“Get some fresh air, you’ll feel better”
“Don’t be silly”
“It could be worse”
“Just let me help”
I’ve heard all of these numerous times before. Not only do they not help but, more often than not, they actually make us feel worse.
Sure, sometimes getting outside helps. But sometimes, the thought of leaving the house brings a wave of dread and anxiety and we can’t think of anything worse than stepping outside. It sounds stupid but being reminded that we can’t go out makes us feel like “a failure”. Why can’t we function like normal people? Why is something so simple, so difficult?
“Don’t be silly” or any variation of this, for me personally, is the worst one. It’s usually said in response to me saying something like “I’m fat” or “I can’t do this” when referring to a simple task like making a cup of tea or hoovering (usually followed by floods of tears). So why is this the worst? Because we know that what we’re saying is “silly” but it’s how we feel and, as hard as we try, we can’t change that.
“What’s wrong” and “Just let me help” are very similar – we can’t always answer these. As much as we want to explain why today is particularly bad, we probably don’t know ourselves. Using the word “wrong” makes us feel guilty. And, trust me when I say this, if we knew of a way that you could help us or make us feel better, we’d let you know.
So, now you know what you shouldn’t say, you’d probably like some guidance on what’s helpful wouldn’t you?
I’ve thought about this a lot. It’s a tough one. There’s a lot of helpful things you could say but even these can prove to be upsetting at the wrong time.
So I decided to keep it simple and narrow it down to these three:
1. “I’m here if you need me” (followed by giving us some space) – My mood changes from minute to minute; sometimes I need to talk, sometimes I just need space. Saying something like this lets us know you care but leaves the ball in our court to decide whether we want to talk or want to do something completely different as a distraction.
2. “I love you” – This is self-explanatory and might seem obvious but, when you’re battling with depression and your mind is full of negative thoughts, we sometimes forget about being loved and a little reminder can mean a lot.
3. Nothing – This one’s a little trickier than the others but I’m personally a big fan of this. Yes, it might be clear that we’re upset or struggling with something but it’s ok for you to say nothing. Sometimes an understanding smile, a hug, or just a cup of tea can mean more than a thousand words. Quite often, if we’re in the middle of a particularly low “episode” talking is the last thing we want to do.
Finally, even though it isn’t really related to the title of this post as it’s not something you can or can’t say, it’s important that you respect the wishes of us when it comes to space. As much as you might be worried and want to help, there’s nothing wrong with us wanting to be alone (although you’ll need to use your judgement here, especially if you think someone is at risk of self-harming or suicide).
I hope this helps some of you and I’d love to know if you have anything to add to the list…I might do a “What Do You Say to Someone With Depression – Part Two” post later on in the year.