10 Things Your Friend With Depression Wants You to Know
1. I didn’t choose this.
I don’t want to feel this way. I can’t just decide not to feel like this. I’m unwell and I need your support.
2. I am strong.
When you see me still in bed at noon; or taking a sick day from work; or still in my dressing gown in the evening, I am not weak or lazy. Some days I feel as if I am dressed in lead and have to wade through waist-high treacle to get to the other side of the room. It took all the strength I had in me just to shower. If you knew how much that felt like climbing a mountain to me, you’d see me as strong, not weak.
3. I know I have a good life.
In fact, I beat myself up about this most days. I have the things I need and there is so much I can be grateful for. I know there are always people with more difficult lives than me. I wish my feelings could match up with this reality, but as hard as I try, I can’t make them. Sometimes depression has no rhyme or reason, it just turns up.
4. I need you to talk to me.
Depression is not a dirty word. You can say it out loud. Please talk to me about it. I can’t escape the reality of it, so you mentioning it doesn’t make it any bigger. It helps me know you can acknowledge what’s really going on for me.
5. I need you to remind me of what’s good.
Depression makes me colorblind to anything that’s not black or grey. Sometimes, it might help me to look harder for the colors, and I may need your help to do that.
6. I might not always be ready to take things in.
When you do talk to me, I appreciate you want to give me advice because you want to help me, but please be sensitive with it. Any sentence that starts with, “Why don’t you just…” already demonstrates you don’t understand how it feels to be me right now. Instead, please try to put yourself in my shoes and offer me some compassion because I’m finding it hard to offer that to myself. That doesn’t mean I know everything though. By all means share with me things you have read that have helped others, but give me time to process it. I may not be able to accept it or take it in straight away.
7. Sometimes, I need you to just be quiet.
As much as advice can be helpful, sometimes what I need is for you to listen. My thoughts go around in my head all day and it can be hard to know what’s true and what’s a lie depression is telling me. If you can listen to me without judgment, it can help me make sense of my thoughts, to feel loved and to feel seen. Those are some of the most precious gifts you could give to me.
8. I need you to push me, but gently please.
If I listened to all the lies depression whispered in my ear all day long, I’d never get out of bed again. That means I may need your gentle persuasion every now and again to do a little more than I feel I want to do. With your feet on solid ground, I need your hand to pull me up out of the swamp. I know that for example, exercise will help. You could help me by coming with me for walks or giving me goals. But at the same time, please also respect some days I just won’t be able to. I’m not being lazy or rejecting you. Some days are just harder than others. Please be extra gentle and kind to me on those days.
9. I might need more than you can give.
I’m aware (all too aware) that caring for someone with depression can be hard sometimes. I don’t want you to carry that alone, and you shouldn’t have to — no one can save another person, especially not on their own. I know I should see a professional, but please understand I’m afraid. I fear I’ll be told I’m making it up; that I should pull myself together. Encourage me to go anyway, and to plan the kinds of questions I’ll need to ask to help me to feel I’m still in control.
10. I’m still an adult who can think for herself.
At the same time, I am still in charge of me. I am unwell, but I am still me. I get to choose what kind of care I receive and who is the right professional to help me. I get to choose what I put in my body, and who I trust with my feelings. I need your help, but I also need you to respect my autonomy.