Loving Someone with Depression


“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.” .

– Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

When I woke up this morning, I knew that it had returned. I could barely open my eyes and my body felt like dead weight. I was so tired, the kind of tired that doesn’t go away with a cup of coffee. The thought of driving my son to work seemed like an impossible task and I began crying from deep within my soul. My depression was back and I felt helpless and hopeless.

As I drove my son to work, I cried the whole way. He remained silent because he has been in this position so many times before. As he got out and waved goodbye, I cried even harder at the thought that seeing me like this was normal for him. I crawled back in bed, cancelled my plans and slept until it was time to pick him up again.

I have been struggling with depression since my teenage years and the cost it has taken on me, my family, and my relationships is a huge one. Depression has robbed me of friendships and relationships in general, because it is very hard to understand what it is like living with depression.

How Depression Has Affected Me

Depression is an exacerbating disease to live with because being sad or frustrated or sleepless or numb for long, repetitive periods of time is exhausting – especially when you can’t prove to anyone that you’re really sick.

Even if your depression is manageable enough for you to leave the house, it can affect everything in your life.

It can interfere with your productivity, or even just the way you seem to your superiors at work – which has consequences for your performance reviews and ultimately the stability of your employment.

It can make your loved ones and friends want to be around you less because many people dislike the kind of negativity depressed people can become steeped in.

Just like you can’t stop a headache with the power of your mind, most of us with depression are stuck with our symptoms, even if we are managing our depression with medication or other techniques.

While it’s wonderful that we’ve begun to fight the misinformation and prejudice surrounding depression, we’ve got a ways to go when it comes to compassionately and lovingly treating people with depression like they have a serious disease.

How You Can Help Someone With Depression?

Depression is a serious but treatable disorder that affects millions of people, from young to old and from all walks of life. It gets in the way of everyday life, causing tremendous pain, hurting not just those suffering from it, but also impacting everyone around them.

If someone you love is depressed, you may be experiencing any number of difficult emotions, including helplessness, frustration, anger, fear, guilt, and sadness. These feelings are all normal. It’s not easy dealing with a friend or family member’s depression. And if you don’t take care of yourself, it can become overwhelming.

Understanding Depression in a Friend or Family member

Depression is a serious condition. Don’t underestimate the seriousness of depression. Depression drains a person’s energy, optimism, and motivation. Your depressed loved one can’t just “snap out of it” by sheer force of will.

The symptoms of depression aren’t personal. Depression makes it difficult for a person to connect on a deep emotional level with anyone, even the people he or she loves most. In addition, depressed people often say hurtful things and lash out in anger. Remember that this is the depression talking, not your loved one, so try not to take it personally.

Hiding the problem won’t make it go away. Don’t be an enabler. It doesn’t help anyone involved if you are making excuses, covering up the problem, or lying for a friend or family member who is depressed. In fact, this may keep the depressed person from seeking treatment.

How to Talk to Someone About Depression

Sometimes it is hard to know what to say when speaking to a loved one about depression. You might fear that if you bring up your worries they will get angry, feel insulted, or ignore your concerns. You may be unsure what questions to ask or how to be supportive.

If you don’t know where to start, the following suggestions may help. But remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. You don’t have to try to “fix” the person; you just have to be a good listener. Often, the simple act of talking to someone face to face can be an enormous help to someone suffering from depression. Most importantly, encourage the depressed person to talk about their feelings, and be willing to listen without judgment. This is much easier said than done.

Don’t expect a single conversation to be the end of it. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others and isolate themselves. You may need to express your concern and willingness to listen over and over again. Be gentle, yet persistent. When someone is depressed, they expect you to give up on them…don’t.

Questions you can ask:

“When did you begin feeling like this?”

“Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?”

“How can I best support you right now?”

Remember, being supportive involves offering encouragement and hope. Very often, this is a matter of talking to the person in language that they will understand and respond to while in a depressed frame of mind.

What you can say that helps:

“You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.”

“You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.”

“I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.”

“When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.”

“You are important to me. Your life is important to me.”

“Tell me what I can do now to help you.”

Source: Help Guide.org

It has been very difficult for me to write this blog knowing that my friends and family are going to read this. But, maybe sharing these tips will help someone else and if it does, than it was worth it.

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 20 years working in Community mental Health. I currently Supervise the Behavioral Health Benefit for an insurance company. I speak publicly on issues that affect mental health in the workplace.

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