reactions

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.

Advertisements

The Meta Thoughts

Bebop Sleeping

Bebop Sleeps

I was chilling on my back porch the other day with my adorable dog on my lap. Suddenly I was sure that the reason my doctor hadn’t called me back was that I have cancer and they don’t know how to break it to me. They know I’m depressed so they want me to come in in-person. I’m never going to have children and then for the rest of my life people will look at me and think, “How sad. She always wanted children.” A blow like this will sink me back into the worst of my depression. I’m never going to get better. That’s my future. I’m never getting better.

See that? Blink of an eye and I’m like four steps into my hypothetical, mourning my imagined losses, starting to panic.

This is the moment when therapy, or some other intentional recovery effort, does something. Before I started recovering, a turn like this would have landed me in bed, completely shut down and miserable. Now…

The Meta Thoughts

The Meta Thoughts

Enter: The META THOUGHTS

Instead of following the hypothetical, I realize that it’s just a hypothetical. I realize that I’m panicking, that I’m entering a tailspin. I realize that nothing bad has actually happened.

I got up, shook myself. Put a leash on my dog, went for a walk and called a friend.

After a bit of distraction and support from my friend, after I was able to calm down, I remembered that not every thought deserves its day in court (or its time in rumination-ville).

The appearance of the Meta Thoughts is new for me – the inkling that bad thoughts aren’t real events. If you don’t know what I’m talking about – I’m genuinely happy for you. If you do, try to remember, they’re there for you – those heroic Meta Thoughts.

 

Second photo by Lisa Cyr on Flickr.

Farting is Good for You

A good friend of mine was recently doing some things that depressives like me do all the time: she was worrying about things she couldn’t control, making plans and contingency plans for situations that would never come to pass, and generally freaking herself out.

We settled on this little strategy, which I think could be helpful for a lot of us.

1. Pick a little mantra for yourself, something you want to remember several times a day. Maybe it’s to be kind to yourself, to rest, or to think of someone you love. Maybe it’s to remember that you can’t control everything, or that you will get through this. My friend decided on “Not everything is a big deal.”

2. Pick a bodily function that happens often, one that you always notice but can’t control, like a ringing in your ear, or feeling the urge to fart. Concentrate hard on associating that bodily function with the mantra.

Bam. Free, consistent, daily reminder of that good-for-you thing that’s just out of reach.

Bam. Farting just became good for you.

Fartist

 

 

Photo cropped from a photo by Ludovic Burton on Flickr.

I can’t tell you where I hurt, but I love it when you smile.

Holding HandsPeople don’t understand depression. Your mom doesn’t understand it. Your best friend. All the people who are suffering, the people who are trying to help or who are avoiding the pain. The doctors and researchers who have dedicated their lives to figuring it out.

We fight with each other about what it means, why it comes and goes.

Sufferers isolate, thinking that a lack of understanding equals a lack of concern from their friends, family, and doctors, a lack of compassion.

I once spent about three months caring for a relative who was terminally ill. There was so much I didn’t know. Cancer throws clots into the blood stream. Yawning is a sign of anemia. Pain in the trunk is hard for the sufferer to locate – she can’t tell you where it hurts.

I didn’t understand. But I did help. Being there. Trying. Tracking down doctors and social workers, making hot water bottles and providing grapefruit juice – so flavorful that she could taste again. Holding her hand.

I can’t tell you where I hurt. But I love it when you smile, show me a picture of your baby or your cat, think of me when you’re going out someplace. I love it when you recommend a book or a movie. When you’re there, just watching TV and hanging around with the least charming version of me.

Understanding how it feels is not a prerequisite for helping. It’s just not.

If you’re wondering how to help – you probably already have everything it takes. Tenderness, Love, and the desire to show it. To send a note. To hold her hand.

 

Photo by Brian on Flickr

Letter to a Loved One

Morning letter

Morning Letter by Boldini

I’ve heard a couple versions of this tip for depression. The premise is that depression makes us treat ourselves pretty awfully. We avoid bathing, we have a mean, critical voice in our heads, we isolate and blame ourselves for things we can’t control.

Treating yourself poorly hurts, and it gets in the way of feeling better – but it’s really really hard to change. So here we’re aiming for just a glimpse of what it would be like to be kinder to yourself.

It’s a simple tip – think of someone that you’ve always felt tenderness for, someone with whom you have a relatively simple, loving relationship. Younger relatives are good candidates. Imagine that it’s them who feels the way you feel, and write them a letter.

What would you tell your younger sibling, your childhood friend, your favorite aunt if she were mired in depression?

When it works, this exercise helps my mind to rest. It lets me spend time in a loving place and helps me glimpse a kinder, gentler interpretation of my suffering – even if I can’t always stick to it.

Here’s to your health.

 

Photo by ErgSap on Flickr