How to Support a Friend with Depression: Part 1

When my episode of depression was bad and I wasn’t on the right medication, there were many things that would trigger me to spiral and want to hide in my room. Friends who I would reached out to and vent to on many occasions didn’t know what to say or tried to deny I really had depression. When someone has depression what you say to them really matters. What you say could cause them to pull away from you or worse. There are many things people should not do when they are trying to be there for a person with depression. I complied a list of a 10 helpful things you can do for a person diagnosed with depression and the said person is getting help professionally. (Getting diagnosed and getting a therapist are things which have to happen and there is no “ifs, and, or buts” about it. It is the only way they will get better from their illness.)

  1. Do not give advice. sometimes we have an impulse to try to fix people’s problems.Someone who is diagnosed with depression is not someone you can try to fix. The advice you give will be taken as minimizing their pain, this is because the brain is not working and is distorting what you say to mean something negative. This is called cognitive distortion and are in my opinion the worst part about depression. You should not give advice because you are not a professional trained to help them, and what you say can be very insulting because you are going off of how your brain and thoughts work. You have no idea what the sick person can control or not control. In addition, generally we aren’t looking for advice. We just want someone to listen and be there for us.
  2. Do not say “just think positive.” If the person wanted to they would. the person with depression would love to have their thoughts stop hurting them. It’s common in depression for self-loathing to develop and in my experience the self-loathing thoughts have gotten better once we found the right medication. At times, it will be impossible for the person to think good things simply because their brain is not functioning properly.
  3. Do not ignore them. If they reach out to you to vent, they just want you to listen and to provide some comfort. When they are ignored they feel more insignificant and the lies depression tells them seems to be true. The worst thing you can do is ignore them. How would you feel if you reached out for help and the person decided you weren’t worth their time and they didn’t care enough to try to help. I had times when I would hide under my bed and cry; I would text my friends, but no one would care and I would be ignored. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what to say or how to help, you can say that to them and ask them what they need. Ignoring them is an awful thing to do. If you are overwhelmed, think of they must feel and how you aren’t the one going through a serious mental illness. Ignoring someone who needs help is the worst thing you can do. you make them feel more insignificant than how they already feel and make them feel like no one cares. you just confirm cognitive distortions. you make the lies depression tells seem true.
  4. Do research on depression. depression entails many things and you need to be able to discern when your friend’s depression is talking and when your friend is talking. You need to understand your friend will be difficult at times. depression includes being irritable and getting angry. I use to get angry for no reason, during those times i would avoid people. however, there were times I thought I had a reason for my anger and unfortunately sometimes that anger got released on some of my friends. it will probably happen no matter what the depressive does, but you as friend need to be able to pick out when they are having mental issues and not take what they say personally. Research is one of the most important things you can do.
  5. Do not take what a depressed person does or says personally. This person is sick and may very well try to push you away at times. They will say ridiculous things, but understand it is their illness talking. they will get mad and be in bad mood, but do not take it personally. My best friend would leave me alone for  few hours and then comeback and check on me. she knew after a few hours I would be back to myself again. They will say things out of anger, helplessness, and worthlessness. If they are attacks on you do not take them personally. Instead, you may want to discuss them with the depressive, but understand there is depression and there is your friend. You have to know when it’s their illness talking. Try not to take anything negative they say personal.
  6. Reassure them that you love them and will not leave them. Depression lies and the cognitive distortions make everything confusing. They will likely question your friendship with them or one day just feel like you hate them. Depression lies and tells them they are unlovable, boring, and their friends just pity them. It can also make them feel like perhaps they are not wanted, or if they let anyone in they will leave.
  7. Do not invalidate their feelings. Some of things they may get upset about may be minor, but understand in depression a little bump in the road seems like a mountain. Invalidating someone’s feeling does not help at all. it never has, even with healthy people.
  8. Do not compare a bad day you had to depression. Depression is worse than a bad day, depression is an actual illness. It’s like comparing a scrape to a broken leg. This statement would probably fall under invalidating their feelings.
  9. Be honest with them. Do not say you will be there for them and not be. tell them what you are willing to help with. Perhaps you can’t handle the depressive being open about their feelings, but you are able to help out with their laundry and hang out with them then be honest with them. This also means if they ask if they are being annoying then answer truthfully. The last thing they want is to be a burden to people. In addition, you have to be honest because you will have to correct some of the cognitive distortions they will get.
  10. Most importantly be patient. Every thing I listed above requires great patience. you have to be patient with your friend.They are sick after all.

