Dealing with friends and family with depression
I was clinically depressed for many years. I didn’t realise it for a large portion of the time. I just thought life was “horrible” generally. I didn’t enjoy the things that I was involved in. People didn’t excite me, and things were mainly bland at the very best. I thought that’s how everyone felt. Like there was nothing for them and the people that are successful are just surviving.
I didn’t think there was anything positive about life. Well, apart from alcohol. Alcohol would excite me. The highlight of my day would be buying a bottle of vodka or similar to smash away the emptiness that I felt constantly. The constant knot in my belly. The feeling I was important to anyone. The loneliness, and the emptiness. Probably emptiness would be a good way of describing it. When I felt particularly empty I tended to latch onto other people and feed off their energy.
It didn’t strike me as abnormal until I started to read about the human condition. I call it the human condition, but I feel now it’s only a condition if you make it that way. However, the point being I started to realise that I was horrifically depressed and started to make positive moves to help myself into a happier frame of mind.
It wasn’t easy at all.
For those of you that think waking up one day and thinking, yay! I’m awesome! was how it happened you’d be wrong. It was a long and hard journey over the span of 10 years. Change in yourself is hard, but if you want to make it then you’ll do it. A lot can be said for human will.
When my life started to change dramatically I walked into trades where I help people that are in the same position as I was several years back. It’s strange when you can see the solution to other people’s problems so clearly, yet you know that it’s just not possible to tackle it head on.
It’s just not possible.
If I was to tell you that the skies were blue, even although you had been seeing them as green since you were born would you believe me after a quick conversation? Be honest with yourself!
The exact same can be said about the problems that we face and the depressions we slink into. We have barriers that some of us can’t see, nevermind overcome. And the trick is to help our friends and family see their barriers so that they can overcome them by themselves – or with a helping hand.
When you’re around people that are depressed you should definitely avoid controlling statements, such as “You should do this more..” or “Just get out and get a job”. I know it’s tough because we really want to help people but the strange thing about humans is that people approach problems in entirely different ways to their neighbours. What works for me doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for them.
The trick is to create a “Safe place” around the people you love. Never judge them, always let them lead, allow them to confide in you, and for God sakes whatever they tell you don’t tell anyone else – unless of course, you need to because it affects another person badly.
A lot can be said for confidentiality. People will trust and confide in you if you aren’t prone to mouthing it off to everyone else. – this is one of the first steps to building trust with a person. And building a safe place around them.
People that trust you will tell you their dirtiest sordid secrets because they know you aren’t going to judge them. Coincidentally, I had a grown man cry on my shoulder several weeks back because of a personal issue that he had. He tells me that “this isn’t like him” – but I get it a lot. It’s what I’m best at – easing the knot in other people’s stomach.
And now that you both have a safe place to talk with one another they will talk, and tell you their problems, and share their depression with you. But the trick is definitely not to revert back to “You should do this” but more of an “I hate that you feel this way. What would make you feel better? Coffee at Starbucks? A bike ride in the park?” – it seems ludicrous because you’re going to tell me that I’m sidestepping the issue, but I’m not. By doing “fun” things, and making “happy” memories we’re essentially increasing the person’s self-worth.
Eventually, your friend will be able to say, “I want to do this today, it’s fun!” – and by creating a sense of self, the war is nearly won. Because knowing what one wants to do is the first step to creating confidence and self-worth. And before long they will be solving all of their own problems on their own.
Yet please bear in mind that this essay may be short but the timescale will be long. Patience, understanding, confidentiality and letting them lead are the key areas to allowing your friend to heal. And, remember that nothing is straight forward so you may encounter your own sets of problems along the way!
Also. Please remember that alcohol and drugs are NEVER helpful to depression. They only fuel the symptoms. I speak from definite experience.
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