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To My Loved Ones Who Feel Helpless About My Depression

Dear Friends and Family,

When I’m not feeling well, when¬†depression has me in its grip, I may not be very fun to be around. I will not act like myself. I may¬†ignore your phone calls, isolate myself and even push you away. It’s not because I don’t love you; rather it is because I don’t love, or even like, myself.

When depression takes over, I may be more helpless, hopeless and pessimistic. I may not be able to concentrate and it might take me forever to make a decision, if I make one at all. My intrusive thoughts may make paying attention to anything you say nearly impossible. Showering, cooking, cleaning and necessary errands may be neglected. I may not be able to work, and paying the bills, if I can muster the energy to attempt it, will become challenging and stressful.

I may look OK on the outside, but I feel absolutely nothing on the inside. This is more painful than words can express. When I am sick with depression, my world becomes an overwhelming, dark, chaotic place and I may just want to hide.

Girl on train
Photo source: Thinkstock Images

Depression is confusing.¬†When my symptoms are at their worst, I may sleep too much or not enough. I may be tired all the time or unable to settle. I may eat everything in sight or nothing at all. I may be able to follow through with scheduled appointments or unable to get out of my house. And I never know from one day to the next what my capabilities will be. It makes it very challenging to plan anything. So I’m not trying to be difficult; I just don’t know in advance¬†if I will have the energy to do whatever it is you’ve asked.

Please understand. Depression tells me I am useless, hopeless and not fit to remain on this planet. It tells me I will never amount to anything no matter how hard I try, so why bother trying. Depression¬†tells me I’m ugly and fat and not as good as you or anyone else. It makes me self conscious. It distracts me so much, I may not be¬†able to follow your conversation, and I certainly won’t remember it tomorrow! Depression makes me feel stupid. Can you understand now why I’m not myself? Why I’m not easy to be around?¬†I have to work extra hard to hold up my end of our relationship. Despite what may appear, I really don’t want to lose you.

What can you do to help? I’m so glad you asked. Pretend I have cancer or any other debilitating illness. Just remember I have an illness, too. And like cancer, I may have periods of wellness followed by relapse followed by wellness again. It will pass, but I may¬†feel unfamiliar with that fact. It’s OK to remind me gently, but try not to pound it into my head. Don’t dismiss what I’m going through. It may be invisible to you, but it is ever so real and debilitating to me.

There are simple things you can do. If I’m isolating, offer to sit with me. Don’t expect me to be a great conversationalist, but just sitting with me will reduce my isolation. Send me a card or flowers, even, especially if I’m in the hospital. Remind me you’re there, offer assistance, validate how I’m feeling, but don’t force yourself on me. I just may not have the energy to go out for coffee and that’s OK. Let that be OK.

If I’m struggling, offer me something to eat. Fix dinner or bring over a casserole.¬†Offer to mow my lawn, shovel the snow, or help with laundry. Do anything you would do for a loved one having difficulty caring for themselves due to any illness. It’s simple, really. I don’t want you to be a hero. I may need help, but I don’t need you to fix it.¬†Continue to love me when I can’t love myself, and know I will come out of this. Things will improve, and I’ll be able to care for myself again. I will be ever so grateful for your kindness and help. And soon I will be myself again.

Thank you, friends and family. Thank you.

A longer version of this post originally appeared on Depression Marathon.

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