Since it’s National Suicide Prevention Week, I want to address some of the issues that people who are struggling deal with whenever the darkness rears its ugly head.
On Monday, we went over not feeling comfortable with reaching out for help. Today, I want to cover what can sometimes happen when you DO open up: misunderstandings galore.
I was surfing the interwebs the other day when I came across Chris Brogan’s most recent post, “Every Time I Talk About Depression – Being Brave.”
Chris hit the nail on the head when he described how people often misunderstand his depression…
“Often, people think I’m “down in the dumps” when I talk about depression. That’s not at all what I am. I’m going through a series of chemical reactions to some external stressor blended with inadequate or overtaxed internal coping mechanisms.”
Many friends and family members take it personally when I’m not feeling my usual bubbly self. As much as I can say, “It’s nothing you did or can help with,” I know they still have a tough time accepting that.
Now that I’m more open about my ups and downs, I find that my cheerleaders who don’t get depressed themselves sometimes don’t understand the full scope of what I’m experiencing when my serotonin takes a dive. It’s not their fault; it’s hard to fully grasp an experience you’ve never personally gone through.
So I’ve devised a list of tips, facts and advice to give to your cheerleaders when you are having a hard time expressing exactly what you need… or don’t need for that matter.
Here are some facts for you cheerleaders out there (or facts to share with your cheerleaders):
Sometimes, it just happens.
It could be hormonal, seasonal, induced by stress or lack of sleep, or triggered by something that we don’t even fully understand. Often times, depression just comes up and we’re not sure why. Please don’t keep prying as to what’s “making us sad.” We’re not sad; we’re just a little imbalanced at the moment. :)
When we need space, we need space.
The only way I truly start feeling better is being silent and doing something alone that grounds me in the present. I’m not very good at addressing my depression when I’m around other people, working a lot, surrounded with noise, or being pressured to go out. When we need silence, just give it to us for a little bit. It’s the best way for us to focus on how to make ourselves better.
If you’re concerned, ask.
A lot of people who suffer from depression never seek help for many reasons: stigma, fear, denial, etc. If you’re concerned about someone, don’t be afraid to ask if they’re ok and if there’s anything you can help with. When you do, try to keep it as open as possible and be ready to actually be there to help if you offer it. Don’t offer any specific remedies (see “Your way is not my way” below). Just let them know you care and that you’re there for them.
Anger is not helpful, neither is “Just get over it.”
As we already covered, depression is a chemical imbalance and can not always just simply be “snapped out of.” Instead of abrasiveness, embrace encouragement. Encourage positive actions that your loved one has expressed he/she would like to accomplish. Haven’t heard any from him/her? Ask.
The danger here is going into nagging territory. Encouragement is different; it is subtle and comes from a loving place rather than an urge to control. Give this person space to take action and with subtle encouragement, he/she will.
If someone has expressed the urge to hurt themselves, tell someone who can help.
This is tricky because if you tell someone, you run the risk of losing this person’s trust forever. If you don’t, though, you run the risk of this person taking his/her own life.
I would rather take the former than the latter. This person needs help and may be too afraid to ask for it.
If your loved one tells you that they are planning to hurt themselves, call 1-800-SUICIDE or, if it’s urgent, 911 (your local emergency number). If you’re just worried in a more general sense, check out TWLOHA’s resource page; there are tons of sites out there to help you understand what this person may be going through and how best to help.
Your way is not my way.
This tip is meant for anybody and everybody out there, even those struggling with depression right now.
Another great line from Chris’s post is, “Your way isn’t my way and my way isn’t yours.”
Some of the tips here might not apply to you or your loved one. Whatever your experience with depression has been in the past, this person is unique in the way they handle their own.
Meds, meditation, exercise, therapy, and many other options are available to your loved one, but he/she is the only one that can know for sure what works best. I try to keep an open mind when it comes to hearing about what helps each person most because, when it comes down to it, we can never know the full story behind what this person is going through. Judgement has no place here. Only love… which has been one of the best forms of medication I have personally come across.
The best way to help us is to let us know that we are loved.
This seems to work around the board.
The most precious thing in life is love. It strengthens us. It encourages us. It lets us know that we are not alone.
Be open with your love. We need to know that it exists, that we’re not standing up against the darkness by ourselves. Like I said in my last post, my family’s love helped me get out of my deepest depression and has helped me fend it off ever since. Without their support, I don’t know if I could have done it.
As much as we may come off tough, introverted, angry, stubborn or misanthropic, it’s often a front we put up to keep people from realizing the depths of our pain.
Be strong and show us how strong we can be, too. Your love could be what pulls us up and out of the darkness for good.