“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”
— Laurell K. Hamilton
If you love someone who is depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. They don’t know. Depression isn’t a straightforward, thought-out response to a tough situation – depression just IS, like December’s weather in Seattle.
Be mindful of the darkness, lethargy, hopelessness and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them, day in and day out, until they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a true friend to someone who’s depressed, but it’s one of the kindest, finest and most impactful things you will ever do.
Angel and I have worked with dozens of depressed people over the years, and we have experienced bouts of depression ourselves. One thing I am certain of is that there’s no “one size fits all” kind of advice for depression. The reminders below aren’t universal clarifications, but simple guidelines that will hopefully give you a general starting point for helping your depressed loved one cope and heal, gradually.
1. Depression is not something a person consciously chooses.
When you’re lost deep in those woods, it might take you some time to realize that you’re lost. For a while, it’s easy to convince yourself that you’ve just wandered off the path – that you’ll find your way back any moment now. Then night falls, again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and although it’s agonizing, it’s time to admit that you’ve disoriented yourself so far off the path, so deep into the woods, that you can’t even tell which direction the sun rises or sets from anymore.
You’re not choosing to be where you are, but you can’t see a way out. That’s how depression felt to me when I was struggling through it many moons ago.
Depression is one of the most helpless and tiring emotional experiences a person can live through. Sometimes it’s feeling lost, sometimes it’s feeling despondent, and sometimes it’s feeling absolutely nothing at all. There are times when depression can leave you feeling completely dead inside, incapable of moving and doing the things you used to enjoy. Depression is not just a bad mood, and it’s certainly not something you can just “get over” when you feel like it. No one chooses to be depressed, and no one can turn it off or on in an instant whenever they feel like it.
2. Depression is hard to wrap your mind around if you haven’t experienced it.
Some people may imply that they know what it’s like to be depressed simply because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or lost a loved one. While these tough life situations can lead to depression, they don’t create depression by default. In most cases these experiences carry with them strong emotional feelings. Depression, on the other hand, is often flat, hollow, and insufferable – literally sapping a person of emotion, hope and reason.
You don’t feel like YOU. You don’t even feel human. You’re hopeless and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and desperate and demanding and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and you’re “not at all like yourself but will be better soon,” but you know you won’t.
Here’s a chilling quote by David Foster Wallace that brings this point home:
“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise.
Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
3. Saying things like “it’s not that big of a deal,” “you just need some fresh air,” or “it’s time to move on” rarely help.
It’s easy to tell someone you love “positive” things like this because you think you’re giving them hope and helping ease their pain, but to someone suffering from depression these kinds of simple, clichéd phrases often come across the wrong way – thoughtless, empty and essentially worthless.
The truth is phrases like these don’t address reality and only agitate the anxiety within, making a depressed person wish they were alone. It’s like trying to strap a two-inch Band-Aid on a foot-long, gaping wound.
So what can you say instead? Again, there’s no “one size fits all” answer. Just be supportive.
Here’s a rough idea of what I might say (maybe not all at once):
“I love you, and I’m not the only one. Please believe me. Please believe that the people who love you are worth living for even when you don’t feel it. Strive to re-visit the good memories depression is hiding from you, and project them into the present. Breathe. Be brave. Be here and take today just one step at a time. Exercise because it’s good for you even if every step weighs 900 pounds. Eat when food itself sickens you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason. I’m here now, and I’ll be here tomorrow too. I believe in you. We are in this together.”
And then I’d give them a long, silent hug. Again and again.
4. Even when they’re pushing you away, you can still be there for them.
“I don’t want to see anyone. I lie in the bedroom with the curtains drawn and nothingness washing over me like a sluggish wave. Whatever is happening to me is my own fault. I have done something wrong, something so huge I can’t even see it, something that’s drowning me. I am inadequate and stupid, without worth. I might as well be dead.”
That quote from Margaret Atwood’s book, Cat’s Eye, reminds me of the desperate loneliness and despondency one feels when depressed. But even though depression makes a person feel hopelessly alone, that’s often exactly what depression motivates a person to seek, more isolation. People suffering from depression typically get frustrated with feeling like they’re a burden on their loved ones. This causes them to isolate themselves and push away the very people they need the most.
If a loved one becomes distant through their depression, just do your best to remind them as often as possible that you’re still nearby, but don’t force them to socialize or talk about their feelings if they don’t want to. Be patient. Ease into it.
