Monthly Archives: October 2013

To say or not to say… 7 ways to talk to someone struggling with depression

Offering advice is not the best thing to say to someone with depression!

Offering advice may not be the best thing to say to someone with depression! :)

I started this blog about two months ago. In that time, more than half a dozen women have approached me and told me that they, too, have struggled or are struggling with some form of true depression. I am so grateful that these women have felt comfortable enough with me to share this! It means a lot to me, and it is a big step for them.

I love hearing from people about the topics I write about!

What I find fascinating, though, are the silent ones. The people who I know are reading my blogs, and I know had no clue about my struggle with depression, and yet when I see them, make no mention of it.

I’m not offended by this; it’s just interesting. Why are people afraid to talk about depression, even when I have made it clear that I’m okay talking about it?

Perhaps they, like many people, don’t “believe” true depression exists. Or perhaps it’s just easier for them to ignore it.

OR, perhaps it’s because people feel unprepared or ill-equipped, fearing that they might say the wrong thing?

So I come to you today to equip you, to give you a few insights (based on my own personal experience) on how to talk to someone who has admitted they are struggling with depression! So read on, and fear not!

1. You cannot make someone’s depression worse or better. It’s not about you.

Find relief in this! It is not in your control. Depression is rooted solely in a person’s mind, either chemically or psychosomatically, or both. So, unless you’re telepathic, psychic, or a psychiatrist, you’re in the clear. :)

Therefore,

2. Do not say, “What can I do to make you feel better?” because, see #1.

DO say, “Want to talk about it?” And if they say no, say, “OK, please know I’m here to listen, and I promise to give no judgements or advice.”

3. Do not say, “Maybe you need to pray more.” Even the most devout person who truly believes in the healing power of Christ can suffer from depression. [More on this soon to come.]

4. Do not say, “Oh man, I know exactly how you feel.” Cause, well, you don’t. Even if you’ve struggled with depression before, you don’t know exactly how I feel!  (Even I have made the mistake of saying this before!)

DO say, “I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this. If you ever need to talk, I’m here for you.”

Do say, "I'm here if you need to talk."

Do say, “I’m here if you need to talk.”

5. Do not say, “I can’t believe I didn’t know about this; I’m such a bad friend/parent/sibling.” Because, again, it’s not about you! (No offense) :) I’m realizing that many, many people suffer from some form of depression and NEVER TELL ANYONE. If I haven’t even told my husband, why would I tell you? (Again, no offense!) :)

DO say, “I’m sorry you’ve been struggling with this for so long. I’ll be praying for you as you begin to work through it.”

6.  Do not say, “Think about all the wonderful things in your life!” One of the biggest feelings in depression is guilt. We know we have wonderful things in our lives. We KNOW it. And that makes us feel even worse because we can’t understand why we are depressed. It makes no sense.

Do say, “It is so great that you are finally talking about this! Hang in there, and fight the good fight.”

7.  Don’t say, “Let me know if you ever want to hang out.”  Because, honestly, we won’t ever let you know when we want to hang out. Because a huge symptom of depression is wanting to be alone.

Do say, “Let’s get together this week. I’m free Tuesday at 9:30, does that work for you?” Sometimes we NEED someone to take the reins and kick us out of our house. :) So making definitive plans can help!

Are you getting the gist? Basically, someone who is struggling with depression needs encouragement. Pure and simple. Encouragement to seek professional help, to talk about it, to continue in taking control of the situation.

And once they’ve started on that journey, they need more encouragement to keep it up, and congratulations for getting as far as they have!

I hope this helps even one of my readers to understand a little more about how to talk to a loved one suffering depression. It’s so complicated. Even my husband, to whom I confide everything, can’t fully understand what I’ve gone through. But he’s a huge support; he gives encouragement and congratulations, and that’s all that matters. :)

For some great links on dealing with depression in your life or a loved one’s life, see my resources page!

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor do I play one on TV. The comments and opinions expressed in these articles are merely comments and opinions. Please seek professional medical advice before making any changes to the diet, exercise, or medication of yourself or your children.

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Laughter is…

…THIS: (at least, for me it is…)

So, I’m just curious… did this make you laugh? At all? I really found it funny, in an oh-my-gosh-what-the-heck-is-this-it’s-so-weird-it’s-hysterical kind of way.

I first saw Ylvis’ video at the women’s retreat I mentioned in my last post. In a room full of [mostly middle-aged] women, the dj had been playing lots of 70s and 80s hits and then, WA-PA-POW!, he started playing “The Fox” on a huge projector screen.

