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15 'Harmless' Comments That Actually Hurt People With Depression

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Opening up about your depression can be a daunting experience, and when you finally do build up the courage to be honest with those you trust, their responses sometimes leave a lot to be desired.

While some people respond compassionately when you reach out for help, others might not. Often, these people’s responses come from a place of wanting to help, but not being quite sure how. Regardless of the motive, their “harmless” responses can be hurtful and invalidating, the reasons why not readily apparent to anyone who hasn’t lived with it. We’ve all been on the receiving end of the incorrect advice, the snide remarks, the apparent lack of compassion. Whatever you’ve heard, we guarantee you’re not alone.

We wanted to know what hurtful responses our community have received when they opened up about their depression, so we asked them to share one and explain how it felt when they heard it.

Remember, no matter who said what, your experiences are valid and you deserve compassion. 

Here’s what our community told us:

1. “Being depressed is a choice.”

“’Being depressed is a choice. You can choose to feel differently.’ Trust me, I’ve tried and it doesn’t work that way. I wish I wasn’t depressed, but depression isn’t a choice; it’s a mental disorder. You wouldn’t tell someone with diabetes to choose to not have diabetes, would you? So then why do you tell me that depression is a choice? It’s not.” — Kaylie E.

“’You just have to try to be happy. Stop being so negative all the time.’ This makes me feel like nobody understands. I have always been the kind of person who tries to see the bright side of everything. People used to tell me it was annoying and naive to be so optimistic all the time. There is so much more to anxiety and depression than just looking on the sunny side. I wish they could understand that if it were that easy, if it were a choice, nobody would go through this voluntarily.” — Dottie G.

2. “You’re depressed because you don’t have God in your life.”

“’You’re depressed because you don’t have God in you life like you say you do.’ Punch me right in the chest, why don’t you? My relationship with God is just that: my relationship with God. No amount of prayer takes away what God has given me to deal with. Depression is real, and medication and therapy helps me.” — Chanel Y.

‘Just go to church, you won’t be depressed anymore.’” — Julie D.

“’God only gives us what we can handle.’ This annoys me for two reasons. One: I’m an atheist so I don’t believe God gives me anything. Two: Just because someone can handle massive amounts of pain and depression doesn’t mean they should have to. I mean, I’ve got a high tolerance for pain, so I could probably handle being stabbed or shot, but that doesn’t mean I should be. It’s disingenuous.” — Lacie J.

3. “Stop being lazy.”

“’Stop being lazy.’ I wish with all my heart I could do what I want and need to do, but there are so many clouds in my brain preventing me from doing so.” — Haley F.

“‘Stop being so lazy.’ I hate this because I try my absolute best and work hard in everything I do, but it gets to the point where I’m too exhausted to do anything and I just want to sleep. I may have gotten some sleep the night before, but this feeling may still creep up out of nowhere and I wish I could do something to control it. I’ve tried numerous times, but most days are harder than others.” — Breeana G.

4. “Only weak people have depression.”

“’Huh. I always thought you were stronger than that.’ It was gutting — it played into everything this culture has fed me about how depression is a moral failing and a sign of weakness. It amped up my self-loathing, which was already at its zenith (or nadir depending on how you want to view it).” — Susan H.

5. “You don’t look depressed.”

“‘Oh, but you don’t look like you’re depressed.’ Do I need a f*cking sign? When I told people about my depression, 90 percent didn’t know what to say or how to react, so why should I show it?” — Möpfel F.

“’Oh wow. I didn’t know you were depressed/anxious. You don’t look like you are.’ I swear. It’s just like, what am I supposed to look and act like? Also, am I not allowed to have any good moments? It just takes that good moment I am having and ruins it. So then I go back to thinking and being unhappy.” — Leilani T.

6. “You’re lucky you don’t have to work.”

“‘Wow, must be nice to only work part-time.’ Believe me, I wish I could hold down a full-time job. I’ve tried. It wasn’t good. Also, don’t assume that I must be ‘well off’ to be able to afford part time. I can’t afford it and hate the fact that I’m on benefits as well in order to pay my rent. But it is what it is. I work as much and as hard as I can without damaging my mental health, and I’m proud that I manage to have a job at all. Still, I can’t help but feel guilty when people suggest I’m ‘lucky’ to have this ‘lifestyle.’” — Holly B. 

“’Must have been nice to have the summer off.’ Sure, compared to the hellish job that caused me to have a breakdown and put me on medical leave… But I’ll bet they wouldn’t consider 60 percent pay and therapy twice a week to be ‘nice.’ Or not being able to get out of bed or bathe. It wasn’t a damn vacation.” — Shaun S.

7. “What do you have to be depressed about?”