Keep in mind that even though they may want their space, this doesn’t mean they want to face their pain alone 24/7. Schedule in time to spend with them. Offer to take them to their favorite restaurant, or even pick up some tasty to-go food for them. Introduce plenty of opportunities to create informal one on one time where you can break them out of their routine, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Reach out to them at random intervals. Be a present, living reminder that they are not alone.
5. Depression exhausts and consumes a person, which is why you can’t take their behavior personally.
Relentless exhaustion is a common side effect of depression. Just getting out of bed in the morning can be an overwhelming and excruciating experience. Also, someone suffering from depression may feel OK one moment and feel completely depleted the next, even if they’re eating right and getting plenty of sleep. This can result in them canceling plans, departing get-togethers early, or saying no far more often than you’d like. Just remember it’s not about you – it has nothing to do with what you did or didn’t do. These are just some of the prevalent side effects working through depression.
Do your best to never take anything they do too personally. People can only give to others what they have, and depression takes almost everything away from a person. All your actions and words should come from a place of love, but that doesn’t mean your depressed loved one will always be loving in return, and that’s OK. When you do not take things personally, you liberate yourself – you open yourself to loving someone who truly needs you, freely, and without letting needless expectations get in the way of the immeasurable amounts of affection you are capable of giving.
I’d like to riff a bit more on my point above about the fact that “people can only give to others what they have.” Remember, this applies to YOU too. Caring for a depressed loved one can be fatiguing. If you don’t properly take care of yourself, you cannot properly take care of them no matter how hard you try. You may be able to be there physically, but if your mental and emotional reserves are depleted, you will have very little to give.
So set some love and care aside for yourself too. Refill your bucket on a regular basis. That means catching up on sleep, making time for fun and laughter, eating healthy enough to maintain peak energy levels, and otherwise making time for recovery from the pressures of loving someone through their depression. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the Self-Love chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
If you have experience with helping a loved one cope with depression, or if you have anything to add to the list above, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights.
Photo by: Danielle Dautel
Fay Daliva says
Marc, I love that you said just enough without saying too much. Depression is a terrible experience, for both the depressed and their loved ones. The bottom line is to BE THERE for someone you love who’s battling depression — that’s the best (and often only) thing you can do. Also, I appreciate your point about self-care…that’s important and often overlooked.
I have been reading your articles for a bit now on face book and I find most of what you say helpful if not inspirational. My Son was diagnosed with Bi Polar Disorder as well as some Paranoia Psychosis. He has been in the hospital about 3 times, the longest stay was 2 months a couple of years ago. He lost his job he had been at for over 8 years, and very nearly lost his wife & children
After this last stay, he seemed to be doing much better; he was taking a medication, I don’t believe it is a real strong drug as he is able to function very well on it. He got himself a new job and seemed to like it very well. Unfortunately…he has not been taking his pills on a regular basis and it appears he is going through a manic episode though to me he seems depressed. He’s losing weight, not eating well and not sleeping at night. I know he is having strange thoughts again. He thinks there is something wrong with his pills…like they changed them.
He’s always taking about how much other people have and how hard he works and they barely get by. They have 3 children 17,15 & 8… His wife is working 2 jobs and I know he thinks the only Aly he has in the house is his 8 yr old son & truth be told, he’s probably right.
How do we deal with him…He is going to lose his family for good pretty soon if he doesn’t get his act together. How do I Help him?
I’m sorry…this is kind of long…I could have gone on for hours talking about all the issues thy have
David eberhardy says
I really needed to hear this.
As a person who has been diagnosed with depression and has struggled with it for several years, I thought this short post was well-written. Is it generic on some levels? Yeah. But it’s a great reminder. People often need these reminders because the population in general doesn’t truly comprehend depression and what a depressed person goes through. The slightest bit of misguided commentary can set a depressed person back rather than move them forward. The people closest to me who know my situation and are reasonably educated on the five points above and then some, but are still often forgetful because this is a mental ailment that doesn’t show clearly on the outside, like a physical wound.
Marc Chernoff says
Glad it resonated, Paul. And it’s inspiring to hear that you have people in your life who are making an effort to understand your situation. Please stay strong.
As others have said, the fact that this is “general advice” makes this a good article, because depression is a personal experience which means it’s often quiet different for everyone. My husband has suffered from depression and anxiety for many years now. Some of these points relate directly to my experiences caring for him, and some are a little different. In any case I agree with the overarching message that we must be present with our loved one as they heal, while at the same time giving ourselves the space and self-love we need to care for them and ourselves.
