The thing that’s almost as hard as suffering a clinical depression is when you have a loved one who suffers from it.
While there are resources available for those suffering from depression, there is less support for those who have to care for them. So here are some pointers for those who have loved ones suffering a severe depression.
- Take care of yourself. If you remember just one message from this, please remember this one. Being with a depressed person is tremendously taxing. Be sure to take breaks and meet your own needs. You’re not going help anyone by collapsing yourself. I highly recommend seeking counseling yourself to deal with the emotional scars from being with and caring for a depressed.
- Understand that a depressed person is not the person you know. (S)He has become a different person, one who doesn’t remember the original. He doesn’t think or act the same way. You’ll need to devise a new approach to being this person. And don’t take anything he says personally. It’s his depression talking, not real him.
- Learn when to intervene. This is one question you have to ask a professional if the depression is severe. I have heard, for example, that it’s a red flag if a person starts talking about specifics about suicide — when and how. That’s more than merely expressing desires to die. Also, it’s fair to ask this question to the depressed person himself, when he’s in a relatively better mood. And when he protests in times of severe depressive episodes, you can say “we agreed that I intervene when you get to this stage.”
- Don’t force a fix. Depression, like addiction, can only be healed when the person himself realizes the need to heal. You can suggest and encourage, but can’t force it. Except when your loved ones ask you to intervene or the threshold of #3 have been reached. And never “kick” a depressed by saying stuff like “come on, snap out of it!” It’s tempting, I know, but don’t do it. Counter-productive.
- Discourage major decisions. This relates to #1 — when the real person is taken over by a depressed version, it’s best not to let the depressed version make major decisions that affect the real one. Depression can scream for big changes, like resigning a job or getting a divorce. Whenever possible, put things on hold, take a break, but try to hold off on making irreversible big decisions.
- Affirm and validate their feelings. The pain is real to a depressed person and the best thing you can do is to validate it, instead of denying it. Say “I feel your pain” instead of “Don’t feel that way.”
- Match their energy level. A depressed person tends to be lethargic for a reason. Their mind is tired and overloaded and needs a rest. Too much activity around them can tire them. Stay calm, relax and rest with the person. And attend to your active duties when the person’s not around.
- Stay positive. Unfortunately, honesty is not a good policy with a depressed person. You have to present a consistently positive outlook. Tell them that it will get better, and that you still love them, and that you’ll never leave them. If you have issues of your own (undoubtedly you do) don’t unload it upon a depressed person — seek outlet for that elsewhere.
Above all, don’t lose hope! Be sure to seek professional help for yourself, as well as your loved one. Healing is possible.
Disclaimer: this post is intended for educational or entertainment purposes only and should not be viewed as medical or professional advise.