I’m still brainstorming good ways to announce my mental health issues. Which do you think is better, confetti or a singing telegram?
It’s not easy to say out loud – there’s nothing enjoyable about depression, it is just awful. But what’s just as awful, is the stigma that comes along with it, the shame and the misconceptions.
Because mental illnesses are invisible, some people confuse that for being nonexistent. But can you see all the WiFi surrounding you as you read my blog on the internet? No! Yet it’s still there, thank God. (Somebody better get that joke, because I think it’s bloody hilarious)
That leads me on to the first comment – yes I am a person with depression and I just made a joke. I can laugh, and it doesn’t magically cure me.
#1 “Just cheer up” or “Just be more positive”
This comment might be well intended, but it hurts so much. It shows a lack of understanding of how serious and real depression is. It makes depression seem like a choice, but nobody would choice misery over happiness if it was just that.
Alternatively, you could start telling people with a broken leg to just get up and walk, or deaf people to just listen – but at least they wouldn’t be able to hear you.
#2 “You can’t be depressed, you look so happy”
Surprise mother ducker. Depression is a mental illness. I am perfectly capable of smiling one day, then the next day spend all day in bed, because just the thought of getting up makes me break down. Which day do you think I’d take a selfie?
The same goes for social happenings – I can go to class, seem normal, then come home completely exhausted, because I’m constantly fighting not to break down or seem unhappy. You can’t tell how somebody is really feeling based on a small glimpse into their life.
#3 “It’s all in your head”
So are a brain tumors. Still dangerous, still very real.
Depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, and it’s not something anybody would ever choose. Just because it’s in your head, it’s not something you have absolute control over. Recovering from depression is not as simple as thinking differently, and it often comes along with physical pain as well – yes, it can make you feel physically sick.
Picture 1: A depressed person. Picture 2: Still a depressed person. Pictures are only a couple of days apart. I really don’t feel like publishing this image, but it goes to prove my point. – This is how a depressed person looks
#4 “I totally get it, I was so depressed after [sad event]”
Depression and grief are not the same thing. Everyone feels sad when sad things happens – that is not the same as knowing that it is like to be depressed. Saying this dismisses the depressed person’s feelings, and invalidates them. There’s a big different between feeling blue and being depressed.
Your intention may be to make them feel like they’re not alone, but you’re actually saying you don’t take their struggles serious.
#5 “It could be worse”
It could be worse if [insert something worse than depression according to a person who doesn’t understand depression].
Admitted, there are things that are worse than depression. Lots of other people have it worse, and I am already very aware of that. Trust me, I feel plenty guilty for not appreciating all the good things I have already. But depression is just not that simple, it’s not that easy to get over.
Instead of telling somebody to feel lucky for what they have, say you’re sorry they’re going through a rough time. Instead of saying they aren’t the only one who goes through rough times, ask if they feel alone.
#6 “Why are you depressed?”
This might seem like an innocent question, trying to be understanding – but the thing is, there’s not always a reason for it. Depression is complex, and rarely has a simple trigger.
I can’t tell you why I am depressed. I can list some contributing factors that brought me here, that I am working on improving now. But it’s different for everyone. I was hesitant to seek help, because I couldn’t justify being depressed. There was no obvious reason, and it made me doubt it was real, even when my body was screaming the opposite at me.
Instead of asking why, ask what you can do to help them feel better.
Offer your help. If you’re a good friend, don’t just say “Call me if you need me”, say
- “I’ll come over and help you cook dinner”
- “I’ll bring groceries over tomorrow”
- “I’ll help you clean up the kitchen”
Because it’s hard to admit you need help, and even simple every day task can seem impossible when you’re feeling down.
Being depressed is already hard – don’t make it worse with your ignorance.
I am sorry if I come across a little harsh when making some points. I think a lot of people who make these comment wants to help, and don’t realize how hurtful their comments can be. You’re a not a bad person if you’ve made one of these comments, but I hope you’re prepared better if you’re in a similar situation now.
Maybe you don’t share my view on every comment and that’s okay – there’s room for different opinions here.
If you have a mental illness, how do you wish people talked to you about it? If you don’t, what do you do to help a friend who’s struggling?