BTW, I bought your book for a little offline morning affirmation ritual I’ve set up for myself after reading one of your emails last month. Thank you! It’s really helping me start my days right.
Marc Chernoff says
Thank you for supporting our work, Christine. 🙂
And I love your sentiment.
That invisible agony, the unendurable pain so deep to the core… Yes chillingly only those who have been there can even grapple with the snap decision to escape it, no wonder there are so many bewildered when a successful suicide occurs.
As a survivor I can relate and as a lover of a sufferer I can understand when the darkness overwhelms and he leaves the light.
Simply being there is all it takes, don’t push, affirm your commitment and simply hold the space for their return. Shine enough light, love and compassion to drown out the darkness.
Be kind to one another, always.
Once again you have nailed it – how blessed I am that you are gracing the planet during my time here, thanks Marc (and Angel).
Yes I agree, I too live with someone with depression, I stopped giving love for a while…but I’m back doing it now, as I realise how important it is, though it can be draining. If you love them, it has to be done…its hard when you don’t get any back though.
This is excellent advice. I’ve been on both sides of the issue – depressed myself and supporting a depressed partner. It really tests the idea of unconditional love and support but that’s just what you have to do. As you say, don’t take it personally and be there for them even when they push you away. It’s so tough but you do what you have to do for loved ones.
Yes true, I have been there for a long time for my husband but when it got really tough I left, to build my strength back up again, of course. But I was gone too long and I now know that was the worst thing I could do for him.
I am struck by a lot of things you said in your article.
I have also been depressed before without knowing that I was at first. You are so right about depression being flat, hollow and insufferable. You also hit it right on because I didn’t feel human somehow. I used to think I was just being melancholic and sad but the fact that I did not feel like there was any hope in life kind of finally made me realise I was in a state of depression.
I have known loved ones who are depressed or have been depressed… and I have done so many things I shouldn’t have, thinking that I was supporting them. When they said to leave them alone, that was exactly what I did! After reading point #4, I now know I should be there for them no matter what they said…
Thanks for this lovely article! I hope to share my own experience on my blog (sterlinghappiness.com) someday…
That guy says
Thank you for the post.
libby esther berman says
Thank you for understanding that. My blood family never did.
How completely appropriate for me today. I have just this morning had to admit my teenage son to a clinic with severe depression and suicidal tendencies. Thank you for the amazing mails I receive from you regularly. They honestly talk straight to my heart.
This is the first time anyone has shared this with me. My husband has been withdrawn now for well over 5 years. He is struggling with so much inner turmoil and outwardly blames me and our kids for much of it. We’ve done nothing but all try to support him while he’s been verbally abusive to each of us. He distances himself by staying obsessively active at his sport of choice. Then comes home and is exhausted. In fact he barely speaks to any of us and shows little emotion around us.
We’ve been to counseling because he has been so distant and affectionate. I’ve always been supportive and tried to fulfill his requests about everything to keep him at peace. Nothing I do or my children has made a difference. Anyone else would have left him by now but we’ve been together 3/4 of my life – that’s hard to put behind especially when you love someone. I know he loves me but it’s becoming increasingly more challenging to hold on.
Many of the things you’ve mentioned not to do or say to a depressed person I’ve said and done. No one ever shared that with me. While I try to back off, giving him space and support I eventually cave by pounding him with questions out of desperation for answers. His behavior finally pulled me down so low I thought I’d never survive it. I’m finally picking myself back up and regaining control of my life.
I can’t believe after going through couples counseling and individual counseling no one has suggested the way to deal with a depressed person. Instead they tried working with how we communicate and individually what I need to do for me to stay strong with a man who has shown signs of narcissistic behavior.
Now to try your approach.
I can totally identify with your message, I too get blamed for everything! But I know I have done nothing but give love and support. I hope you continue to stay strong.
Was your husband diagnosed with depression via psychological testing? Narcissisism really isn’t depression from personal and clinical experience.. Narcissism is an intense love of self, exclusively to self and exclusively expecting to the catering of their perceived specialness by those around him or her.
Depression causes the opposite of throwing oneself into sports. Depression zaps your energy and nothing pleasurable is even within reach. It sounds like your husband is using sports to avoid his family because he wants something different in life.
Marc Chernoff says
So glad this post is giving you new hope, Diane. Stay strong.
