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What I Need From My Loved Ones During a Major Depressive Episode

It is not very often that I admit I need help. I am stubborn, independent and believe I can do it all on my own. When I am the “healthy” me, I take care of everyone. I reach out to others. I make sure everyone is comfortable and well. When you notice I am not my “healthy” self, this is what I need from you:

1. Compassion and understanding.

Please understand I do not feel the way I do out of choice. As much as I want to understand why I am going through this cycle at this particular moment, I also know this can be hard for you, too. I may not know why my heart sinks to my feet randomly, or races out of my chest, or why I may not be able to get out of bed for a week. I am just as frustrated as you are, but I need you to give me the compassion I would give to you — that I am unable to give to myself right this minute.

2. Help in the small areas.

Small tasks that may seem easy to you, like getting out of bed, showering, eating, cleaning. Those seem like mountain climbs for me during a depressive episode. Some days it takes all of my strength to do one of two of these things. Please know that during this time I need help with the small things, and I will sincerely appreciate your efforts. Encourage me to get out of bed. Help me do the dishes. Do not be distracted by the fact I’m not doing as much as I normally would in my “healthy” state. Remember I’m hurting and this is hard for me.

3. Reassure me I’m not doing as horrible as I think I am.

Sometimes I know what I have going for me. I know I’m still able to work, go to school and function somewhat “normally.” However, this is hard for me because I notice the change in myself and that I’m not living up to my full potential. Let me know it’s OK if all I did was shower today. Tell me to have a good day when you know it’s going to be rough to push through a typical 8-hour shift. Notice my efforts, and reassure me I’ll get through this episode just like every other time before.

4. Ask me how I’m feeling and how I’m coping.

I try not to be a burden when I notice myself in this state. I won’t ruin a day off by boring you with how horrible I feel. I will silently fight this battle in my head, whether I want to talk about it or not. Remember that the two best friends, anxiety and depression, are a powerful thing in my mind. Asking how I’m feeling makes me feel supported, and open to have conversations with you when I’m not feeling my “healthy” self in the future.

5. Make sure I am safe and feel confident asking for help.

Like I said before, asking how I am feeling will allow me to feel comfortable enough to reach out. However, I don’t want to make the uncomfortable questions hard for you. Please remember that asking me if I have thoughts of suicide will show me you care; it won’t trigger me or make me feel “crazy.” Suicidal thoughts and self-harm are a part of depression, and asking me about these things makes me know someone is concerned about my safety. Checking in on the difficult parts of depression is not something anyone wants to talk about, but I feel it makes the biggest impact.

6. Remember I am the same person underneath, “healthy” self and “depressive” self.

I know I will face this illness my whole life, as it comes and goes as this unwanted permanent guest. Understand that although this depression has always and will always be a part of me, and is sometimes overbearing me in my life, it is not who I am and who I want to be. I will continue to fight to feel better and do everything in my power to not let the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety control my life. I am the same compassionate, thoughtful, loving and determined person with my depression — I might just need your help remembering that sometimes when I’m not my “healthy” self.

Previously published on Self Love Beauty

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Thinkstock photo via AntonioGuillem