By Aubrey Cline
1. Know That We’re Just As Confused As You. We don’t have all the answers; we barely have any. Most people find the best way to start is by asking “What can I do to help?” This is very kind, and for some even helpful, but people with depression usually always feel a sense of helplessness. We don’t know what to do either; if we did we’d be taking action… this shouldn’t be surprising but we don’t want depression either! So while asking us for ideas is very thoughtful, we usually just don’t know.
2. We ENJOY Being Alone. You’ll find that being alone all the time makes it easier to be depressed. That may be true, and I’m not arguing that, and yes, when we’re at our lowest, being alone can make us feel isolated and ignored; however sometimes being alone is fun for us. We can be ourselves all locked up in our room, and when we don’t feel very sad, it can even be enjoyable.
3. We’re Not Always Sad, But We’re Always Depressed. Yes, there is a difference. We’re not always ready to burst into tears, (though there are days) but we’re not happy very often. “How are you feeling?” is also a commonly asked question; and a good one. However, when we’re not actively sad, but not happy either, it’s possible for us to feel nothing. Nothing at all! Personally, I call it “feeling meh”. Allow me to put it this way: at our happiest, we’re at your “kinda-happy”. When we’re ecstatic, we’re at your “happy”. When we’re “kinda-happy”, we’re at your meh. And when we’re “meh”, we seem depressed. Our normal mood is at a lower “happiness level” than someone without depression. This may explain why we’re often asked “what’s wrong” when we’re not upset.
4. We’re Not Okay. Depression hurts. It’s as simple as that. It hurts us, it hurts you, it just hurts. We don’t know how to end it, eventually we learn how to just barely cope, but one thing can push us over the edge to the point where we’re banging our head against a wall screaming and crying just because we forgot to buy new body wash. It sounds silly, and it is, and someone without depression can look at that and think that it’s not a big deal, but that’s how bad it is. We’re just barely coping and any amount of stress can be enough to push us over the edge. This isn’t to say that you should walk on eggshells around us or that we should be treated different; please don’t do that, despite your best efforts it’ll end up making us feel incompetent and stupid. This is not your fight, all we would like is your support.
5. Excessive Sleep Seems Necessary To Us. We’re so emotionally worn out from all the criticism we receive from ourselves that we’re always tired. This is why we nap all the time, we sleep in, yet we still look tired when we’ve slept 14 hours in one day (give or take).
6. Sometimes We Want To Talk About It, Sometimes We Need To Figure It Out Ourselves. When we’re ready to talk to you, we want your undivided and unlimited attention. This isn’t always possible, and we know that, but we still want it. And yes, we know we’re being irrational. However, sometimes, we don’t want to talk about it. We want you to leave us alone and let us figure it out ourselves. Again, irrational, and the way we explain that to you may leave you feeling hurt. This is not our intention, please don’t take it personally, it’s hard for us to tell you how we feel when we don’t completely understand it. It’s important that you know that the sense of helplessness can be overwhelming. Subconsciously, fixing our own problems (even though we usually can’t) is how we think we can get rid of that helplessness.
7. Don’t Suggest Therapy. If we suggest it, help us out, talk it through, etc. but don’t suggest it. We already feel different. Suggesting therapy will only make us feel crazy, even if that’s not what you meant. In certain cases, carefully suggesting a counselor may be helpful, but only if the person doesn’t realize they need help. (If you plan to do this, it may be helpful to wait until the person is calm to address this.)
8. We Can Be Very Touchy. We criticize ourselves A LOT, so anything you say can be twisted to be criticism. Not your fault, it’s just a fact. Please note that these are things that you should understand, not things that you should change about yourself. You can’t solve this, but we can’t always help how we feel and it can seem like all of it is directed at you. It’s not, we just aren’t always sure how to show this.
9. Sometimes We Want To Be Cuddled, Sometimes… Don’t Touch Us. It sounds sad but internal isolation is something we get used to. While sometimes we want to curl up and cuddle and be held and cry and then feel better, I find that usually we try to handle it by ourselves and don’t want to be shown any sign of sympathy.
10. We Know That It’s Hurting You Too, But We Don’t Know What To Do. We can see the helplessness on your face when you can’t help us out, or don’t know what to do, and we’re sorry, even though there’s nothing we can do. Maybe that’s part of the reasoning to our isolation; we don’t want you to have to deal with it too.
We feel hurt, different, incompetent, depressed, and just generally helpless all the time. This is in no way your fault, and we don’t know how you can help us. All of these struggles are internal, whether they stemmed from an external source or not, and honestly the best thing you can give us is your patience and support.
Note: Not all of these will be true for everyone with depression. Everyone’s different, with different levels of depression. You may find that only one or two of these pertain to your loved one.