Jenny Thorek says
Depression is quite insidious in how it affects everyone else who lives with the depressed person. You get sucked down into its vortex without realizing that you are becoming depressed as well, which just compounds the whole situation. Self care is vital. I never considered myself to be depressed until recognizing that I was recently,, after living and dealing with a depressed partner for years. It is such hard work to pull yourself up out of that negative state, especially after losing your own self esteem and confidence .
That’s exactly what i experienced with my ex. I had a difficult time coping with her. I’ve always been strong but very sensitive person, had passed through my own difficulties and after one year of relationship (a very good relationship) she started to feel depressed and after things that happend in her life it started to turn into a depression. She struggled so much to be there for me and i didn’t understand at the time. She would use to say it was not my fault that things were bad, that she was not feeling right and some times se wasnt feeling nothing at all. After 3 months of that, she said: “I don’t know what i feel about you anymore”. And fade away from me. We had our discussions later and almost 3 months after (wich is the present moment) she invited me for a coffee. I know, for sure, she loves me but it is hard dealing with someone who doesnt make you feel useful or at least doesnt show. That’s my problem, that’s what i feel. I feel useless to her. But i love her so much that, even though i can get myself hurt i dont mind i’l always be there. Off course! I want to see us toghether again. I feel i have so much to give to her, i just want her to let me.
I appreciate your article and wish everyone could read it. One misconception about the depression is that it can be cured. Cognitive Therapy, such as the application of principles you teach, is of immeasurable value, but the individual battle must be fought on a daily basis. It cannot, in many cases, be fully treated without professional help.
My husband wont get help…
Seeking help for depression requires more courage than toughing things out. I know based on my experience.
Be there for your husband when he is ready for help and take care of yourself.
I have battled depression most of my adult life and I know from experience it’s an awful, debilitating illness. I also know from experience it’s very frustrating to live with or around and trying to help someone with depression. You have to have someone you trust and know they wouldn’t lead you astray. You also have to try and help yourself. I have a friend who I have tried to help and I have been there for 6 years because I do understand but I don’t understand not trying different things to help yourself. For six years now I have watched her over and over try and take her life. She is addicted to pain medicine and she want take her medicine as prescribed by her Psychiatrist. All she wants is a quick fix pill.
I just don’t understand and was wondering if you might could help me understand. I have lived through hell battling depression but it’s a battle…you have to do something to help yourself. No one else can do it for you….she just WON’T DO ANYTHING and it’s been 6 years now. I’ve tried to be very patient and it’s been very hard at times….help!!!!
Some really good points here. I agree that it is difficult to be a true friend to somebody who is depressed.
I have somebody in my life that I used to be close to who is suffering from depression and has been on and off for years. It’s really hard, not just for the person who is depressed but for the people around them too.
I tried to be a good friend but she wouldn’t talk to me about it at all and in the six months before she withdrew completely she was a very difficult person to like. She was outright nasty and hateful at times. You couldn’t talk to her about anything at all without her being nasty and spiteful about it, sending hateful text messages, excessive jealousy etc. It ticks all the boxes in your article ‘9 Warning Signs You’re in Bad Company’.
That was before she withdrew completely. No reply to texts, calls, emails etc.
I’ve had to pull away for the sake of my own mental health. I think it is really important to note that sometimes, even though you do try to be there for the person who is depressed, it isn’t always possible.
Thank you for this post. My husband has gone through a deep depression years ago. He has what I call an “Eeyore Personality.” Even when he isn’t in a depressed state, he is a bit pessimistic and overthinks situations, a bit self-absorbed at times. But I love him madly and throughout our 28 years of marriage I need to constantly remind him that I will never leave him, because that is a fear he has and expresses when he is feeling particularly unlovable. I cannot wrap my mind around his mind as I am pretty much Pollyanna. So I rather think we are a good match. But your post helps me understand better I need to take care of me, too. For that reminder, I am grateful.
I totally understand, my husband is the same. It’s so hard when you love them so much, we have been together 31 years.
I’ve suffered with depression for many years– and yes, it is suffering. How do you describe that hollow nothingness you feel to someone who has not been through it? How can you explain that everyday is the 2oth day in a row of sleeting, freezing ugliness? You can’t.
I’m lucky. I have friends who are filled with compassion and who will text me out of nowhere just to say they’re thinking of me or that I matter to them. Just those small gestures can make the difference.
Thank you for reminding people that depression isn’t a choice or someone being dramatic. It’s very real and very scary. I hate every minute of it and I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.
Chris Dougherty says
I stand alongside of you, Jeff, and agree with everything you’ve said. “How can you explain that everyday is the 2oth day in a row of sleeting, freezing ugliness?” Totally a perfect description of how one’s soul feels while under the stinking garbage truck crushing of depression.