“’You’re only a teenager, what do you have to be depressed about? Wait until you get to the real world.’ Now that I’m am adult who still struggles with depression, I always think about how much worse I was as a teenager, even though I’ve gone through a hell of a lot more since then. It makes me think to myself all the time that things will get worse and if good things are happening, it’s only because there’s probably something a lot worse about to happen.” — Lizzy H.

“My parents: ‘But you have everything you could need in your life, why would you be depressed?’ It was well-meant but it showed how little they know about depression, and also how little they know about my life. It made me feel like I have to justify my feelings. And doing so while knowing they’d never ‘accept’ or understand the triggers and reasons, but tell me to pull myself together, as usual.” — Anne L.

“’You don’t have any reason to be depressed (followed by list of good things in my life).’ Trust me, I’m aware I should be thankful for all those things, and it just makes me feel worse that sometimes it truly feels like I don’t deserve those things/people and they’d do better without me.” — Angelique G.

8. “It’s all in your head.”

“‘It’s just in your head.’ Yeah, it’s there and it isn’t going away. I pray all the time for it to not be there. Not my choice.” — Lisa B.

“‘It’s in your head. Mind over matter.’ They just don’t get how painful and how much effort goes into fighting yourself every single day.” — Morgan L.

“’It’s all in your head. You just need to shake it off.’ Said by my brother who grew up watching my mentally ill mother struggle, and helped our aunt and uncle plan my cousin’s funeral after his suicide. Yeah, it was all in our heads. So much ignorance out there.” — Melodie K.

9. “You’re being selfish.”

“’Quit being selfish, we all have problems, you’re just adding to them. Your bad day is no different than anyone else’s, so put your big girl pants on, grow up and act like an adult…’ This was said to me two days after I lost my mom to cancer, at 19 years old. I’d been struggling with suicide and depression since I was 7 (and spent my Sweet 16 summer months locked up in the psych ward) so it was my breaking point and I just missed my mommy.” — Kimberley H.

10. “Maybe it’s your diet?”

“‘Maybe it’s all this crap you eat?’ Like, if I just ate more kale, my depression would disappear. I binge eat because I’m depressed, not the other way around. On my good days, I eat like a ‘normal’ healthy person. On my bad days, I’ll eat 100 dollars worth of junk food because it seems like the only way my body will release more serotonin and fill the giant void in me.” — K. Belter

“‘You should become vegan. It’s probably all the additives in your food. Have you tried essential oils? A liver, kidney, colon cleanse would be good for you!’” — LaTessa N.

11. “You sleep too much.”

“’You sleep way too much!’ ‘When are you going to get up?’ ‘All you’re going to do is nap today…?’ Sleep isn’t a choice when I’m in the middle of a depressive episode. How about, instead of commenting on my sleep, gently ask me if there’s anything wrong or what you can do to help me through it.” — Stefanie K.

12. “It’s just your hormones and your age.”

“‘It’s just ‘that time’ for you kids, stop being overdramatic.’ It is true that hormones can cause you to feel depressed at times, but I feel like my feelings weren’t taken seriously just because of my age. Because I am ‘too young’ to feel these things. I’m only 12 (almost 13 in a week) but I’ve struggled with depression during middle school (the reason why I’m now homeschooled). People told me it was only hormones and it would be all better tomorrow, but it never was. I could barely could get out of bed, shower or even talk to my friends. I was always the class clown in school, so they never really knew that deep down, I just wanted to end it all. I was bullied a lot during that period, and it just made it worse.” — Ruby M.

“‘This is a normal teenage experience, you’re blowing it completely out of proportion.’ This made me feel so unheard. I knew I wasn’t going to win this one, so I just gritted my teeth, and kept telling ‘No, this isn’t ‘normal’.’ It’s made me question myself every day since.” — Justine A.

13. “We all get sad sometimes.”

“’We all get sad sometimes.’ I know people are trying to relate, but my depression isn’t just sadness. By saying this, you’re erasing my illness. I am in pain and I struggle literally every day. Being sad sometimes is not what’s happening to me.” — Carmin R.

14. “Just snap out of it.”

“’Oh, snap out of it.’ I don’t even think the person, who was close to me, realized how hurtful that was. If it was as simple as snapping out of it, I’d be fine. Another member of my family thinks it is a choice to be depressed or bipolar — that we just flip a switch of our choosing.” — Heather M.

15. Silence.

“The worst thing I have heard from someone is silence. During probably the worst time in my life, my supposed best friend walked away. At least talk to me; that would be less painful than you just disappearing.” — Nicole B.

What should you say to someone with depression? Tell us in the comments below.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Getty image via jesadaphorn

Originally published: February 23, 2018
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