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3 Things You Shouldn't Say to Someone With Depression

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I have noticed over the past couple months that people in general seem to have no problem invalidating people with depression. Just because it wasn’t “on purpose” or you “didn’t know,” doesn’t mean these comments don’t cause painful results. It can be hard to know what is OK and not OK to say when you have never experienced depression. As someone with depression who has been mocked and insulted, I understand most of the time people don’t mean what they say. Despite that, here are some comments that can really hurt a friend or loved one struggling with depression:

1. “I get sad sometimes, too.”

First of all, everyone gets sad. It’s a part of life. I truly hate that sadness exists in the world and I wish I could alleviate it for everyone, however, depression isn’t simply being sad. It’s self-hatred, lack of motivation and a lack of desire to do anything. It’s as if your whole world exists in the moment. Every comment or mean look feels like the end of the world. It’s not simply having a bad day or even a bad week. By saying the above comment, you are minimizing the pain people who struggle with this mental illness go through every minute of every day. I’m terribly sorry that you are sad, but this remark does no good for anyone.

2.”Focus on the positives.”

This comment is so easy to throw out. I mean, who shouldn’t focus on the positives, right? Surprisingly yes, I agree everyone in any circumstance should look to the good in life. The problem is, depression can take that away. Not the actual experience, but the feeling of joy and accomplishment. Picture depression as a foot and an amazing day as an ant. The foot overpowers the ant every single time. People with depression are often aware life is a gift. That does not mean we need to be told every second. In fact, it inflicts guilt. If I have blessings, what right do I have to lock myself in my room or cry for days at a time? In my experience, the worst part of depression isn’t the days when I can’t get out of bed, it’s the times when I feel I don’t deserve to feel the way I do. I understand you mean good by saying this, but all it does is make me feel worse about myself. Feelings are feelings. We shouldn’t have to justify them to ourselves or anyone else.

3.”Stop associating yourself with the label and the people that surround it.”

Let me tell you something, there is nothing wrong with the word depression. It affects millions of people every day. You aren’t crazy, or weird, or weak. “Labeling” yourself with depression isn’t a bad thing. In a lot of cases, depression can be scary. It’s a big word with even bigger meaning. When I was diagnosed, I was looking for anything to help me understand what was going on. I read books, articles and testimonies. None of them gave me the why. Why was this happening? Why did it start and how could it end? Understanding finally came one day. I don’t really know what happened. I just woke up, looked in the mirror and said the phrase I had been too scared to say for months: “I am depressed. I can’t fix it.” There’s no glue or tape for your brain. The only hope I have in recovery comes from myself. From the point on, I started to slowly get better. A couple months later, it’s still a daily struggle but it’s not embarrassing. I didn’t cause it. I shouldn’t be ashamed of it. Next time you start to tell someone their label doesn’t matter, think about it as a life raft. For some people with depression, they are desperate to cling on to something, anything. Unsure of who they are and what the purpose of life is. While it may seem to you like a huge step backwards, it can definitely be a step in the right direction for many people.

At the end of the day, everyone is different, so the response from these words will vary. Just remember words matter more than you will ever understand. What may seem to you like a joke or something helpful, might not be. The good news is, the fact that you say anything is a comfort. Most people run from me like I am contagious. Sticking around is so important and I appreciate it more than you can comprehend.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.

Originally published: August 2, 2017
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