ally if you are not educated in HOW to be an ally. This post is a great start, but I would strongly suggest taking an online workshop at least because this is such a delicate situation. You could easily be an enabler or sabotager without proper training.
3. Keep a journal
If you're depressed keep a journal and try to identify triggers and stressors in your life. This will be a great tool to bring to therapy or to review in order to find solutions as to how to avoid the triggers, etc.
If you're an ally keep a journal for the same reasons... bringing it to therapy will help you articulate your thoughts about your journey through this.
4. Maintain your friendships
The worst thing you could do is isolate yourself, whether your depressed or an ally this is critically important. Humans are social creatures for a reason.
5. Keep routines
Dinner time, watching Game of Thrones every Sunday, going to Church... all good things.
6. Continue with your hobbies
If you LOVE gardening, again whether depressed or an ally, you should be gardening MORE while you're going through this process (and "this process" could be for the rest of your life). Make sure you're making time for things you love.
7. Remember to let go and that life goes on
Try to notice things and appreciate them. Feel the sunlight (lol see what I did there?) and appreciate it. Send a thank you note for something. Listen to birds sing. Focus on small pleasures.
8. Stay mindful of your physical health
Especially if you're an ally. Taking care of a loved one with depression is rough mentally AND physically. Make sure you're taking the time to keep your body healthy. If you're depressed try to be mindful of your physical health and ask for help if you need it.
9. Support group it up
Again, whether you're an ally or depressed support groups will help you gain perspective and give you additional tools to help you. You do not have to do this alone, there are plenty of others in your neighborhood who are willing to help and they all meet at the same time and place every week so you have no excuse to not go.
10. Make self-care your priority
11. Develop the "observers mind"
Respond to the feelings behind the statements like fears of abandonment, trauma, losing functioning and mental capacity. Pay attention to body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, etc. Try to see these without judgement and avoid personalizing the statement so you're not drawn to an argument. The goal is to recognize what their feelings are without responding personally. And don't immediately respond. Appreciate the wisdom and pain of empathic silence.
12. Learn to validate feelings
"I know it's scary to be in so much pain. Feelings come and go. We'll get through this together." Never say "you'll be fine" or "it's not that bad". What they're feeling feels real to them, it IS their reality. There is justification for it. You are not their therapist and it is not your job to provide them a new reality. Your job is to support them and that means validating their feelings.
13. Set reasonable limits
Limits will help you create a feeling of safety. This can include setting limits about telephone, talking time, unacceptable behavior, and what you're going to do about it. Make sure you confront with love. I suggest having a family meeting to discuss important things and make sure you separate your loved one's worth as a person from their behavior. Also, add consistency by letting them know you will not abandon them.
Signs of Suicide
Step in and call your local suicide prevention hotline if you see any of the following:
- loss of interest in activities and hobbies that were a source of interest
- loss of interest in work or career
- giving away possessions, writing a will
- having unusually dark conversations in which death is ennobled
- writing poetry or prose that are very dark and about death and loneliness
- increase in alcohol or drug intake
- making preparations for or talks about a suicide plan that is specific, concrete, within the person's means and lethal
- becoming detached from emotions, and family and friends