Step 2 is kind of two fold. I know step 1 was more aimed towards those supporting others with mental health issues, but this step also includes the sufferer too. I hate that word, sufferer. It makes the situation seem so much more dire and dark that it needs to be. Don’t get me wrong, depression is not fun and it is a struggle, especially at it’s worst. I think from now I’ll describe whoever this may as friend. They might not even be your friend, but please don’t treat someone with mental health issues as a victim. Someone once said to me that people with depression see things that other people don’t see. I suppose they were right.
What I want to talk about in this post is stigma. It drives me nuts, to put it bluntly. One of dreams for all of this is that through my experience I can make people more aware. Without knowing what goes on, whether down to the basic biology or just the emotional fabric of it all – WHATEVER IT IS, not just depression – ignorance can make the whole experience so so much worse for someone. For your friend.
Here’s my list of top 3 things NOT TO SAY to someone who has depression, at least in my experience anyway.
1) ‘Cheer up, it’ll all be fine’
– this is ALWAYS a no no. I understand this comes from a place where you want to help but you just feel out of your comfort zone. But the thing is, if someone with depression wanted to cheer up, they would. If there was the magic switch to turn it all off (anyone seen vampire diaries? I guess it would be like turning the humanity back ON again) then they would. Sometimes this comes across as being a pressuring statement, that if they do cheer up then it will be fine, but what if they can’t get out of bed or have to really struggle to hold a phone conversation? Don’t isolate your friend, just listen. If they’re a talker like I am, then just sit. Just listen.
BUT (and here comes the inclusive bit), if you’ve been given the opportunity to talk about what’s going on and you feel comfortable and ready to talk a out it, then talk. You DO NOT have to face this on your own. For my fellow Christians out there, if this is you, pray for that friend or person you can be honest with and talk to. My best friend came into my life all before this started, but she is a gift for so many reasons, and one of them is that she’s there. She listens, she cuddles me: she talks me through things and just loves me. Let somebody else love you, as difficult as that may be. And whoever you are and wherever you are, I’m praying that you will find that person you can talk to and I pray that you will be as blessed and feel as secure as I do with my gorgeous girl.
2) ‘I think you should just get over it already’
– now sometimes, when it’s ridiculous things like your cat didn’t give you a cuddle when you wanted one or your favourite tv show isn’t on when you thought it was, sometimes this is a fair thing to say. However, you don’t know why someone has a mental health issue. Albeit, some people are already predisposed to mental health issues because of genetics, but other people fall into this because of something that happened to them. Could be a bereavement, could be a breakup. Could be anything. You don’t know. So in this case, don’t judge, just listen.
3) ‘oh, I know how you feel’
– to be fair, you might know. You genuinely might. But this one is only a problem if it comes as a result of not listening. This can sound as though you’re brushing the situation off, and disregarding what may be going on for your friend. So once again, and I know I’m hitting this home, just listen. Listen, listen, listen. Before whipping this coin out and letting it land on the wrong side, listen first. And double check you do know how they feel – and guess what? It’s okay if you don’t know. Just be there.
Now to those friends out there who might be in a similar situation to what I’ve been talking about, and if you get angry about the stigma, or the feeling of isolation and like nobody understands, you have the power to change this by being honest. Don’t get me wrong; don’t wear your heart on your sleeve and don’t whatever you do let somebody in that you do not trust. If you’re a believer, start with Jesus. Let him in, and it’ll be easier to be open with other people. Ignorance will not make you better. Honesty, love and a judgement free zone will. So my prayer for you is that you can find that in someone, or a group of people, and that you remember you are not alone.
Here’s a link to a really awesome UK based campaign for mental health awareness. Check it out for more information: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/mental-health-statistics-facts
Peace and blessings x