Evening folks! I have the evening to myself so I am taking the time to catch up on some South Park and gale you with the next installment on the second half of what I wanted to discuss, how to talk with people with depression.
Needless to say, there are people who are struggling to deal with the demons in their heads that is their negative thoughts. If these people are like me, they have bottled a lot of their emotions inside and, from what I have gathered, are very good at smiling and working towards getting through the day unharmed. This can be exhausting. Before I started this journey I would get home at the end of the day and take this out on my partner. There were times that my partner received a lot of backlash from me, which in turn upset him. We would say things, I would end up crying and he feels bad for making me cry. This still happens on occasion, but our communication has become stronger. I know that there is a lot of self identification that I still need to do and it is a slow process.
So what do you say when the mask slips off the face of your loved one? Or even a co-worker or friend that has become someone you care about?
Well, there are things that are not a good idea to say. For example:
- “Suck it up.”
- “Man up!”
- “You shouldn’t feel this way.”
- “There is no reason for you to feel this way!”
- “You are such a whiner!”
Really, anything that makes the person feel guilty or insecure is a bad idea to say when addressing their feelings. They do not need someone who reinforces the negative thoughts in their heads. Their brains are doing a great job at making them feel awful as it is.There is no need to give them more thoughts to cloud their minds.
In the end, just letting that person know that you are there for them if they want to talk is the biggest help that you can give. If they take you up on the offer, listening to them with an open mind is the best thing that you can do. Take what they say and actually listen to it. If you can relate, just keep your thoughts to yourself until they are officially finished talking. This conversation is about them, not you. If there is any insight you can give, perhaps think back and tell them things that you would have liked to hear in that situation. Truthful things. They don’t want sympathy, they want answers to help them salvage what they are holding onto.
Give them the freedom to feel what they are feelings. By this, I mean giving them a free space to feel sadness if they so desire. Do not discount the feeling. They are sad for a reason. Helping them break down why they are sad and helping them come up with ways to help resolve the feelings is a better use of your time rather than burying them deeper under their negative thoughts.
Obviously, don’t expect that what you say will be an instant turnaround for your loved one. The visual below shows what it is like for someone who has been dealing with any type of rehabilitation:
As you can see, this visual can relate to many situations where people are trying to change any habit, whether that is drugs, alcohol, and perhaps harder than the other two, negative thoughts. With any habit, you can fall into a vague part of this spectrum at any point.
One of the things I struggle with is trying to change my negative thoughts into a believable thought. For example:
Am I really worthless?
Do humans really have a value?
What makes me any more worthless than a person next to me?
Sure, they seem to have it all figured out. With their traveling, new buys, new homes, and new families it sure appears that way. I really have no idea what their bank accounts are reflecting currently. I also have no idea if they are actually happy.
I had the impression I would be further ahead than I am right now, but I have accomplished so much that isn’t as cookie cutter as the social media reflects for my “friends”. But I am here, I am well educated. Sure I am working many hours, but I have what I need. My bills are paid generally, I’m not cold or hungry. I have an amazing partner who loves me despite my flaws. I am me! I don’t need the materials, all I need is to learn more and more about who I am and what I want.
As you can see, building up from the two word sentence that can pierce through your psyche into that last paragraph can be painful. That last paragraph, it sounds very fake to me, even still counting my blessings and my achievements.
If anything, the best way to help connect to your loved ones is to remind them of who they are. They are not their depression. Perhaps even tell them who they are in your eyes. My partner tells me that I am amazing all the time and that he loves me. Which, after nine years would make people’s eyes roll. But, sometimes it is the reinforcement that I need to continue to fight. He helps me see the good things in ME. He gives me that confidence boost that makes me feel awesome inside and out. This confidence inspires this DUMBOPTIMIST to at least try.
And sometimes all you need to be is that shoulder to cry on. Sometimes, there really isn’t anything you can say or do to make someone feel better. Just hold them and tell them you are there if they want to talk, vent, or just do something to get their minds off what they’re experiencing. Just let them know they are not alone.
And with that friends, I bid you adieu.
Cheers and keep smiling!