Stay tuned, I plan on composing a part two to this topic and trying to help spread understanding and awareness of this mental illness. I hope this helps others be there for their friend like how some of mine were there for me.

Friends

I know I write a lot about my mental illness, Major Depression, but I am realizing so many new perspectives and life lessons came from my illness. I learned many lessons and I learned what it means to really suffer and struggle. I learned what agony and torture were like. I went through something which has irreconcilably changed me. The person I was before I can never be again. However, the person I am now is different version of the person I once was and from there I can grow and model myself into who i want to be now.

Before I came down with Depression, I was always kind of particular about my friends and to be honest I wasn’t use to relying on my friends for support. In high school, I was the girl that studied all the time and had numerous hobbies. Every once in a blue moon I  would hang out with my friends outside of school, but it was rare. I was very much kind of a loner and wasn’t very interested in changing myself to make a lot of friends. The few close friends I did have I valued them intensely. I am very much an introvert and my friendships were a reflection of that. In course of  recovering from my illness I began to really understand what friendship and love truly was. Most of all, I learned the hard way about what true friendship was.

A friend does not blame you for your condition, and they make sure they are there for you. A true friend is never too busy for you an they can see when you are trying to pull away because you are scared. A real friend will do everything they can to help you and will be honest with you.

There is some memes out there which have examples of the struggle and strain depression puts on your cheap friendships. Here are a few I found:

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I found these at http://clinicallydepressedpug.tumblr.com/. A site like this really helps because I feel like there are people out there who really understood what I went through and had the same problems.

The thing with friends is if they really love you they will choose to stay with you through tough times. Love is a decision and you choose whether to abandon someone or stay with them or to avoid them. from my grapple with depression, i have come to not accept the excuse of them being overwhelmed because the truth is i was overwhelmed and I was the one suffering. Love is not word used for convenience. Love is steadfast and not self seeking, and leaving someone who is really struggling and is very sick is self-seeking.

During my episode of major Depression, I was very alone and only had one person who i could lean on and was very patient with me. This girl’s name was Courtney Sullivan. We were friends back in high school and one of the people I opened up to early on about developing some really bad issues. She has never left me, and she is still there for now when I get my bad days. My best friend tried to be there, but here boyfriend did not like her talking to me. It wasn’t until six or seven months later she was able to be there for me because she had broken up with her boyfriend. During this episode, I had gone off to university and was alone more than ever. However, being a theology and Jesus lover I ended up in a good crowd. In the christian activities I attended and through fellow theology majors I met some great people. Three of the people I met were great people and began noticing I wasn’t exactly well as they hung around me more. I fussed up to one and when i was officially diagnosed I fessed up to the other two. These three put up with me for about six months and they put up with me without my charade of being fine up. In the end, I sort of knew we wouldn’t last as close friends. They were great people and made me feel like i had a family at school and I could talk to them and be truthful and not have to hide. However, their love was not what it should be because they did not know me before, nor did they try to do research or seem to hear me out when I would try to explain my illness to them. I appreciate everything they did, but the major breaking point that caused distance was when i was engulfed in the symptoms of my illness and I ended up getting blamed for the symptoms by one of them. It was pinned on me like a symptoms of my mood disorder were character flaws, and it’s still something that haunts me to this day. I have dreams of this friend and how she must hate me, and I feel helpless because she seems to have no grasp at all of what my illness does to me. On a more positive note, two of friends from high school have been there for me. When they knew I was struggling they immediately demanded to help me and would not take no for an answer. Okay, I’ll stop there on my friend stories, but the ones mentioned here, and some not mentioned, are ones who I am very thankful for. There are a few more I can talk about, but you get the idea.

When I would reach out for help I learned quickly who was really my friend and I soon was able to kind of pick up on who were reliable. My illness taught me what a true friend is and how I can be good friend myself.

Boundaries

As someone with their first boyfriend, I’m still working out what exactly is out bounds in a good Christian based relationship. Yes, you heard correctly I’m a college student and finally had my first boyfriend. In this post I want to focus on boundaries in a dating relationship.

