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5 Things I Want People Who 'Mean Well' to Know About My Depression and Anxiety

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To the people who say or do unhelpful things, I know you probably mean well, and in writing this, so do I. Here’s what I need you to understand and what you can do to actually help.

1. My conditions are my responsibility, not my fault. 

I have an invisible disability, as well as anxiety and depression. It’s my responsibility to manage them, but that doesn’t mean they’re my fault. They are not an excuse, a choice or a lack of effort or motivation. Assuming as much won’t change anything about my situation. Support me in managing my symptoms and challenges, instead of criticizing me for causing them.

2. Comparisons aren’t your place.

I am currently unable to work, but eventually doing so is a goal of mine. Saying things like, “There are people way more disabled than you who work” is infuriating. You are not the authority on anyone’s level of impairment or their ability to do anything. Encourage me to reach my goals instead of shaming me for not reaching your expectations.

3. You only know part of my story.

Only my therapist knows everything about my situation. I have a right to privacy, and my own reasons for when, how, how much and to whom I disclose. I do what I feel is best at the time, with the options and resources I have available to me. Please don’t force me to share everything with you or defend myself. Also, the fact I don’t share every detail of my treatment with you doesn’t mean I’m not engaging in it.

4. You are not a professional.

Speaking of my therapist, you aren’t responsible for treating me. Depending on our relationship, you are welcome to engage in certain aspects of my treatment with me, ask me how it’s going or bring up any changes or concerns you notice. However, the only treatment suggestions you should make are that I comply with my existing plan or discuss changes with the appropriate person.

5. You are not the expert on my relationships.

Depression and anxiety can cause me to isolate at times. Encourage me to get back out into the world again, go out with my friends or go to family functions. However, if I have decided a relationship or social situation isn’t healthy for me, please respect that. Boundary setting of this kind isn’t easy. If I’ve done it, it’s because I feel it’s what is best for me, at least for now.

I appreciate you’re trying to help, and I know we’ve all said or done things with good intentions that backfired. The best thing you can do to help me is listen, encourage positive steps and accept I’m a competent adult capable of managing my own life and making decisions that are in my best interest.

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Thinkstock photo via kotoffei.

Originally published: April 18, 2017
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