Switching from one med to another starting six weeks ago, I asked five friends if they’d stick by me/keep track of me/check in on me regularly. I was suicidal and emotionally alone. One of the five did. She saved my life.
Hello and thank you.
I have a problem though. It’s my mom who has a major depression but I DON’T LOVE HER. I can’t hug her. I can’t kiss her. I can’t.
Plus, everybody tells her she must go out. See people … go to a community center but she does not want to go. Not ever with help or a companion.
I don’t love her anymore. I am incapable of loving her. Her misery just drifts me away even more.
Sad. I know. She is only 69 years old. Had broken heart syndrome and developed ailments due to her mental stress.
I hate reading this post and realizing this is me…
Chris Dougherty says
It’s a LOT of us, dear. You’re NOT alone out here in the wilderness.
Thank you very much for this poignant article, Marc. Well done from going deep and accurately into the subject form this angle. It really is like that. And it really helps to see again, again and again that someone is willing to spend some time with you, to smile at you and hug you even though you think you’re a pain/a bore, you don’t deserve it, you’re overreacting/immature/weak, you’re not trying hard enough, etc. And yes, taking the easy way out seems the least of the two evils. It’s also very true that this kind of pain is unlike all other pains, however tragic the reason. Thank you again for providing people with a view from within and help them imagine what it’s like.
Thank you for this post!! It’s extremely helpful for me to read this morning as my 15 year old son confided in me last week that we has been suffering with depression for the past 2 years. Totally unbeknownst to me and my husband, we assumed he was just going through typical teenage angst. But he had the courage to leave a class at school last week when he was feeling particularly overwhelmed and sad, to meet with the school social worker. So we are hopefully on the road to recovery for him. A couple of years ago, he did begin to pull away and refused to hug me goodnight or goodbye anymore. I allowed it because I thought he needed space, but since he told me of his depressed feelings, I’ve been holding him in long embraces and he seems to know it’s exactly what he needs ~ more human contact.
It breaks my heart to think of my child feeling so isolated and empty, but I will keep this post as a reminder to simply be there for him no matter what.
Just me says
Thank you so much for this post, perfect timing as always. My husband, who is amazing, has been going through something like this for many years. I agree with the other posts, it’s tragic to see someone you love so much in this position every day, especially when they won’t seek help. I thought I was looking after myself but I lost confidence, was exhausted and very low. I did keep asking him what he planned to do as I found it frustrating, and so I know I did and said the wrong things too. We tried both having space which helped us both and he has moved into his family home to try and work it out on his own. This isn’t ideal for him and he sunk lower but long story short, having time to recover and deal with my own pain of the separation and feelings of failure I recovered myself could finally find that unconditional love to hold for him. It’s working, we are connecting like we haven’t for years. It’s also helped me to understand and manage feelings on a daily basis to help me through this. I’m not sure what the future holds but it’s better than it was. I can’t stop loving him, it hurts more to try so I won’t. Never give up hope, it can change and improve. I love Marc’s posts, they are wonderful and have really helped me. I’ve never been drawn to comment before until now. It’s really helped to share so thank you to everyone. I wish you all a brighter future.
Great post, Marc!
As someone who’s battled depression most of her life, I would add these to the list as often these were asked of me during moments of unbearable depression:
– Don’t ask them to help you do anything when they can barely muster the energy to get out of bed.
– Don’t ask them to comfort you when they feel so emotionally depleted they have nothing left to give.
– Don’t insist they go out with you to “have fun” because your happiness only emphasizes their misery.
I wish those around me had known this.
Thanks for sharing!
Chris Dougherty says
What just kills me is the odd attempts to engage you when you are clearly depressed.
Husband: Where is the mayonnaise? I can’t find a thing to eat in this house – why won’t you go shopping? (Because the last time I got in the car I had a panic attack and got LOST TWICE driving to a store I have visited once a week for 25 years, that’s why!)
Daughter: The baby is keeping me up all night and running me ragged during the day; can you come over for a couple of days and babysit so I can get some stuff done? You KNOW Brian won’t help! (It’s a hundred miles each way and I’m spending $500 a month (that we REALLY DON’T have) on medications my insurance won’t cover. I’m desperately-exhaustedly-powder-blue-tired. I’m taking medicines for anxiety that I REALLY want neither to drive with or drive without as I never know when or IF a panic attack will come on.
