As a person with Depression, I’ve benefited from every one of these statements at one point or another. There is no “right” answer. It doesn’t exist. People who try to help are doing just that. Trying.
If you reach out to someone and their comments aren’t helpful, talk to them about what is helpful. Jenny and I have long since established which things are and aren’t helpful. For example, I just can’t stand it when people tell me they “got over” their depression. But that’s only if I’m depressed. If someone tells me that when I’m not depressed, I remember it, and it does help. Things that do help when I’m depressed include prayer, meditation, sympathy, and a calm environment. Throw in a dash of “take care of business” and we are on a roll.
If you aren’t sure how to help someone who has reached out to you, ask them how you can help. Don’t be afraid to write it down. Hell, keep a card in your pocket. Make one for them. Having other people tell us what we need to hear can help, but sometimes we need to hear it from ourselves.
Here’s what works for me. YMMV.
Ask questions; Listen to answer. Don’t just hear the answer; Listen to the answer. Take it in, analyze it, and do your best to respond appropriately. If you get stuck, ask more questions! Just try. That’s all I’m asking. Don’t assume there is a right answer, and a wrong answer. Use your judgement every time.
Don’t ever look at some meme and say “oh, they say I shouldn’t say that, it must be true.” Memes are fallible. They are written by one person and their preferences.
Now, my case-by-case rebuttal.
“I know how you feel.” God, the first time I heard that from someone, it was like finding out I had an extra brother or sister. Remembering that we aren’t alone is a BIG deal.
“You need exercise.” Yep. This is probably true. The depressed person may not like hearing it, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t hear it.
“It’s all in your head.” When my therapist explained this to me, it was like seeing the world again for the first time. It literally is the inside of my head. Mine. My own. It gives me power, and reminds me to take responsibility. My head, my disease, my choices.
“Get a different job.” Sometimes, this is what you need. I was in a job that made me miserable, and it was a very sedentary job. It was bad for my health. I changed jobs, and my mood improved a lot.
“Think positive.” Dear Lord, yes! Of course you should think positive. Look at nice things, talk to nice people. Help someone, or do something fun. Reinvest. You will thank yourself.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” Damn straight. Take responsibility. Own your emotions, and own your actions. You are not a victim, you are a person with a disease. Take care of yourself, damnit.
“Could it be your relationship?” Of course it could be! Don’t assume it is, but definitely analyze all the facts. Don’t vilify your partner, but sure as shit don’t assume everything is okay if there’s any chance that it’s not. Relationships don’t cause Depression, but they sure as shit don’t always help.
“Look at how lucky you are.” YES. DO THIS. Take inventory of your life. Think about every single thing, person, animal, group, whatever, that you like. Count them up. Remind yourself that you are blessed, and you will feel more blessed. Remember that people love you, and that you matter.
“Everyone has problems.” Yes, yes they do. That doesn’t mean you are weak for not dealing with yours. It means you aren’t alone. Reach out, make friends. Remember you are not the only one struggling, and you will remember that you aren’t alone.
“Life is hard.” Yep. This is true. Why wouldn’t you say this to a depressed person? To protect them from the truth? Remembering that life is hard is a good way to remember that you’ve already done so much. If you are still around to know life is hard, then you are succeeding. Congrats, bad-ass!
There is no right or wrong. There is no black and white. This disease comes from inside our own heads. Our minds are unique, so why shouldn’t we deal with our disorders in unique ways? Be yourself, and treat yourself. You got this.