The culture of dating today is more like marriage without the commitment. Dating is usually where you do all the things a married couple does—move in together, have sex, sleep in the same bed. Today we are doing married things, but are not committed to being married basically. Marriage is supposed to be different from dating, but it has turned into “act like a married couple and see if it works out.” In my opinion, this system does not allow a good foundation to be laid for people to be married. There is a reason marriage is considered a different stage compared to dating. It is meant to be something deeper than dating and has different interactions. This is much how being friends is different from dating someone. You act differently with someone you are dating and someone you are friends with. It should be the same with marriage. There are different interactions that occur in marriage which make it a deeper level of relationship. There has to be boundaries in a dating relationship.

A boundary, according to the New American dictionary, is “a limit of a subject or sphere of activity.”

Boundaries allows a relationship to be focused more on the person. There isn’t this mind set of “what else can we do.” There is a stopping point of how far you and your significant other can go. This most definitely will allow for your significant other and you to learn each other’s hearts, because it becomes focused on the other person and their dignity. It allows for a strong foundation to be built as well as the trust of respecting each other.

As a convert Catholic it is hard to know what exactly the Vatican advises for our culture with dating relationships and where do we draw the line. The act of sex is obviously out of bounds, but where do we draw the line exactly on what you do in a relationship. The Catholic Church has cohabitation and premarital sex as grave matters and considers them to be big sins. They consider them to infringements on the sacredness of the marriage. However, that still leaves open a lot of things. With much thought on this I reached my opinion of the rest of the boundaries beyond those all depends on the person. It depends on the person’s self-control and how easily they can be give into lusting. The boundaries are there to keep you from not giving into acts that God designated for marriage and we each have our own limit. People struggle with different things. For example, some people can’t make out because it will lead to them having sex, but other people can and won’t have the issue of wanting sex. Therefore, the answer I have come to is it matters on what you struggle with and no set standard of boundaries can be applicable with everyone.

Another thing I am learning, the biggest mistake people make in entering a relationship is thinking they won’t have to fight to keep their purity. They consider it to be easy, but I will tell you if you think that then you probably already lost the battle.

Faith, Hope, and Love

Have you ever just felt like everything is hopeless? It’s not a fun experience. The more I think about hope, the more I realize it’s the key that keeps us going. It’s something I find to be innate in most human beings. We somehow know how to hope for something without being taught. It is something which comes naturally to us. Hope is something we are all able to do and perhaps can be considered to be involuntary at some points.

It’s like this light that allows us to keep moving forward. I would even go so far to say it is what gives equilibrium to our perspectives so we are not overwhelmed with all the bad in the world. Though, is hope static? I believe hope can be something static, but we can also actively work toward our hope. Hope then, in theory, comes with action much like how living faith has action. In fact, upon further examination the virtues of faith, hope, and love all have actions coming from them.

The book of James chapter 2 verse 14 to 26 states:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[a]? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”

The misconception among many is faith does not require works, and many would say having works is more like earning your faith. However, James states even the demons believe in Jesus and God, and because they believe they are not saved. They are condemned. Out of real faith works come. Perhaps it can be considered more of commitment is intertwined with faith. I believe exercising would make me healthier, but I do not do it. This can compare to faith in God. Faith in many respects can be thought of as more as trust than as word for belief. If you had faith, or trusted in God, than works would flow from that trust. It’s much like a relationship really, I would like to do thing to please my friends or boyfriend. I would make them things that are important to them like a Spider-man drawing. It’s the same with God, but in acting right. The actions that are just and righteous please him. Turning to grave evil actions, in a way, is like deciding to cheat on my boyfriend. You are doing actions that cause displeasure and pain and affects other people.

To really clarify the example let’s take a look at the virtue love or also known as Charity. Love is most often considered to be a noun and not a verb. When you love someone there is action and you do things for each other. You express love in actions. You can say you love someone, but if you don’t show it is it really love? Actions flow from what is true. In a way, love is a choice. I can choose to love someone with my actions even though the person may annoy me. It’s not their fault our personalities don’t fit together, but I can choose to love them despite that. In addition, you can choose to love someone despite their illness, actions, or bad decisions. You can choose to do these things. If love was focused only on how we felt, then it would be considered an emotional and be temporary and passing. Love is not limited to a feeling, but it a choice someone can make every day. The choice causes actions even though you may not feel love for the person in that moment.

The three big virtues faith, hope, and Love are all intertwined with actions. It’s not something many people notice, but each of them involves action. They are not just nouns, but are also verbs. Actions as Christian is something very important in your spiritual walk and this is evident by the fact the three virtues given to us by God all have action coming from them.

