3 Phrases That May Be Hurtful to Say To A Loved One Who Suffers From Depression
“Once you choose hope, anything is possible.” – Christopher Reeve
This heartfelt article is from my own lived experiences with depression. I struggled with depression for most of my young adult life and well into my late thirties. I often felt as if I was losing control of my emotions which caused my mind to shut down in order to avoid the feeling that I was unable to cope with.
I did not wake up one day and choose to be depressed. I was not sad by choice nor did I have a jaded or negative outlook on life. I was physically incapable of snapping out of it. Depression cannot be willed away by looking on the bright side of things. For me, depression was an uncontrollable sadness and a sense of dread. It was an unexplained feeling of gloom and doom that simply could not be changed by positive quotes printed over images of flowers, babies and kittens sent by well-meaning loved ones and friends.
Everyone experiences depression differently and each person may seek relief differently. For me, relief came when I hit rock bottom and was forced to deal with the emotional soul fractures that were the root cause of my depression. This catapulted me to another level of consciousness which landed me in therapy for over five years. It was in the trusted care of trained professionals that I was finally able to deal with the symptoms that were drowning out my ability to find my emotional center. With that being said, there were some challenging moments with family and friends that cut deep into my already fragile state of mind. These types of conversations made me feel worse even though the intention was to help me feel better. Here are three phrases that sent my already hurting self-deeper into spiritual chaos.
1) Cheer Up, just be Happy!
As much a someone wants to “be happy” saying this may trigger a deep sense of shame in someone who suffers from depression. If it was as easy as just “be happy” then I am 100% sure everyone would choose to just snap-out-of-it and carry on with life as if they have found the secret to the ever elusive state of bliss. It is NOT that easy. Saying this to a person who suffers from debilitating depression may alienate them, push them deeper into despair, and be more harmful even if it is intended to be helpful.
2) You have to be More Positive!
Nothing is more infuriating to a person with depression than hearing someone tell you to “be positive”. This may trigger an intense sense of anger or rage because it suggests that the person is consciously choosing undesirable feelings. Depression is not a choice. It is an overwhelming feeling of sadness, despair, and emptiness that can be catastrophic to the psyche of those who are experiencing the symptoms. The snowball of misery gains downward momentum when someone says “be positive”.
3) Tomorrow is a New Day!
Everyone, including myself, is fully aware of the fact that “tomorrow is a new day”. For those who suffer from depression, the idea of “tomorrow” may come with a deep sense of anxiety, especially if the symptoms of depression are not relieved by either dusk or dawn. If depression has been causing problems in their lives for several days, weeks or years, these words may send someone spiraling deeper into despair for not looking forward to night or day as if they are doing something wrong because of their inability to “shake it off” and siege the new day.
What You Should Say Instead (A compassion statement)
How can I help you right where you are today?
This is a compassion question that may take away the pressure of having to find an answer where there may not be one. Sometimes there are no words that can explain what your loved one with depression is feeling at that moment. Some days relief may be a ride in the country or a day in the city and some days it may be laying in the comfort of their own bed with a book and a cup of hot tea. It all depends on the mood and at what level the person is able to function without added stress or pressure to fill their day with activity and answers. Sometimes just knowing that someone is willing to listen without trying to “fix them” may take away the angst of being where they are at. From my experience, a depressed person may not know what to say or how to ask for what they need because they simply do not know at the moment. I know this all too well because I did not know what to ask for in the throes of my depression because I did not know what the problem was.
Ending the Stigma and Shame Associated with Depression
If you have access to the internet you know the current affairs concerning this topic. There is nothing to be ashamed of. If you, or a loved, is suffering reach out for help. You are not alone. There are millions of souls who are having similar life experiences, myself included. I openly share my story and my truth so that I can help tear down the walls I once hid behind in order to protect my image of success. Asking for help is NOT a weakness or a lack of moral character, it is a profound sign of strength. We can be so much more than our depression. Please, reach out to a trusted person or organization and ask for help! If I can do it, I believe you can too.
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