We all try to help those we love who have a mental health illness. It comes from a good place. Yet, despite our best intentions, there are a few things that we don’t really want to hear. Read below for 7 things not to say to someone with depression.
- Think positive thoughts: Ummm… I can think of being married to David Beckham and as rich as Victoria, but that isn’t going to make me feel better. OK, that’s a little extreme and I get it. Those around you believe that if you think positively and count your blessings you’ll feel better. Yes, I count my blessings and then I feel super guilty because I had the most amazing childhood, have a stable career, am physically healthy, and have a supportive family. Just thinking positive thoughts and being grateful isn’t going to ‘cure me’. Yes, it helps to have a gratitude journal and appreciate what you have, but again, it’s not going to “fix” me. The cognitive behavioral therapy I’ve been in has certainly taught me valuable skills on my perception, but solely thinking and being grateful needs to accompany much more than just this
- Pray: This one is a tough one. As a Christian, I do believe my faith helped me through some horrendous times. However, solely praying and not doing anything else is a lost cause. Someone wise quoted this for me, “God helps those who help themselves”. While those exact words are not found in the Bible (I think), I totally get it. Yes, praying and having faith gives me hope, but this coupled with my meds, therapists, family, and friends, is what I know makes me better.
- Can you try a little harder? : So I feel like a total bitch because I have said this to someone with depression. It was a very low point and I felt like a horrendous person, especially since I knew what they were going thru. Horrible. They should have exploded in my face, but nope. They were hurt. Anyway, long story short, Yes, I did apologize (although that didn’t seem like enough- which I know wasn’t). Don’t EVER tell someone with depression to try harder. Harder at what?! Getting better?! I can barely get out of bed! Some people with depression can go to their jobs, some can’t step outside their house. Everyone’s journey is different and we need to understand that just because someone with anxiety can go to a bar, doesn’t mean the other one can as well. Yes, this one is a complete no no.
- Take these supplements: As a (mostly) vegetarian and health freak, I understand the link between the earth’s amazing natural resources and how they impact your gut and brain. But all the turmeric in the world isn’t going to ‘cure’ me. I appreciate those around want to help , but I would suggest a) lead by example, and b) in a non-pushy way, to mention the health benefits of whatever fruit or veggie you did your research on. Trust me I’d be eating broccoli as fuel for my marathons if I knew it that’s all I needed to feel like I used to.
- Once you’re up and about you’ll feel better: Um, no. Maybe I will. Maybe people around me will just make me more anxious. I don’t know. I never know how a big crowd will impact me. I do see the benefits of being social, but I have found that for me what works is showing up (if I want to and committed to), and leaving when I want to. Not when everyone else wants to or when I “should leave”. This works for me. I am able to be social and don’t exhaust myself in the process.
- One day you won’t need your meds anymore: Oh, how I wish. Maybe! That would be amazing! I’d love to wake up and not have to take 5-7 pills a day so I can be a ‘functional’ human. Ultimately yes, that would be great- if I could stop taking medicine, but I don’t know. The side effects of some of the meds are less than ideal, but as I have found out the hard way, cutting them off cold turkey is one of the dumbest decisions I have made in my life. EVER. For now, the meds, in addition to other factors, is what allows me to carry out everyday tasks. If I never have to use them again, that would be a blessing, but that’s not the goal right now. The goal is to be stable and not want to lay on the couch all day.
- You use your mental health as a cop out: W.T.F. does this even mean? Do you use the flu to get out of doing things? Possibly. Or maybe you just don’t feel well enough to do anything. That’s how some people with depression and anxiety feel too. They don’t feel well enough to socialize or carry out basic functions. I mean, I would count it as a success the days when I would shower everyday. This is just mean. I suggest being more compassionate and understand where someone with an illness you can’t see comes from.
I’ve been guilty of doing at least one of these. I get it. We’re trying to help, but before doing so, just take a few minutes to understand how someone with anxiety and/or depression will interpret those words.