If you want to find a better way of interacting with people with depression, you can take a little bit of the hard work on yourself. Have a look at this list of 5 things people with depression would like you to know.
1. Depression isn’t the same as sadness
Depression is a mental health condition that can include feelings of sadness, but it is much more than that.
People with depression often have to deal with many debilitating symptoms like inability to focus, low energy, insomnia, mood swings and even feelings of hopelessness that can last a long time.
If you don’t know a lot about depression, you might not realize that all these symptoms are connected, and they don’t all look like sadness.
People with depression often struggle not to be overwhelmed by their symptoms, and they also struggle to recognize what is depression related and what is ‘just life’.
If you have not experienced depression yourself, take your lead from the person who suffers from depression and don’t make the assumption that you know how they feel.
2. Don’t tell us how to ‘get over it’
People with depression are very often faced with advice and even lecturing by those who don’t know much about it.
This is quite insulting – would you tell someone with a serious physical illness how to treat it? Giving this kind of unsolicited advice also suggests that depression isn’t a real illness and perhaps even that, deep down, you feel superior.
And it is certainly not possible to ‘snap out of it’ by an act of sudden will power. That is not even possible with ‘normal’ sadness.
And also, who are you to order other people around? And tell them what kinds of emotions are acceptable?
3. Do stay connected, even if we can’t respond right now
When you have very low energy, and perhaps also low self-esteem, you may not always be able to respond to a phone call or join an event you are invited to.
But, people with depression really appreciate it when you stay in touch. We are relieved when you make the effort to include us. We appreciate it when you are genuinely interested in tour lives.
Again, take your lead from us. Some days are better, and we can reciprocate. Other days, just turning up is more than we can do. Send us emails and messages so that we can respond when the time is right. And please don’t give up on us!
Exclusion is not a medical symptom of depression, but it happens to many of us. And it makes things so much worse.
4. Don’t take it personally.
People with depression are not ‘doing it’ because they want to hurt you. We are hurting deep inside, and in complicated ways that we don’t always understand.
Many of us are in treatment. Many of us are working on living with depression in the best possible way.
When we react from the symptoms of our depression (sometimes by not responding, sometimes by sudden outbursts of ‘negativity’), we are not doing it ‘for you’ or ‘against you’.
Depression is the illness we are dealing with. Our behavior is not intended to hurt you or anyone. Depression hurts us most.
5. Depression can affect anyone
There may be some genetic markers that predispose people to depression. Some elements of personal history, such as a traumatic childhood, make it more likely for depression to develop throughout our lives. However, like many other illnesses, depression affects anyone.
Depression is not a choice. It cannot be avoided by following all the rules, or by breaking them. People who live with depression aren’t trying to pose as tortured souls or suffering artists.
All we want is acceptance and understanding. All we want is to be seen as ‘real people,’ just like you. We live with a painful disease and are hoping to get better.
Depression doesn’t define us. We are still the people we were before.