9 Things Not to Say to a Mother Fighting Depression
1. “Go outside for a walk.”
It’s true, sometimes sunshine and fresh air help me when I am depressed. But I get tired of people suggesting this like I never thought of it or tried it. Now, I do have a friend who shared with me how exercise and healthy eating made a difference in her husband’s depression. I appreciated the careful, loving way she attempted to help me from experience.
2. “You’re lazy.”
This is a tough one for me. My mom and I recently figured out that I struggled with depression as a kid, but I was always just thought to be “lazy.” I have friends and family members who equate my depression with “laziness.” But please understand, I’m not choosing not to do things. When I am depressed, I simply can’t.
3. “Oh, my friend had that. She did XYZ to get rid of it.”
When I am not in the midst of a major depressive episode, I appreciate hearing stories about others who have found helpful ways to alleviate their pain in depression. But if I am really struggling, please don’t blow me off with a pat answer to my struggle. It’s real. It’s painful. I need understanding and validation.
4. “Your kids shouldn’t have to go through this.” (i.e. “You’re a bad mom.”)
This is the hardest part of depression for me. Children absolutely should not have to go through this. Nor should their mothers for that matter. Trust me, guilt is a big part of the cycle of depression for me, especially when it comes to kids. Find ways to encourage the mom, and point out concrete examples of her ability to mother well. Our kids are also one of our biggest motivators to tackle depression.
5. “Snap out of it.”
A lot of people can’t “snap out of” depression. It is an illness, one no one prefers to have. Therapy, medication, exercise, eating right and other things can help, and when they do, I thank God. But it is not as simple as a person snapping out of it. To say that from a lack of education is hurtful.
6. “I’d be depressed, but I don’t have time.”
Ah, the active, busy person who just can’t understand how a mom has the time to be depressed. Comments like this sting. Moms who fight depression, again, do not choose the illness. Please know we really want to be able to do more, and there are times when we might be jealous of you and all you can accomplish. Depressed moms don’t make time to be sad. They carve out time to be well.
7. “Just take an antidepressant.”
Antidepressants help many people who have depression, but not all. I am thankful they make a difference in my battle, but I still deal with side effects and finding the best fit. Also, our methods of treatment are not any of your business, especially medically.
8. “If you tried harder, you’d feel better.”
People who have depression want to feel better. They are brave. They go into battle every day.
9. “How can you be depressed when you have so many good things in your life?”
Depression is not a decision a person makes. “I think I’ll be depressed today.” Um, no. Please don’t say something condescending like this. But also, please, again gently, tactfully, point out the good things in our lives. Chances are, we might need to hear about them.
And these are some other things you can say that can be helpful:
1. “You are brave.”
2. “I’m dropping a meal off at your front door at 5 p.m. Not coming in, just leaving it for you.”
3. “I don’t understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you. I’m not going anywhere.”
Gillian Marchenko recently published a new book entitled Still Life, A Memoir of Living Fully with Depression . She lives near St. Louis with her husband and children. Connect with her at gillianmarchenko.com. A Still Life closed book study will be starting soon on Facebook. Find details on her author page: Gillian Marchenko Page. She’d love to invite you.
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