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Five Things to Tell a Depressed Person

Man is it easy to say the wrong thing. Worse, it’s even easier to stay quiet because we’re afraid to say the wrong thing. When trying to support someone who’s depressed, it’s important to be honest – to admit that you don’t have the answers and just be there for them.

Silence is shitty. When you’re silent there’s nothing to counter her inner mean voice. When you’re silent she’s on her own. Here are some tips to get you talking.

  1. I’m rooting for you. Fiercely. “I can’t solve this, but I’m rooting for you.” “I don’t know why you’re hurting, but I’m rooting for you.” “I wish I could do more, and I’m rooting for you.” People with depression are working hard. They need cheerleaders, they need support, they need to know that they’re not alone out there. They need to be acknowledged and cherished. They need to know you’re rooting for them.
  2. You’re pretty. Just because she can’t take complements doesn’t mean they don’t eventually sink in. Tell her you’ve always admired her brain, her spunk, the color of her eyes. Tell her you love the way she stands. Fuck it – tell her she’s got amazing boobs. Notice good things about her and tell her.
  3. You’re being very strong. It takes a lot of inner strength to battle depression. What can look like weakness to the rest of the world – and to the depressive herself – is actually a strong resolve to survive, to thrive. Instead of dwelling on the things that are holding her back, notice the strength she’s showing by even trying, by getting through yet another day. Remember that she’s being strong and tell her.
  4. I don’t understand. Admit that you don’t know what she’s going through. Admit that you’re not in control and neither is she. Just admit that, together, you’re out of your depths. Understanding is not a prerequisite to helping. Be truthful.
  5. I love you. Fiercely. Be upfront about your feelings. She feels unlovable, unreachable. Let her know that you’re still there, and that you’re not going anywhere. When she sees little or no worth in herself, knowing that others love her – that others find her worthwhile – can be lifesaving. Let her know.

fiercely

Photo by Namor Trebat on Flickr.

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Depression and Ambition

Bridge of Sighs, Oxford, UK

         Bridge of Sighs, Oxford, England

I used to be an ambitious person. I was innately motivated to make the world a better place and I enjoyed that motivation. I wanted to accomplish big things and sometimes I got close – anyway I showed some real potential.

The thing about clinical depression and ambition is that depression is such an enormous obstacle that it overshadows all of the other challenges that you might choose to take on. It’s that ass hole at a dinner party who presides over the whole group with inane, infuriating monologues, refusing to be interrupted.

It’s not that I no longer hope to overcome great challenges – it’s just that the great challenge is depression, and it’s taking everything I have.

The truth is I really miss it. I miss the sense of purpose. I miss the drive, the striving for something bigger than myself. I miss believing that I could contribute.

On good days I think – well, all that stuff I accomplished before my diagnosis I accomplished as an undiagnosed major depressive – WHO KNOWS what I can accomplish once I’m recovered.

Most days I just hope to recover.

One Year On

This is what recovery looks likeToday marks the one year anniversary of the registration of this blog. A few days ago marked the anniversary of my diagnosis of major recurrent depression. It took me months to start actually writing the blog, and about a year to come to terms with the diagnosis – something that now, like so many things, seems inevitable.

One year on I’m well on my way to recovery. I still struggle with daily tasks, but my mind is quieter and I smile more. I cry less and spend more time with friends. I have yet to go dancing. I’ve started, but failed to finish, about a dozen books on depression and have “come out” to about two dozen people. I am less desperate. I am less scared.

It’s been almost two months since I last wrote in this blog, in part because my recovery has me wanting to think about things besides depression. In part it’s because I imagine a deeply depressed reader and feel helpless to help her.

But I want to write.

Recovery comes in fits and starts and so will this blog. But I’m hoping to soon start a series of posts on mindfulness and depression. I hope you’ll join me.

With Profound Thanks,

Mfupi

Photo by Portland Prevention on Flickr.

Asking for Help #5: A Menu of Asks

Group HugPlanning out what to ask for can be even harder than the asking itself. Big questions like, “What do I need?” can become immediately overwhelming – but it’s easier for people to act when you tell them what to do. Here are some options to pick from. Substitutions allowed.

Ask for pictures – do you have a loved one far away? Ask for picture messages from them. This is especially great for children. A picture of a kid just doing her thing in the middle of the day can help lighten your mood.

Schedule one-on-one time – pick a group of people and ask them each to cover one day a week or every other week. Expect about half of the people you ask flake on you. They’re not ready. That’s ok. Be ready to ask again, or call in a second line of friends and family if necessary. Use the hour or two for whatever *you* would like to do – whether it’s watching TV or having a serious talk about what you’re going through. One-on-one time provides you the space to reach out, relax, or both. And it provides your friends the chance to help.

Ask for things people know about – have a friend who’s in a band? Ask for their music recommendations. Know someone who’s into comedy? Ask for some podcasts.

Ask for daily emails – pick one or two friends who are supportive and empathetic and ask them if you can email them daily, or even several times a day. These friends don’t have to understand what you’re going through, but they have to be able to provide explicit support. Use the emails as a substitute for “charting” your moods, or just a place to vent, or whatever. Be as clear as you can about what you want from the interaction, is it commiseration? problem solving? a sympathetic ear?

Crowdsource your questions – Ask your whole Facebook community for recommendations of books that aren’t downers. Ask the Subreddit on depression about that aspect of recovery that’s really been bothering you. Let the wisdom of the crowd help you out.

Asking is hard. And it’s something to be really proud of. Start wherever you’re most comfortable – an anonymous group of internet depressives, your closest family and friends. Know that you’re worth their time and effort, and know that you’re worth your own.

Photo by Robbert van der Steeg on Flickr.

The Depressive’s Guide to Adopting a Dog

I absolutely admire people who adopt difficult dogs. As a person who suffers from depression, I knew I couldn’t be one of those people. I knew I needed a dog that would be a calming, happy presence in my home, a dog that would lessen my frustration with the world, not add to it. There are plenty of sweet, happy dogs that need homes. Here are some tips for finding the right one for you:

  1. DestructionAdopt a grown dog. Puppies are a LOT of work, for at least a year, usually two. They pee and poop on your stuff and feel an irrepressible need to interact with the world by chewing on things – it can be more than just annoying. It can be really expensive. In hindsight, many dog owners would skip the undeniable cuteness if they could skip the frustration of the puppy years.
  2. Try to adopt a dog who’s being fostered in a home, not one that’s been held at the kennel for weeks or months. The way a dog acts in a kennel gives you almost no indication of their demeanor. Many have kennel cough, which sedates them, and others are overly hyper because they need exercise. When you meet a foster dog, you meet a dog that’s in its element, and the foster family can tell you more about the dog than the kennel staff ever could.
  3. Beware of pushy kennel staff. While their application process may make it seem like they’re picky about who can adopt, many staff are really on a mission to find homes for as many dogs as possible – they’re in the business of saving lives. Be patient. Be insistent. I even recommend finding the most experienced staff member you can (many are staffed by young volunteers), and try to sit them down and tell them about your condition. Tell them you need a truly special dog, and that you’re willing to wait.
  4. You choose them, but they also choose you. Wait. Wait for that dog with which you really do feel a special connection.

You deserve a dog that really enhances your life. Finding that dog can take weeks or months of browsing online and searching local rescue facilities, but it’s worth it. You’ll have the dog for a decade or more, and for that whole time, the right dog will lower your blood pressure, lift your mood, and bring you that thing that can seem so implausible: Joy. Daily Joy.

Adoption Day