Even though so much has been written about it, many people still find it hard to understand loved ones who suffer from depression. This is understandable, as part of the illness can make a person become quieter and more distant.
When asked, "Are you OK?" sometimes the depressed person may simply respond, "I'm fine." As a loved one, you may feel helpless to do anything of use to make them feel better.
But when you're depressed, all you want is the love, support and understanding from those around you. Love and support can come very naturally for many of us, but true understanding is often very difficult if we have not experienced similar feelings ourselves.
From my personal experience, here's some insight into some of what might be going through the depressed person's head:
1. Feelings of loneliness
Depressed people may feel it's just them suffering, and no one else in the world. This makes them believe that even though they have you, their family and friends who love them, everyone seems out of reach.
2. Sadness for no particular reason
Sufferers often feel that there isn't one thing they can pinpoint for the feelings they experience. It may just feel like an all-consuming black fog in their minds.
Depressed people may feel guilty simply for being depressed, and for being so sad and difficult to be around. Sometimes a person may feel that to continue living would be a terrible burden on family and friends. They may even feel like their spouse should have married someone else, or would have a better chance of happiness without them in their life.
4. Feeling like no one understands
Those who are depressed often believe that others will see everything they have in their life and say there's nothing to feel sad about.
All we need to do as loved ones is to learn more about what depression feels like through allowing and encouraging people to talk about what they're going through. We may feel unqualified to "help" them, but the biggest help of all is having someone just to be there, listen when needed and care.
Other ways to help someone suffering from depression include:
- Reassuring them that you love them and are still there for them despite the difficulties they are going through.
- Acknowledging the disabling effect of depression on their mind, body and spirit, and letting them know that even if you don't fully understand their particular feelings or experience you can see the devastating effect it's having.
- Ask if there's anything you can do for them. Often the answer will be no, but just asking the question can be helpful when someone feels so lost and alone.
- If this is something that's been ongoing for some time, you can gently suggest that your loved one try doing something that has worked before to shift their mental state.
What works is different for everyone, and it's important for all of us to feel we have our own power to make positive changes. It may also give your loved one some trust in being able to do something simple to brighten their mood, when everything can feel like such an insurmountable effort.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock