I’m going to cut straight to the chase…my friend struggles with depression. And it, at times, can be burdensome and draining. The emotional lows are, at times, taxing on our relationship. At moments, I am confused…frustrated even. Why can’t you just think happy thoughts? Or seek help? Why would you even share this part of your life with me? I am not a psychiatrist! What could I possibly say or do that would change how you feel? Just read some inspiring quotes, and “choose happy”. But, depression isn’t a choice! And sharing that part of who they are has made our connection deeper and richer because it's their truth! There is nothing more humbling to have a friend tell you, “I feel really hopeless sometimes…I just want this all to end,” and know that they mean it. I don’t want them to feel weird or like I am treating them like a fragile patient, but I do want to support them in their journey (honoring their reality). There is no RIGHT answer to how to help, but I have realized a few things.
Depression is real. It is a serious and complex disorder that encompasses various emotions…not just sadness. It should not be taken lightly. So, if a loved one, tells you, “I am depressed”. Believe them, and don’t expect that they can or will just “get it together”.
Don’t take it personal. Triggers and circumstances can create extreme feelings of despair that are beyond a person’s control. You are not to blame for your friend’s state. Depression symptoms are not a personal attack on you or your friendship (so get out your feelings).
Don’t conceal…reveal. In my experience, when things are at their lowest, my friend just wants me to listen, without judging or even solving (this is important…your friend is not necessarily seeking an answer, Oprah!). Just listen. Ask, “How are you feeling?” and “why?” This allows them name the emotion and connects it to a potential trigger that they might able to avoid in the future. Honor how they feel in the moment by avoiding comments that devalue or compare their experience to that of others. Instead, remind them of their talents and gifts, particularly what their presence in your life means.
Defend…don’t rescue. There is NOTHING you can do or say that will “fix” your loved one. The only person’s mental wellness that is within your control is your OWN. Ultimately, it is your friend’s choice and journey to get in and manage recovery. And your support (not salvation) is far more meaningful.
Do you know anyone struggling with depression? Or are you struggling with depression? What ways do you support or are supported?
Love without FEAR,