Helping Your Friend Who is Depressed
– Sarah Fader
I have lived with clinical depression for most of my life. I can remember as early as eight feeling a sick sad feeling. It usually started in my stomach and continued to permeate my entire body all the way into my brain. Having clinical depression is a mental illness; It is a disease. It’s in the DSM-V. It’s a medical condition. It’s also something that I would not wish on anyone, even my worst nemesis. You see, clinical depression is a horrible disgusting monster that has tried to murder me. It has terrified me to the point where I was scared to get out of bed. I didn’t want to shower, get dressed, eat, or live. At times, the monster told me to sleep all day. Other occasions it tortured me by not allowing me to sleep at all.
I’m proud to report that I am still here. I didn’t let this even monster take my life away from me. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t continue to challenge me and make me feel extraordinarily small. Clinical depression has a way of minimizing you. It points this lazar gun at your heart and attempts to shrink you to the smallest size possible. It is reminiscent of the part in Alice in Wonderland where she takes a pill and shrinks so small that she is able to crawl into places that a mouse could fit in.
Alice is taken on a wild ride, much like the terrifying rollercoaster that clinical depression takes its victims on.
I used to see myself as a victim of depression. Now I see myself as a warrior. I have a shield and a sword and I’m ready to take that bitch down.
I go to war for my life each and every single day. I see a therapist weekly. I take antidepressants. I meditate and engage in breathing exercises. I religiously see my therapist and my psychiatrist. I am fierce about my regimen of self-care and I have to be. I don’t have the luxury of not going to the mental gym.
There are many people in this world who do not comprehend how awful depression is. They truly believe that they you can cheer up. They are sure that by reminding you of the great things in your life that you will somehow miraculously be cured. It all be a distant memory and you’ll be happy again because that’s how life works right?
These are the same individuals who will discourage you from complaining. Complaining is not what you’re doing – you are fighting a disease. They don’t know that though. They will insist that other human beings have it worse than you do. There are people in other countries who are starving.
What makes you so sad? You have it easy.
Here’s the truth.
When someone has ALS, do you ask them to stop complaining about their terminal disease? No. You don’t do that.
When you tell a person who has depression to be silent you are contributing to their illness. So stop doing that. Let your depressed friend speak.
She needs to open up
She wants to tell you her story
She is hurting
She needs you.
Depression is a disease and one of the cures is talk therapy. When you allow your friend to sound off to you, then you are helping her get well. You don’t need to fix it. You are not required to do anything but listen. And that is something you can do. So do it. Be there, and don’t try to do anything. Depression isn’t something that has a toolbox or instruction manual it comes with. In fact, quite the opposite. Depression wants to annihilate anyone who wants to stop it or get it gone.
It’s a sneaky bastard and doesn’t have any consideration for the people it afflicts.
When your friend tells you she is hurting, she wants some help fighting this monster. You can pick up that sword and pitch in. Listen to her, help her strategize, or just be there. Whatever she needs, she will tell you.
Understand that your friend who lives with depression is suffering. She may not know how to stop the pain. But she does love you. She wants you in her life, but she is sick right now. The wound is open and she is showing it to you. Be considerate and kind. She lacks hope at the moment, but that doesn’t mean she is hopeless.
What can you do?
SUGGEST HELPFUL ALTERNATIVES.
Your friend is a human being and she needs you. So be there.
Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She is an author and blogger, having been featured on Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good day New York.
Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.