It is not a choice.
The most common reaction I have received with my mental illness is to be told that I should ‘try and be happier,’ to ‘look on the bright side’ and ‘others have it worse.’
This is utter bullshit. I didn’t just wake up one morning and flick a switch that made me depressed or gave me OCD. I also can’t wake up one morning and do the opposite, so I’m sorry to say these cliché phrases really do not help.
I’m not some selfish, moody brat who doesn’t appreciate what I have in life. I’m beyond grateful for my family and friends who have stood by me, and to imply I don’t is completely ignorant.
When you tell a depressed person that they simply shouldn’t be, you’re not giving constructive feedback, you’re unknowingly making things worse. By placing the responsibility onto the patient’s shoulders, without knowing you’re making them blame themselves. Guilt is a strong feature in a depressive mind, and the added burden is only adding to their troubles.
We don’t blame you. We understand that you don’t understand. Part of us is glad you don’t understand because, as frustrating as it is, it means you haven’t been through it yourself. I know I, personally, would not wish a mental illness on my worst enemy. This moves nicely onto my next point…
Mental illness is hard to get your head around if you haven’t experienced it.
Some people may imply they have OCD because they like things in a particular way. Some people may imply they are bipolar because they suffer mood swings. Some people may imply they are depressed because they are simply in a bad mood. Even in tough life situations such as a lost job or a breakup can lead to depression, but it is not a side effect by default. Yes, you can experience extreme sadness temporarily, but depression on the other hand saps the person of all emotion, hope and reason.
Also, just to put it out there, people who suffer with a mental illness are allowed to smile. I’ve been accused of faking it a few times because I am capable of having a sense of humour. Severity can fluctuate. On some days I can laugh and seem ‘normal’ and on others, I feel lifeless. This does not mean I am cured.
Emotional support needs to be constant.
Emotional support needs to be patient and unwavering. This doesn’t mean you need to mollycoddle the suffering because that can feel suffocating. If support isn’t constant, the depressed mind will almost always fixate and over-analyse the instances where your shoulder hasn’t been there, rather than the many times it has. This is not us being selfish and picky. This is not us relying on you and begging for your attention.
The support has to be of your own accord as the depressive will never ask for help. They will hint. They will imply, but they will never ask out of worry of being a burden. I know it can seem like we take no notice and nothing you say or do can make a difference, but honestly, every hug, every reassuring speech, every surprise gesture means more than you know.
Don’t take their behaviour personally.
Relentless exhaustion and a stalking black cloud of depression can torment a person. Simply getting out of bed in the morning or stepping out into the big wide world can be a harrowing, overwhelming experience. This can result in them cancelling plans and becoming distant, emotionally and physically.
Do your best not to take anything personally. Please remember, it has nothing to do with what you did or did not do. A person can only give what they have, so this can be hard for a depressive who feels they have nothing to give in return to your love and support. Don’t let this dampen your patient efforts, because it means to world, I promise.