I’m very fortunate that on the whole, I’ve been met with over-riding support from family and friends, after sharing the news of my depression diagnosis. However, as I’m sure is the case with everyone living with depression (or has lived with it), I’ve had some of the ‘what not to say’ type comments too. I’ve responded to each politely, pointing out what you think would be the obvious, and thankfully I don’t think I offended anyone.
Anyway, I decided I’d add a post to this blog, about what not to say to someone living with depression. These are just a handful of examples, I’m sure there are more out there.
What NOT to say: “There is always someone worse off than you in the world.” Those living with depression know this, they don’t need anyone to tell them. As humans, any problems or difficulties we face at any given time, are only relative to our individual situations. That doesn’t mean any of us aren’t realistic. For me personally, I’m living with depression and as it’s still “early days” for me, I’m finding it difficult to begin with. However, I know that in comparison, my difficulties are nothing compared to people caught up in the conflict in Syria. (Lets face it, I’d be pretty stupid and self-centered, if I did think my current woes were on a par with the suffering in Syria). I haven’t lost sight of the suffering of others, just because I’ve got my own troubles at the moment.
What NOT to say: “Snap out of it” or “have you tried not being depressed.” If only it were that easy. I’m mean seriously, does anyone think that if it was as simple as “snapping out of it” or trying not to be depressed, that those with depression wouldn’t just do that?! No-one wants to be depressed, I know if I could magically “heal” myself, I would do so in an instant.
What NOT to say: “Have you tried herbal tea/chocolate/going to the gym/any other example, it always makes me feel better, when I’m down in the dumps.” With all due respect, depression isn’t simply being ‘down in the dumps’, it’s a psychological illness. It isn’t cured by a cup of herbal tea (which I do enjoy by the way), eating some chocolate (something else I enjoy) or going to the gym (something I don’t enjoy). Of course, it’s important for those living with depression to start doing the things they enjoy again, as one of the symptoms of depression is losing enjoyment in things you’ve previously loved doing. However it’s not going to magically “cure” a person’s depression.
What NOT to say: “Depression is a sign of weakness.” Quite possible the worst thing anyone could say to someone living with depression, as that person will already be feeling pretty shit about themselves, you really don’t want to be making them feel worse. Plus there remains the simple fact, that depression = weakness, simply isn’t true. Winston Churchill suffered from depression (he called it ‘the black dog’) and no-one can call Churchill weak.
Instead of saying any of these things, there’s one thing you could simply say instead, or something similar…
“You WILL get through this and I’ll be here to support you every step of the way.”
Whenever someone said to that me, or something very similar, it was music to my ears.