Yes we have all said we are depressed before, but until you have seen someone and loved someone who struggles with depression day in and day out you may not really know what depression is. It is a mental and physical struggle for the person with depression, but also for all their loved ones. No one wants to see someone they love fighting a battle and not be able to help. As someone close to me struggling with depression once said “even a task as simple as feeding the dog seems hard.”
There are a few things I have learned while loving someone with depression…
- It’s a disease- I think this is probably the most overlooked thing by someone not suffering from depression or not knowing someone who does. Depression is a disease that the person has. It is just like cancer or diabetes. The person has no control over it. They are not weak. They cannot just suck it up. The person’s brain actually works differently than someone not suffering from depression. Just always be aware of this and don’t tell someone they just need to get over it. The person can’t help that they have depression.
- Don’t take it personal– This one may be the hardest for a loved one who has someone suffering with depression. You have to constantly remind yourself that their distance has nothing to do with you. They are fighting internal battle within themselves. It is easy for us as a loved one to think that we did something wrong, but at the end of the day it has nothing to do with what we did or said. It really is the mental disorder and their brain chemical imbalance. It has NOTHING to do with you.
- Tell them how much they mean to you- Not always but usually, someone struggling with depression is feeling hopeless and not good enough for anyone. You, as their loved one, know this is far from the truth, but they have blinders on and cannot see all the people that love them and find them amazing. Tell them that you love them and that you would be lost without them. Sometimes they may fight you and say no that is not true, but just stay firm on your love and admiration for them. They are so much more than their depression. At some point they will hear you.
- Tell them what you like about them- Sometimes it doesn’t have to be a deep conversation. They are already in their own heads with deep thoughts. So why not keep it light, but loving. Tell them all the small things you like about them. Tell them you love their smile. They look good! You like the shirt they are wearing. Just sometimes the small things are heard before the larger things. Be encouraging in the most authentic way. Just make sure to not overdo it. Whatever you do be genuine.
- Listen without interruption- Sometime as their loved one we think we know what’s best for them, but sometimes that is simply not true. At times it is best to just listen to them and do not speak. Do not give advice. Just be there for their rambles. Make sure they know you will not judge and you want to hear them. It does not have to be deep and about their depression. It can simply be about their lunch they had that day. It is important that they feel heard. You don’t need to bring it back to their depression all the time. Almost all their thoughts are consumed by the depression, so it’s nice when they can focus on something else. Though with that being said, if they do want to talk about it let them talk about it, and what is bothering them. Make sure you are listening to understand and to not just respond.
- Just be there in silence- There is also many times where every tasks are hard to the one struggling with depression. They do not have the energy for anything. At times they just need to be silent or to rest. As their loved one know that is ok. Just sit beside them while they sleep or watch a movie for the 5th time. It is ok for there to be silence while you support them.
- Get them help- At times the depression can get so severe you need to help them seek outside resources. There can be opposition at first, but if it is that severe it is your job to make sure they get the care they need. This can be a counselor, medication, suicide prevention. Just be aware of the treatment options because that is the last thing on your loved one struggling with depressions mind.
- Suicide is not selfish- We have all heard suicide is selfish. It is taking the “easy way out.” Though in the eyes of the depressed, they think you would be better off without them. They think they are a burden, and our lives would be easier without them. You and I both know that is not the case. In actuality our lives would be so much harder without them. There would be a hole in our heart and our lives if they weren’t there. So if they speak of suicide do not tell them they are selfish, but tell them how much you need them in your life and how much better they make your life.
It the simplest of words, just love them. Make sure they don’t feel judgement, inadequate, or less of a person because they are depressed. They are still the same person you love, they are just struggling a bit right now. Remember you loved them before, you love them during, and you’ll love them after. Never let the love you have for them waiver.