Oh, and by the way, I’m barely able to get up, get bathed & dressed and cook meals for your dad and me; and now you want me to babysit an active (but beloved) 2 and a half year old? Cook meals for 6 and clean your dirty house as well? With what for energy?)
Friend: Gee, I’m sorry that I didn’t call the past three weeks, and I KNOW I promised to but we’ve just been SO BUSY! That party at Margo’s was a two day affair and we all caught 40 pound salmon from their party barge. I JUST didn’t think of calling you to see if you wanted to go – you REALLY have bombed out of SO MANY things lately…and did I tell you that John and I are going to the Bahamas next month? And it’s not costing us a dime! His company drew his name for a prize! I KNOW you love scuba diving so I figured you’d be thrilled for us! (Several more minutes of her this, her that, her wonderful whatever, talk of other friends who are ignoring me or falling out and away from me, etc.)
But I’m just SURE you’ll get over this soon, you just need to get out there and get moving! I know of a GREAT three times a week Zumba class and it’s only $50 a week! And you REALLY should think about doing something about that weight you’ve gained…….
Your recent post makes a lot of sense to me and I have actively made an effort to say and do many of the things mentioned. My only daughter, (I am a widow) has suffered from deep depression for quite some time now. One thing against us is that I live in Ohio and by choice, she lives in New York. I receive desperate calls day and night, as well as voice mail and texts asking me to come for some sit in sessions with her Dr. I would like nothing better if I thought it would help, however, I am 67 years old and still working everyday to make ends meet. My daughter means so very much to me but it’s difficult when there is distance between us. I’ve been very supportive financially and emotionally, showing my love and devotion to her. I do want to be there for her but she tunes me out and won’t answer any calls, texts or emails, leaving me to think the worst has happened. I need a bit of advice for long distance support. Your post has been most securing…Thanks so much.
My depressions are on and off and I can relate to most of what is in this article. One thing though…when in depression there is this longing for company but there is no energy to actually make plans. And when making plans it sometimes feels like being a burden to others or not really adding to the relationship and being boring and not really fun to be with. Thoughts of others only spending time with you out of pity or so can arise and be torturous. Therefore to invite someone who is depressed and just let him be part of an event without expecting much participation can be really helpful. Just being with people, feeling like still belonging to society can be very soothing.
Where is the rain??? says
Winter in Seattle would cheer me up. Hot Sunny California depresses me. When you realize that there is NOT anyone who cares enough past saying “Hello, how are you” and this goes on for years then you carry a depression inside you and on the surface nobody can see this. It makes you withdraw from many things. How nice it must be to have someone who really cares. I would appreciate this so much. Sometimes when I am driving my car I think, “Wow, what would it be like to have someone who really cares. Someday someone will care.” I have lost many times in life as I am sure others have and there is such emptiness. I smile and I am friendly when I am out and about and do not show the sadness.
Fabulous post. I would like to add that when you love a person who is depressed, even if it takes all of your will, please realize that you can’t fix them. As much as we so desperately want to see our partners, children and friends well and happy, they can’t be “fixed” by things that we do or don’t do. As hard as it is, they have to do the work themselves. Be supportive, yes. Encourage them to get help when it’s appropriate to do so. But resist the temptation to tell them that if they just did this or that, they’d be well. Don’t judge when they can’t take your advice. No one chooses depression. Thank you!
Keeping on Living says
My wife entered into what I know now to be depression when she became pregnant with our second son. It has been very debilitating for our relationship, and for a while it broke both of us down completely. At first I felt the “What dreams may come” syndrome, and felt that I had to join her in her world to stay valid in her life. Yet, you can all imagine the deep depression that drug me into.
I’ve been there before. I recognized it, and I’ve been dragging myself out of that place slowly but surely for the past couple of years now. I am starting to gain control of my life again, and now want to provide that positive light for my wife that I know she needs to find her own way.
This article was literally positive timing, down to the day. It was a rough day, after a rough week, yada yada yada… So, thank you! I will start to help my wife, by continuing to help myself. I’m now emotionally stable, but there are many more things I need to do for myself. Hopefully, by continuing to improve myself and bring more happiness into our lives, it will help to provide confidence for her as well.
I will never leave. She is IT.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you
For a while now, I have tried to look up Depression, find ways to understand it better I felt I was going around and around in circles. My loved one, even though we have been on and off for years has suffered bouts of Depression, I now have a full grasp on how to handle this, how to feel, how to deal with it all.
