For the better part of 15 years now, I’ve dealt with mild to severe depression. It comes and goes seemingly randomly. I haven’t been able to pin-point the triggers and haven’t made much progress in controlling it. I don’t deal well with medication and I’m not big on talking, so the counseling angle is never very appealing. Usually, the episodes are around 2 weeks long and then fade and everything goes back to normal (which is probably still depressed, but manageable). For the last 8 months or so, however, it’s been more of a constant weight with some time-spans dipping into the severe range for extended periods. I think it’s time for me to get some help, but taking that first step is the hardest part.
What the last 8 months has shown me, however, is that most people in my life don’t even notice, or at least don’t get what is going on. And that makes it worse. Am I really that much of an asshole on a regular basis, that when things get really bad in my head, outwardly I’m not all that different? Those that do notice, tend to say the worst possible things that they could to a depressed person. I’m sure it stems from misunderstanding and a feeling of being unable to know what to do, but these are a few things that, at least from my perspective, should never be said to, or around, a depressed person:
- “Cheer up!” – That is one phrase, above all others, that makes just want to punch someone in the throat.
- “He’s grumpy today” – Grumpy? Talk about trivializing. Ugh.
- “He’s just being a dick today” – Yeah, while I had headphones on at work (nothing play on them) and a coworker (who is also a close friend) said that to a bunch of folks (including my boss) who were in his cubicle (next to mine).
- “What’s your problem?” or “Why are you so miserable?” – I’m not going to answer with “I am depressed”. So, my non-answer will just lead to the statements above anyway by my avoiding the question.
- “Focus on the positive” – If I could do that, I wouldn’t be a depressive. My brain doesn’t allow that.
- “I’m praying for you” – Just…don’t.
Some suggestions of things that might be somewhat helpful, or at the least not hurtful:
- “Is there anything I can do to help?” – Probably not, but at least it’s a non-accusatory thing to say.
- “Sorry that you’re dealing with this.”
- “I’m here for you if you need anything”
- Say nothing at all
So, I guess I just wanted this to serve as a reason (not an excuse) for the way I respond (or don’t respond as it were) to the various things that life throws my way. Take it for what it’s worth, or don’t take it. Either is fine. When it’s bad, I internalize. I don’t talk. I don’t want to talk. And trying to make me talk makes it worse. But saying stuff like what is on the first list above should be the very LAST thing anyone should do. But…they still will.