I had just frantically dialled mum’s number because she was the most likely to pick immediately. My pulse was restless, my phone was sliding off the sweat of my hands and I was horrified by a danger I could not see. God knows how many panic attacks I had in the darkest nights of my depression.
Since I had been abandoned a few weeks earlier, I struggled with holding onto anything. My peace of mind was slippery, my focus couldn’t stay, joy kept running away.
I hoped mum would know exactly what to say to keep my mind out of that place, but the grip in her words wasn’t strong enough to prevent my mind from falling back into darkness.
Every depressed person in your life wishes you could help, but in the moment it’s not always easy to say. I asked a few previously depressed people what they think, and they all agreed.
More than that, they told me what they wished their friends and family could have said or done to help.
I dedicate this article to my loving mum, who patiently held my hand through that trembling phone every time I called.
Here’s How 11 Depression Survivors Wish Their Friends & Family Had Helped
*All names hidden on purpose.
1. I wish they hadn’t kicked me down when I was already down,
and hadn’t told me how much of a loser and a waste of space I was. I wish they hadn’t dragged me out of bed when I just needed rest, or said I was seeking attention when all I needed was help.
2. I wish my friends had said they were always going to be there, no matter what.
Even if they didn’t know what’s going on with me. Please be there for me.
3. I wish I had heard someone say “I care about you”
- Please let me know if I can do anything for you.
- No matter what, I’m here with you.
- You can vent to me if you want. I’ll listen.
- You’re going to be okay. It’s going to be alright.
- You matter.
4. I wish the people in my life had questioned what could be wrong
I’m clinically depressive. For someone like me who went 15+ years before being diagnosed, I wish the people in my life had questioned what could be wrong, rather than assume I was trying to get attention or act out.
I wish they’d tell me what to do and what not to do. When I don’t understand, I’d still want them to be there for me.
5. In those moments, you don’t want people to judge you.
You don’t want help. But you do. I wanted to be left alone because I didn’t expect anyone to understand. Sure enough nobody did. I hate when people are empathetic about it. Don’t pretend to know what I’m going through please, it makes me feel worse. It only shows how far out there I am and I feel at fault for it all. So I feel guilty and worse. I know that’s not the intention but that’s how it plays out. I don’t want people to judge me. Please just accept what it is and understand that it’s not going to change easily.
And lastly, if people would have taken action it would have made things better. Overlooking it is a terrible idea. Granted, I was at fault by keeping it hidden, but when it did surface it was flushed away with avoidance which made me feel rejected for my depression.
6. If only everyone hadn’t been so patronising…
I didn’t lose IQ points during that time, yet everyone made me feel like a child.
7. Try to gently point out evidence of the positive
In my case (bipolar depression) I’d say this:
- Do not try to solve my perceived problem. It is likely not the problem at all. Give me lots of hugs and affection and assure me everything will be ok.
- Do not argue or try to reason with my negative self talk, but do try to gently point out evidence of the positive.
- Do whatever you can within reason to prevent my life from falling apart while I’m ignoring it. It could be that I’m just too stuck in my own head to see.
8. I would have wanted them to learn about depression
And I’d wish they were:
- Supportive as I got help, as opposed to judgemental.
- Helped me celebrate the strides I made
- Laid off the pressure for me do things the way my family did it
- Appreciated the positive outcomes of my way
“Be there for me.”
9. Don’t call me a whiner
I would want to be taken seriously. Like if I say I’m so overwhelmed I’m thinking about taking a bunch of pills, take it seriously. Take away the pills. If I’m crying a lot and freaking out let me do that.
Make an appointment with a therapist for me.
Don’t make me deal with feeling guilty about how my depression is affecting you and don’t tell me what I should do about it. Just be there, let me be depressed, and take me seriously. Don’t call me a whiner or a victim.
10. I would have loved to have a friend or family member direct me to helpful information
I would have liked for someone to mention that probiotics help, since serotonin is produced in the gut. I would have liked to have had an integrative Doctor check me for mineral imbalances and heavy metals, which are both a cause of depression/anxiety and other mental illnesses. I would have liked to have genetic testing and to know that certain foods with artificial additives make it worse, or to be accurately tested for Lyme, (many people unknowingly have it). I knew none of that, so was on meds for 10-12 years. I’ve learned all of this now through finding a good Dr and lab work, but it’s 20 years too late.
I would have loved to have a friend or family member direct me to helpful information, but they couldn’t and they didn’t. My mom did encourage me to get counselling, and I went for 5 years. I needed a friend to come over and stay with me, so I would shower. That would have helped.
11. Listen to me, without judgement, without advice… Just listen
And be patient. Be there when you are free and willing to lend a hand. But never out of pity because nothing is worse than feeling unwanted when you’re depressed. Please don’t tell me to snap out of it. No pressure. Give me time and space. Until I figure out what to do.
Telling a depressed person that their life is perfect and they should be happy, or talk to them about that time you overcame your anxiety and sadness makes it worse as you make them feel guilty and ashamed.
Depression, the clinical depression is real. It has no triggers and kills. One’s will to live and fight slowly and painfully isn’t without limit. As life slips between their fingers and they can’t do anything about it, there is a point where suicide seems the most natural way to solve all of your problems at once. So do not push a depressed person. Ask them to seek medical help and it will determine whether it’s a phase or a real disease. But DO NOT DIAGNOSE them through a Google search.