What *not* to say to someone with depression

warning: rant

1. “Look at all the good things you have in your life”

When someone is in the “pit”, he/she can’t see anything but the darkness that engulfs him/her.

2. “When you got back from the (therapist, hospital, doctor), did they figure out what triggered your depression?”

Gee… since depression is a mental illness it’s kind of hard to pinpoint what triggers it. How about I ask you what caused you to be so stupid?

3. “I don’t know what to say….”

Well… that I can accept. But it still hurts, especially when you think you’re talking to someone who cares.

4. “You shouldn’t be depressed. There are people who have it worse than you.”

Really? Thanks for validating my feelings. (eyeroll).

5. “How can someone like you be depressed?”

Depressed is a feeling. Depression is an illness.

ETA: 6. “It will get better… really, it will.”

Really? Do you  have that in a guarantee? You can see the future?


15 responses

  1. How about:
    “why don’t you go out and take a nice walk/get a new hobby/change jobs….”
    yes, for your information when i am depressed it takes me an hour to decide if i want a cup of tea or not….hmmm, i’ll get a new job shall i?????

    people just don’t get it, huh?

  2. Oh yeah.. that, too! Especially when your hobby that you LOVED (for me it’s scrapbooking) feels more like WORK when I’m in the pit than it does like recreation and fun (like a hobby is supposed to feel.)

    Thanks for stopping by, Lola Snow. 🙂

  3. Things to consider:
    “Look at all the good things you have in your life”
    That’s coming from someone who is ignorant BUT is trying to be supportive. They are trying to help in the only way they know how. They are trying to show you where the top of the pit is so you can start climbing out!!!! Don’t be mad at them because it seems as though they don’t understand. THAT doesn’t matter. What matters is they have made an effort. They are trying.!!!! You have a friend, but your depression is refusing to let you see them.

    “When you got back from the (therapist, hospital, doctor), did they figure out what triggered your depression?”
    Uggg, how totally insensitive…but again, stems from ignorace…and again…they didn’t push you away or close the door….they opened the next door by venturing forth with a question and showing concern for you. They are trying to be a friend, to be supportive, and to learn just exactly what it is you are going through. That’s compassion. That’s friendship.

    “I don’t know what to say….”
    I’m so sorry this also hurts you!!! YOU KNOW it’s not meant to. This statement comes from the person who has also struggled…who knows that no matter what you say….it’s not going to make it better for the person. It’s like when I miscarried…..I’m not the only woman who has lost a child…..but only I felt what I felt……and others did not know how to ease that pain. There was NOTHING anyone could have said that would have made my day any better. I don’t know what to say is a 100% HONEST response. “I feel for you!! It means “I’m willing, but I don’t know what I can say to help you”

    “You shouldn’t be depressed. There are people who have it worse than you.”

    true true. still it bites that they were insensitive enough to de-value what it is you are feeling. I’ll not argue this one at all. I am on your side.

    “How can someone like you be depressed?”
    HEY!!! do you see—-CAN you see—-what this person sees when they look at you? What a sweet wonderful lady you are!!! They’re not trying to be uncaring or insensitive. They are searching for understanding, possibly even a bit fearfully, because if this can happen to YOU…….it might be them next. And let’s not argue over symantics of vocabulary. You know in your head what they meant. Please take it to heart.

    “It will get better… really, it will.”

    When you’re at the bottom…the only way is up. I can see thier point. Yes, it sounds like they’re just brushing you off, and many probably are—–but still— there’s a piece of truth there. Latch on to it, find the frayed end of the rope and hold on to the hope that is still there.

    Michelle, I will not!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WILL not let you keep sinking. Dang it baby girl. We love you. You have friends. You have support. We are here—-but honey, YOU have got to start climbing out—we can’t do it for you. We can only hold the rope, and point the signs to where the top of the pit is. We can only hold the lantern……..

    I know you are hurting and i’m very worried about you…BUt there is nothing I can say that is going to make it better. Fight girl!!!! Don’t let the devil get to you. Don’t let the depression win. Start talking.

  4. As someone who’s done her best to be there and offer encouragement to a friend going through something I have no hope of understanding, I’m a little hurt by this post.

    What then are supportive friends supposed to say?

  5. I think you are just frustrated because you feel so bad, that’s understandable Michelle.

    People who have never had depression simply cannot begin to understand … depression cannot be turned off like a light switch. Then they become frustrated.

    I think, sometimes it is too hard to find the right words- but I’ll bet those people are coming from a good place, and if they are not, than shame on them (lets hope they never have to deal with depression).

    I also don’t think you can just “climb out of it” – it’s really out of your control. You cannot CLIMB out of a chemical imbalance, can you?

    Just take comfort in the fact that even though you cannot see how great you are, there are people out there that can, that do love you and only wish the best things in life for you too! I am one of those 🙂

  6. @ Amy- YOU are actually one of the most supportive friends I have right now, so please don’t be hurt. I apologize that I did hurt you. I was writing this because of my family’s comments- they have said many of these comments to me over the past couple of weeks.

    @ JavaQueen- Exactly= it’s the frustration that is just making me so angry. I hate feeling so empty and alone like this all the time, and reaching out is SO hard to do. I was told last night that I am like looking at a blank wall. There is no reflection; no reaction.

    @ Chelle- Thanks for the prayers.

    @ la- I’m trying… but I seem to keep failing.

    @ pj- Yikes, where do I start? I guess I’ll have to use a new post to address your comments because you do raise up a lot of points.

  7. I like the “Stop living in your past” comment. Oh dat’s a goodie. Make’s me wanna punch them in the face, then ask why their so upset.
    And on this tired morning, I thought ABs post said “ponies fucking lollipops” and I was quite disturbed. Then I re-read it….that’s better.
    Peace and hugs to you,

  8. @ Wulfgar- I’ve heard that one. The latest one I’ve heard this weekend is “it’s not the end of the world.” Well… for you it might not be, but for me, I feel like the world has collapsed.

  9. Pingback: What *not* to say to someone with depression, continued… « The Beartwinsmom’s Den

  10. I agree with you on all points. It’s refreshing to hear someone speak so openly about it. Everyone thinks I’m being insensitive and stubborn when I don’t take their advice well (their advice being some of the things above) but they don’t get it. #1 is the one that gets me. People say it a lot. It doesn’t help. It really doesn’t help at all. If I could be optimistic and look at the bright side, I wouldn’t be in this position in the first place, no? It’s not something I can turn on and off.

    Good post. *adds blog to google reader)

  11. @ Emily- Welcome to The Den! You will find that most people, even the most well-meaning ones, don’t understand because they have never endured a mental illness. Depression is a mental illness; feeling depressed is an emotion.

    Glad to see you here! I agree with your comment: “If I could be so optimistic and look at the bright side, I wouldn’t be in this position in the first place…” That is so true.

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