I started laughing pretty quickly; I think I’d be friends with the Ylvisåker brothers, I feel like we must have the same type of humor. The entire video cracks me up! Mo-o-o-o-orse!! Guardian angel!! The horse drinking champagne!! But looking around the room, most of the faces I saw were, well, confused.

imageWhen I got home, one of the first things I showed AJ was, of course, this video. He’s so gonna love it, it’s hysterical! I thought. Well… nope. Nada. A barely-there-smile was all the reaction I got from that guy. “Don’t you think it’s funny?” I asked.  “Well, um, a little, I guess. It’s just weird,” he replied, and quickly returned to the world of Angry Birds: Star Wars edition.

This is not the first time I’ve found something funny that to others was either weird or just neutral. I think it stems down to the fact that I just like to make myself laugh!  And what I laugh at is, understandably, not always what other people find funny.

But that’s ok! Having the ability to recognize what you find funny and allowing yourself to audibly and visibly LAUGH OUT LOUD is such a great skill! [Disclaimer: laughing at the expense of someone else is NOT what I’m talking about here.]

Whenever we get to spend time with my sister, AJ always makes a comment along the lines of, “Well, at least you guys can make yourselves laugh…” She and I often find the same things funny, and we’re not afraid to laugh out loud about them.  No skin off our noses if no one else finds it funny! It gave us a good bellowing laugh and that’s all that matters.

laughterAnd now that I’m a mom, I’m really enjoying learning what makes my kids laugh. For instance, when 3-year-old Tori started calling me “Auntie Sue!” at random times of the day (sometimes in public, yikes!) and snorting/snickering/giggling madly about it.  Or when then-4-month-old Anders laughed hysterically at his sister spitting her food out at the dinner table (DOUBLE yikes!).

Or when I showed Anders “The Fox” just a few days ago and HE LAUGHED AT ALL THE SAME PLACES I LAUGHED AT!!! Mom: 1. Dad: 0. :) “The Fox” is now the #10 single on iTunes, so clearly my son and I aren’t the only ones who like it.

Have you ever had that moment when you’ve found something really funny, but no one else did? Did you laugh anyway? I really hope you do, even if you think you might look silly. Just remember Victor Hugo’s eloquent insight: “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”

Of course, I prefer to comfort myself by remembering Lord Byron’s acute observation, “Nothing can confound a wise man more than laughter from a dunce.” Haha!

Oh yes, it’s ladies night!

…oh what a night!

OK, so we really didn’t go crazy. At all. We are all moms with young kids and were asleep by 10:45 on the second night of our girls’ weekend, thinking to ourselves, “OH MY GOSH IT IS SO FRIGGING LATE.” Haha :)

Following in a recently established annual tradition, last weekend I was privileged to spend two nights at a local resort (thank you, corporate discount!) with some of the most beautiful, loving, encouraging and funny ladies I know. AND we were lucky enough to hear national author Margaret Feinberg speak at our church’s women’s retreat (more on that later!). Doesn’t get much better!

The LadiesThe 6 of us attend the same church and are part of a group that basically does life together.  Our kids play together, we bring meals to each other when we have a newborn or are sick, we text pictures of our kids’ Major Poop Incidents to each other. (That is assuming we aren’t present for said Major Poop Incidents; I have literally wiped my friends’ [newborn] daughter’s poop off the floor at Dunkin Donuts while she whisked her out to the car for a hose down… [TMI??]) Enter song: “That’s What Friends Are For…”

But this weekend marked a BIG milestone for me. Because one year ago was the first time I actually TALKED in depth about my depression to anyone besides my husband. And these women were there for me then, and still are. They saw me weep, laugh, and weep some more. I said things to them I had said only in my mind. I told them things that probably didn’t make any sense and, in hindsight, might have scared them. I have never in my life been so vulnerable with anyone. (Read: it was A REALLY BIG DEAL.)

I think of it as my “coming out”, in a way. For some reason, struggling with depression is considered socially “taboo” in many circles. If you are truly struggling with it, you certainly aren’t talking about it. And because no one talks about it, you think you’re the only one who is struggling with it. It is, pardon my language, bull shit.

Every psychiatrist will tell you that admitting and accepting that you have depression is a very important step in the healing process. Taking the HUGE step of openly talking with my friends about my struggle with depression is one of the biggest elements of my treatment plan toward my recovery and victory. I am so, so grateful that these women are in my life, and are so honest, raw, loving and accepting. I truly don’t think I could’ve come as far as I have without them and their support.

Needless to say, this past weekend was great. We got a much needed break from the daily grind, and some time to reflect on the past year and to catch up on each other’s lives. (Isn’t it amazing how we can see each other so often yet not actually talk about anything important?? Too much “Mommy??? Mommy?? Mommy!!!”)

I got 9 hours of UNINTERRUPTED sleep, AND not a single Major Poop Incident occurred. Yep. I’m feeling good! :)