9 Ways to Understand Someone With Depression


This piece was written by Kirsten Corley, author of “But Before You Leave

It’s being asked, “What’s wrong?” and I don’t even have an answer. Because in retrospect, nothing is “wrong.” My life is good. But at the same time, that “nothing” is everything consuming me. Because it’s just feeling. An “off” feeling I can’t shake for long periods of time.

And when someone asks, “What can I do?” There’s nothing really they can say or do to change how I feel inside.

It’s two forces being pulled against each other because I want them to stay, but I also push them away because, in my mind, I am a burden or a bother. I think I am dragging them down, also. And no one deserves that. No one deserves to worry about me, and I don’t want to put that on them.

So, the easiest thing for me to do is pretend everything is fine. I say, “I’m fine,” and they walk away. Under my breath, I will say the words that go unheard, “Please stay.”

How do you understand someone who lives with depression? How can you detect if I’m lying because I think it’s better for you, when something is actually really wrong? How do you stay close to me when I push you away? And how do you understand something you simply can’t, unless you experience it?

1. Understand I’m not choosing to be sad.

I don’t wake up one day and think, “I really want this day to emotionally drain the shit out of me, to the point of tears I can’t explain.” There are just some days that will hit so hard, and when it does, please understand there isn’t a “solution” to it.

Depression is like a storm you can’t run away from. Because in my experience, the further you run, the faster it’ll chase you. I believe the best thing I can do is just stand there and face it head on. Let it come through, destroying everything in its path until the storm ends. Then, I’m left to pick up the pieces. And a new day begins,  a little brighter than the last. And I carry on. That’s depression.

2. Understand how afraid I am for you.

I don’t want to burden you with my own problems. I feel guilty. I don’t want you to worry. I don’t want you to look at me any differently, or perceive me as “weak.” I consider this my greatest weakness. And if it doesn’t destroy me, I fear it will destroy everyone and every relationship around me.

Please reassure me that who I am at my worst and lowest, isn’t an accurate depiction of me.

3. Understand how sorry I am.

If I trust you, let you in and completely break down, please understand how horrible I feel about it. I am going to apologize too often, and think I don’t deserve someone like you in my life. I try so hard to be strong.

4. Understand when I push you away, is when I need you most.

I push others away because I think they are better off alone. I convince myself no one will understand this thing I struggle with, so it’s best to face it alone.

But I believe the greatest company comes when I don’t want any. That moment I push someone away and instead of turning, they pull me in and remind me I’m not alone — it’s everything.

5. Understand when my mind is in a depressed state, nothing I’m telling myself is true.

There is a stream of phrases that goes through my mind, and in moments of depression, I believe it.

No one loves you. They feel bad for you. You are a burden to those around you. This is your fault. Everyone will leave. You are alone. It will only get worse.

In these moments, just tell me I matter, tell me you love me and tell me you aren’t leaving. Tell me it isn’t my fault. And that it will get better.

I believe demons within ourselves are the most difficult to overcome, but that’s what makes me so beautiful — my ability to overcome it and see the light in everyone and everything around me. Because I believe it’s only when you’ve learned to live in darkness that you can appreciate the light.

6. Understand I’m not depressed all the time.

Depression comes in waves. The best day of my life can be followed by the worst, and vice verse. Depression is something that coexists within me, never fully going away, but hiding in the shadows.

Sometimes, I can come across as the happiest, kindest person in the world. And it’s not that I’m faking it, it’s that on my good day, I really am that happy. It’s just those bad days that teach me to appreciate the good ones more.

7. Understand what I mean when I say, “I’m tired.”

I’m not tired because I haven’t slept — even though that’s probably true, too. It’s an emotional exhaustion of feeling everything in life so deeply. It’s the want and need to shut it off. But not even knowing how, because that’s who I am.

For many people with depression, “tired” isn’t something sleep can “solve.” It’s something I live with every day. But every once in awhile, I have good days that give me hope and strength on my worst days.

8. Understand the power you have in my life.

This piece was written by Kirsten Corley, author of “But Before You Leave

A kind text message. A snap chat. A “like.” A tag. A message. A conversation. An hour set aside. A visit. A compliment. These little interactions can shift my entire day. Because it’s the people I love that give me strength to get through the bad days.

9. Understand how much I love you.

Even in those moments when I might not be the person you recognize, I am still me. And I’ll say “thank you” too much, and apologize too often, and show you appreciation not just because you choose to be in my life, but you choose to accept this part of me when I struggle to accept myself.

It is through your love and acceptance that I am reminded to love myself.

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Thinkstock photo via bignoze.


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