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Thank you so much for sharing! These are great suggestions. Asking questions but at the same time not trying to "fix" is very helpful.
I wonder how we can encourage others to support us in this way? When I just want to vent I sometimes I will say - "I just need to vent please don't feel like I want you to fix this for me. Just listening is all I need now." This can really help take the pressure off some people who want to help but don't know how. However, it does depend on the individual; I will still have people telling me to think positive. Which of course is not always the best advice! :)
How can you try to encourage the kind of support you would benefit from?
Ashley, Health Educator
When I feel extremely down, I often feel very isolated from people, even if I am forcing myself to be with others. It's like I'm on a different planet than everyone else. When I muster up the courage to tell someone how I feel, I often hear, "I'm sorry" from them and not much else. I understand that they might not know what to say... but it makes me feel even more isolated because they don't know how to engage with me. It makes me feel like a burden. It tells me its not ok to feel the way that I do. I need people that want to support me to accept me the way I am (not saying that I shouldn't continue to grow) and let me know they love all of me.
If the people that are close to me want to help, they could engage in conversation about what's happening inside of me. Ask me questions about how I'm doing. If I say things are rough, ask how do I usually deal with things like this? It is helpful when people I'm close to don't lecture me about what they think I should be doing. Instead, reminding me of the tools I already have and holding me accountable to using them is much more helpful. How can I disagree? I was the one who said the tools were important to me in the first place. However, once someone has shown me they care and are helping me remember ways to cope, I definitely don't mind if they tell me things that work for them or offer me resources.
I know that sometimes us depressed people can jabber on and on about how awful we're feeling and how horrible everything is around us. I appreciate when people don't try to convince me otherwise or tell me I'm wrong. I notice when they do, it can put me on the defensive, thinking things like- they just don't understand how hard this is for me or I shouldn't have said anything, they think I'm being awful. I would rather have them ask questions about how do I usually/ or how am I going to cope with these things? Changing the conversation to strategizing is much more tolerable for the listener, and much more productive for the depressed. However, once again, I don't want to be lectured. If I had a nickel for every time someone just wanted to fix me. For me depression is something I've dealt with my entire life and may continue to... it's something that has to be managed day by day.
I think what makes me feel supported in my darkest times is when the people close to me tell me they love me always and are here WITH me through this. They can then show that by checking in, asking questions, helping me to remember my tools and perhaps making sure I have a plan for what I will do to cope with what is at hand.
Here are a few of my thoughts:
I want my family and friends to know I'm not lazy (or crazy, for that matter). My house is a mess because I cannot summon the energy to clean it, not because I don't want it clean. It helps me when they understand and chip in to help get things in order. Having my home in a state of disarray is a contributing factor in my battle with depression, but I largely feel powerless to do anything about it. That is just one analogy, there are many more... I am fortunate to have understanding family and friends, but I don't want to be an on-going burden...
Personally, I think I'm hindered by anxiety, along with depression. The two together have me feeling powerless and paralyzed to be able to get over either. This not only affects my home-life, but my work-life too.
Back in the olden days when I was a kid, I didn't even have a clue what real depression was. "Why can't they just think happy thoughts and get over it?" was my question. Now I understand that it is not that easy. I want others to know that depression is real, that it cannot be overcome with "happy thoughts" and that those suffering are not crazy. One cannot "just get over this".
I have noticed we often get questions from people who love someone with depression. They want to know how to support their loved one. I often tell them to listen and try to refrain from offering advice. Being understanding and non-judgemental sounds simple but it is often not what people get from their loved ones. They often get canned advice, seemingly "easy" solutions and unfair assumptions.
I wanted to hear from the members here, individuals who battle depression themselves. What do you need from your loved ones? What helps you? What hinders you? and what do you wish people knew about depression?
Ashley, Health Educator