This is the most honest post I have written thus far, but something is telling me that while I now have the energy to write this I should because if the people around me who are depressed, and myself, are feeling this way, many more people probably are too. Depression is something I've been struggling with my whole life and I am just now starting to tell people about it. It runs in my family on both sides. I'm not trying to speak for everyone with this post, but if you know someone with depression keep these things in mind.
1. We are not asking you to be our life coach
This is the most important and why I'm putting it as number one. We do not need to hear that we need to exercise, eat better, think positively, break up with our partner, use more self-care, or literally any piece of advice you found in a self-help book. Those are all wonderful suggestions for people who are sad and they can help snap you out of a sad mindset. Depression is not an emotion - it is an illness. You would not tell someone with a broken leg to walk it off or positively think about having a healed leg and it'll happen. All you're going to do by suggesting these things is cause us to shame ourselves when we're not exercising or eating well and that is the last emotion we need. This brings me to my next point.
2. Give compliments instead of advice
We need to hear what a great job we're doing even if all we did was get out of bed. Believe me, we are shaming ourselves way more than you ever could so instead of suggesting what we should do to fix this illness as if you're a doctor, give compliments on the victories, both small and large. We need support. A LOT of support.
3. We don't want to talk about it, but we need to
And we need you to help us talk about it. While there are many times when we just simply do not have the energy to talk about how we're feeling (and that needs to be respected as well) if you're a person who is a close friend or family member keep asking them to talk about it. Ask them to find a way of communication that's easier than talking if necessary like writing it, texting it, painting it, whatever. And no matter what do not dismiss or invalidate our feelings or that is the last time we'll open up to you.
4. It is very hard to make decisions
While we very much have good days where it will seem like nothing is wrong and we can function completely "normally" (whatever that means), on our not-so-good-days deciding where to eat or what movie to see can be so stressful. At least for me, on these days I just want to follow and feel the happy energy of those with me who are eating what they want and watching what they want and if I had an honest choice in mind I would say so. Don't get frustrated if we seem indecisive we're struggling to just be social.
5. We need your patience
If you've prayed for patience recently, God probably blessed you with a depressed loved one. Our mood swings are frequent, especially if we're not on medication, and we have ZERO control over them. The thing about depression is that we don't get to choose our emotions if we feel any at all. Even if I know I have nothing to be anxious about, it doesn't make the feeling go away and knowing that I shouldn't feel what I'm feeling brings the shame, which triggers the depression. We need you to be patient and kind and to reassure us that you do not see us any differently for feeling what we do.
6. We don't want to be treated differently
Besides some extra kindness and patience, we don't want to be treated any differently than anyone else, just like a person who broke their leg would not either. We don't need you to treat us like children or walk on eggshells around us afraid of triggering or worsening our condition. Treating us differently is a trigger in itself because it reinforces that we aren't "normal" and we internalize it and convince ourselves that we're antisocial. Just relax and be yourself and we'll be ourselves.
7. Never, ever judge
Never, ever, ever, ever. People with depression are still creating miracles everyday by pushing through and being extremely productive, and caring, and living their life to the point where most people probably did not even know we had depression. People are usually shocked when I tell them I do because there's this stigma that if you're depressed you can't do great things and boy is that stigma wrong. It just takes more energy for me to do it than someone who is not. People with depression are strong and capable and if we forget, remind us.
8. Finding the right medication can take years
And some of us cannot or do not want to take medication. We want you to know this because there's this idea that depression works like pharmaceutical commercials where one day we're sadly looking out the window at our kids playing in the yard from our beds we can't get out of and then we take a pill and the next day we're laughing and pushing them on a swing. That's not real life. Depression is an illness that we have to live with every single day and even with medication, all of the symptoms may not disappear and medication can bring on other side effects as well. If your loved one is going through this process, again, be patient and don't hope that one day it'll all go away because they might be living with good and bad days their whole life. And you know what? THAT'S OKAY.
9. If we cancel plans last minute it's not personal
Especially if those plans are made in advance. The work day might have taken more energy than we anticipated when we made the plans in the first place and we may not have any left to offer you. Cancelling plans and staying home is often a method of self-care. Isolation is also a symptom of depression so if you feel like your loved one is cancelling ALL plans all the time, they may need help. But don't get angry when it happens, we're just trying to keep our life force energy battery from dying.
10. Pay attention
If you know someone who is depressed you need to pay attention to signs of suicide. I wrote a post "8 Urban Myths of Depression and How to Really Help" that goes over little things you can do to help, and it also outlines the signs of suicide. I won't be redundant and repeat it here, but they are there for you to read.
11. Never call us...
Paranoid, crazy, insane, insecure, ridiculous, stupid, or any of the synonyms. We internalize it. Besides, in order for something to be crazy, there must be a normal, and normal doesn't exist so lose the expectations. Also never ask "why are you depressed?". It can't be answered.
Also, stop using mental disorders as adjectives. Words matter and if a teacher says "that's insane" to something negative, a person with mental illness can internalize that and see mental illness as a negative instead of an illness. It's the same as calling negative things "gay".
12. Depression isn't sadness
So I know I've touched on this the whole entire post, but this is what the public doesn't understand. This is why you don't ask "why are you depressed". You can answer why you're sad because there's a reason. Sadness is an emotion that is caused by an event of some sort. Depression is an illness caused by genetics, blocks to chakras, upbringing, and a million other possibilities that are unknown because scientists don't actually know why. I'm not depressed because I failed an exam or because it's been cloudy for too long. If I knew why, I could fix it easily and if I could fix it I would. Again, IF WE COULD FIX IT WE WOULD.
Question for those of you with depression: would you add anything to this list?