This has come at a perfect time for me, I always thought that it was personal that he was just pushing me away because it was easy for him to do, but now I realise that is not the case.
Thank you so very much, this is saved in my favourites now, so I can go back and remind myself when we are back in that dark place.
I am going through this right now with my husband. He has Parkinson’s and is in rehab after a fall. It feels like you can never do enough for him. He has a lot
Of visitors but never happy. He always thinks something is going to happen to me on the way home.
Your article today is so helpful as to what he is feeling and how to respond. Thank you!
Jan Haag says
Thanks, Marc, for this great advice. I wish I’d known these things years ago when my late husband struggled with depression, and I, the clueless wife, had no idea how to help. I’m sure I made it worse. I particularly love your paragraph of things to say to the one who is depressed (perhaps not all at once… I agree!). So compassionate and just right.
This is the best advice on helping with a loved with depression that I’ve read! I wish someone had done these things for me, when I was going through a depressive episode a few years ago. (That being said, I’m sure there were people who helped me in many ways that I didn’t care to notice.)
Anyhow, thank you very much for this post!! Your blog is the best!
Thanks for bringing light to this subject. As someone who has battled this illness over 30 years & rebuilt my life more times than even I can remember I’d add:
Depression while prevalent in our society, sadly is a socially unacceptable disease. In today’s world where a positive attitude is promoted & toxic personalities shunned, many misunderstood individuals live in great pain unable to reach out for the comfort, support, & help they so desperately need. Having a loving support system which includes friends and family who are there for you both emotionally and physically, even when you push them away or shut down, both lightens your load and provides a light at the end of the tunnel however dim or distant, that gives you a vitally needed thread of hope. Please don’t turn your back on loved ones enduring this pain, while they may zap your physical and emotional energy you may just be saving their lives!
This is a serious question: As long as suicidal ideation is not part of the picture, could it be that people suffering from depression are attracted to each other and actually can be good companions? Have had your book for some time and personally profit from your posts and especially from others’ comments. Maybe this subject has been discussed. Apologies for missing it.
Although I find this article very informative, there are some things with which I disagree…..People depressed “are humorless.” I think this is one of the biggest misconceptions. Look how many comedians end up dead through self-medication or suicide. My loved one that is depressed is the life of the party and has everyone laughing, except himself. Sometimes depression can be situational. So although I agree that you should not ask “why are you depressed,” I think it is helpful to say “If I can help, please tell me.” Maybe you can’t help directly, but if you are there to listen, to lend some kind of support, it may be enough to keep that person going.
There are others that feel like me. Can’t express how comforting that is..
Thanks for the great advice and encouragements here. I suffered for very long time with depression and the three things that helped me was my friend, your blog articles/emails, and the book “The Power of Now”. All together made me to think more positive and let the negative self-talks and thinking go away believing that tomorrow will be a better day.
Thanks for this article. I have suffered from depression in the past and was even feeling like ending it all. I struggled to put what I was feeling and what I needed or wanted from others into words. Your post states it very clearly and describes exactly how I felt. Thank you!!
I love all of your posts. Thank you for this one as it hit me directly, just hearing your words has given me the energy to do what I need to do in the material world today. I have lived with chronic, clinical depression for most of my life, it started at about 10 years of age when my late mother moved us in with my Captain Bly step father…and my own beloved father, and protecter passed away… I am now 55. I almost treat it as though another entire person lives inside of me as this is the only way I can cope with it day in and day out, over the many years I have suffered, I have learned amazing ways to cope. I treat that deeply sad, hopeless part of me with love and care, but work hard each day to keep moving. I have become an incredibly amazing faker of happiness, and contentment. This of course to keep the people in my life happy, better they do not know, it just upsets them. I believe much of my trouble is because I am a highly sensitive Empath and have unknowingly taken on the collective pain of my family, and the world since I was about 6 years old. I am now learning many healthier ways to cope and get through each day always wondering what the Hell it is all for. Helping others actually helps me to feel better so I do this often, I am careful to not be taken advantage of, and I am learning how to not be a sponge for others negativity, and problems. I feel all of those feelings above all day every day even at night around the hours of 2 am and 6am. I know I must stay here until the loving Universe calls me home so I go on. Thank You it helps so much to know someone understands this very difficult illness.
