Depression make you feel like a total nuisance at times, so it’s not surprising that these flippant comments do not help. Although a lot of the time these words have been said by complete strangers, they still cut deeply.
Why I had to dump my best friend to recover from depression! In fact, in some ways, being approached by a stranger and being told to ‘cheer up’ is the worst of all. Have you been guilty of saying any of these phrases to a friend with depression? It’s not easy to talk to a friend who’s struggling with a mental illness. Here’s a gentle reminder of what not to say.
1. Maybe you just need a holiday?
Ah yes, the old Vitamin D solution. Shall I drag myself through one of my biggest anxieties, (flying on a plane), to lie on a chaise lounge for a week? And who’s going to pay for this when I’m off work claiming disability allowance? (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)
2. There are children starving in Africa!
Thanks for stating the obvious. Unfortunately there are children starving in the UK & US too. In fact, there is trauma, poverty and sadness all over the world and some of it just so happens to be consuming my every waking moment. Other people’s suffering doesn’t make mine any less valid.
3. You take life too seriously.
Well aren’t you a wise old owl? When you have a mental illness, life is nothing but a string of serious, painful events. The hardest thing is feeling such intense pain at the same time as feeling like none of it matters.
4. Are you taking your medication?
Yes I am, and I’m a fully grown adult who is taking all the advice that the professionals are willing to give me.
5. You just need to let your hair down.
I looked for a solution to my madness in a few hundred bottles of wine before I realised it wasn’t in any of them. Consider hair previously let down, to no avail.
6. You don’t look depressed.
What does a depressed person look like exactly? I mean, you’re more than welcome to come and watch me lie in the foetal position for six hours if you want a closer look. I also look pretty good when I sob in the shower every morning.
7. You’re being selfish.
The reason I’m being selfish is because I’ve spent too long using all of my energy saying yes to other people. Being a push over is what got me in this state, and now I have no other option than to be selfish in order to stay alive.
8. At least you’re not suicidal.
Sigh. Just because I didn’t attempt suicide doesn’t mean I was happy to be alive.
9. You’re not a serious case.
That was pretty crappy visit to a psychiatrist. There’s nothing quite like the self-loathing that comes after a health professional brushes you off like a filthy speck of dust.
10. Everyone gets stressed.
Yes everyone does. But feeling stressed is actually a separate issue from being depressed, so what’s your point?
Anxiety and stress makes it difficult to make friends and it can be even harder to keep them.
There are positive aspects when someone receives a formal diagnosis. You may be ‘feeling like you’re not alone and that others are on the same boat with you’ and that naming your condition ‘helps you feel more ‘normal’’. Patients may also be in a better position to receive treatment from a GP, support group or access financial support. ‘Once there is a diagnosis, it’s easier to get help.’ One patient whi remained anonymous, had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, but only after years of struggling internally with the mental illness. spent many years thinking they were a bad person who was going off the rails, but to realise that they were sick and not bad, was comforting and to know other people felt the same was comforting.’
The diagnosis then gave the patient the confidence to look into the background of their illness and understand how it worked. ‘To know it was a condition which was formed in childhood helped them to know theirself, their triggers and how to avoid being upset and how to help people to understand them when I’m upset.’ However, Dr.’s warn that in some cases researching symptoms after diagnosis can be problematic. ‘You might focus on the negatives and start experiencing symptoms that you didn’t even have to begin with – the self-fulfilling prophecy.’ Many people feel that their mental illness becomes tangled up in their own identity, but that naming the condition can help. Dr Niamh Clune, who was a practising therapist for more than 30 years, explains: ‘Naming a mental illness allows us a measure of detachment from the illness.
‘If we can have a relationship with it and make friends (…) we regain some volition (choice, empowerment and control) and are no longer solely identified, consumed or possessed by the illness. ‘It develops an identity of its own.’
Even though having an mental illness can feel lonely, although having a named illness can help you find support from others who have the same condition. ‘Having a name can also help you find solidarity and deep understanding in supportive communities of people with the same disorder which will be so unbelievably helpful and comforting, as well as be able to find the correct types of therapy suited to your disorder and needs. Do not make your disorder your identity, as in many ways it’s a curse that you cannot escape, but learning about it does help and enriches your life.’