ada toiman says
If you want to help a depressed person the thing to do is practical everyday stuff. Discipline can help you to keep going and makes your brain concentrate in other than whatever is in your head. Manual labor helped me a lot. A rarely few people will be there for you at those times. I highly appreciate that kind spirit that shows even in toughest moments of life. When you get better a lot of things might have changed and it’s fine to move on. I’m practicing some of my advice in the present and I feel strong for being able to do so, to endure roadblocks and know that always there is positive things and experiences coming my way. Thank you
This is just what I needed at the perfect time. My fiance and I both suffer from depression from time to time. Whenever I’m going through a hard time it seems like he’s the perfect support system, he always says the right things and helps me out of it. But when he’s going through the same thing I feel like I have a much harder time helping him. I want to help him so bad but I am a feeler and he is a thinker and it is tough for me to figure out how to work with him in the way that helps him the most. When he’s feeling depressed, being around him makes me feel depressed and then I just feel selfish because I struggle to stay strong for him. What you said about taking care of yourself so you can help the person who is depressed is so true! When I care for myself first I feel much more grounded and clear-minded and I am more able to give him what he needs in that moment. It’s just really hard to maintain that and not take things personally and feel like I’m doing something wrong. Thank you for this post, it’s really helpful to me. I’ll definitely be saving it to read whenever I feel like I’m struggling to be patient and stay strong for him.
One Word: Inspirational!
Geez, I really needed my partner to read this a few years ago. I’m glad I came out the other side, but there were some dark moments.
Thank-you for sharing this and giving a voice to those who suffer depression.
Sequins & Sand says
I have a few friends who admitted to suffering from mild depression. After reading this post, I understand that the best I could do is just to be there for them when they need me. Not necessarily offering words of comfort but merely letting them know that I am still here with them.
Every single word in your article is true. It applies on me 100%. I have been under depression since early this year. And it doesn’t look like it will go away or that things would be better soon. I have tried so many ways to cope: music, exercise, food supplements, vitamins, crystals, feng shui, mantras (this, too, shall pass; I will be better; everything will be fine; I will be fine; so on and so forth). But this article clears up one thing for me: I will just be kidding myself if I would think that things would be better soon. There is a time for everything, even for healing. This is the only thing I need at the moment, and it is no where in sight. Sometimes, I feel like seeing glimpses of healing. But it is only an illusion, a mirage. The fatigue, the hopelessness, the helplessness, the need for isolation, the emptiness. All of these are true. It is painful. It is difficult. But still, things happen and things come for which I always find a reason to be thankful for. Like finding and reading worthwhile articles in your blog. Some expressed thoughts give me perspective, and help provide an anchor to my oftentimes wandering thoughts. Thank you.
Marc Chernoff says
Thank you for the comments, everyone. I’m so inspired to hear that so many of you resonated with this post. It gives me hope that this message will spread, and that depression will be treated with greater care within close family and social circles.
Let’s stay strong for each other. 🙂
I’ve never read anything this clear about what I’m going through. It brought tears to my eyes – because someone has seen my soul. Thank you !
A light bulb has just gone on. I’m in a developing relationship and it had recently intensified. Now……it’s seems a bit cold. He’s tired a lot. Alcohol intake has picked up……….and just a general sadness and disconnect to others. We talk daily……….I find joy in exercising each day, and he expressed guilty because he has not in weeks……….It all sounds so familiar now……
I almost skipped this article and actually came back to it.
I live with and am medicated for depression. I know too well the overwhelming sense of “drowning” and darkness. I remember my husband looking at me like I was alien. My laying on our bed in fetal position saying I didn’t want to wake up anymore.
I tried to explain the feeling to my teenager after my inpatient stay. To which I received “Mom, I don’t believe in depression”.
I’m not sure which words helped……..but I know I had friends that were concerned and never stopped supporting me. When I finally got to the point of being paralyzed by depression, they encouraged me to seek medical help.
Thank you for this great article. What an insight to my relationship and the importance of being supportive and understanding that his behavior is about him and not my shortcomings.
Depression 101. rms
I read your article and you could be writing about me and my constant depression. I cried as I read it. I just wish the people in my life understood what you wrote as opposed to saying snap out of it or people have it worse off. The torture that is depression is unending. Comparing suicide with the burning fire behind and the jump ahead reminded me of the World Trade Center fires and the same choice people had, either burning alive or jumping.
Thank you for posting this as it gives me, the depressed person some comfort.
Very well written article. I’ve been on both sides of this. Right now, my boyfriend is going through depression. Thanks for all the reminders, especially letting people know that phrases like “cheer up!” and “it can’t be that bad!’ do nothing for someone who is genuine depressed. Being there is the best thing, and he does respond to frequent hugs! Thank you.