The Dark Stains on the Artist’s Hands

In case you are reading this and haven’t checked out my other posts, in February of 2014 I was officially diagnosed with Major depression. From what I understand, I have a chemical imbalance in my brain. Basically, my brain was not working the way it should be. I didn’t enjoy things I use to enjoy, I would get upset about little things, I had lies about myself going through my head, and a lot of other things happening because of this mental illness.

When it was really bad I would get into a state of wanting or getting an urge to hurt myself. This temptation was caused by the anger at myself and the worthlessness I felt. I would feel like I should punish myself for my mistakes and things I had done wrong. An example of this was one time I got an urge when I found out i failed a quiz and I became angry with myself. Another reason this was a temptation is because for me it would be a way to express how I felt when there were no words. I could put what I was feeling on the inside on the outside. It was a way to express how I felt.

if you have never experienced depression or self-harm urges, in those moments it’s hard to see anything good about yourself and you feel like you deserve to have scars and you deserve the wound you inflict on yourself.Your brain has turned on you and become self-destructive. One of my coping methods to was to write the horrible things I thought on myself instead of hurting myself. Another was to talk to my friends and therapist how I felt. These helped, but sometimes there were no words to really say how I felt and sometimes words were lacking and that was a problem. My therapist decided I should paint my feelings and what depression was like. She told me not to care how dark it was. I felt like they were an accurate representation of what depression was like and wanted to share with you a visual from my perspective about depression.

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The Good in People

The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion people are intrinsically good. This is based on my own observations and not a product of the belief about how God create everything good, before original sin came to be.

It’s hard to put into words my thoughts exactly, thus you will have to bear with me. Everyone tries to do, in the big picture, what they think is right. The difference between two opposing parties whether it be pro-life or pro-choice or democrat or republican is what they think the right thing is. We all are trying to stand for what we think is right. Is that simple enough to understand? The only difference between us is what we value and what we think is right. We are all basically trying to do the right thing.

The more I think about this and the interactions with people on a more social level, the more I come to understand people are the way they are because of certain factors. The more I come to realize this is the greater concept of accepting everyone as they are. This however requires empathy and an understanding nature. These qualities are not something everyone has, and these qualities I think are what allows someone to see the good in others. I will admit when I was suffering from episode of depression, I found most people not to be good people. They seemed so selfish and liable to hurt others like me who are considered to have a sensitive personality type. They didn’t seem to be people I could rely on because they lacked this depth.

With my vision more clear, I can see despite their flaws people are really intrinsically good. It is, however, a lack of understanding and empathy I find is in a lot people. We really dislike someone because we can’t understand them and we do not have an empathy for them. We can’t understand how come they act the way they do. The fact remains everyone tries to do what they think is right, maybe not in the sense of cheating and other minor things, but in conflict with friends and other issues.

The thing is we are all trying to do our best and we are all intrinsically good. I think more people would get along if there was more understanding to others and had more thought given to people. Perhaps, the problem is we don’t look beyond ourselves sometimes.

Dear Agony

Dear depression, dear agony,

I will admit I am afraid. I am afraid you will come back. you will sink your claws into me and drag me back into the hole of darkness. I am more afraid than I will admit. Relapsing one day is a high statistic for me, and I won’t fool myself to think I could be one of the few who only get one episode. I’m  afraid to go back to that place. I was so lost. So so lost. It was agony everyday. There aren’t words to describe it. Darkness was all around, and lies were everywhere. everything was mingled with self-loathing and everything hurt. My heart ached so bad. the emotional pain each day was agony.

Darkness, we’ll be old friends. Dancing around each other till you find the power to trap me again. We’ll dance like this with the same routine till I draw my last breath. I have a feeling no matter what some speck of you will always be there, even with medication. I know you are still slightly there now. But you are weak and don’t over power me anymore. I won this fight and I don’t look forward to the next. I may be scared, but you won’t stop me from living my life. When you come back, we’ll be ready.

Dear Agony, I am afraid, but courage is having fear and steadfastly facing it. If you come back, I will be terrified, but I will fight back.

#MHWW Day 4: I Can’t Even (But Actually)

Leah in the Sky with Diamonds

No, but actually.

I hate to be redundant in the use of the most popular white girl phrases of our time, but being depressed can mean just that sentiment: I can’t even.

I can’t even get out of bed today.
I can’t even make myself breakfast.
I can’t even get dressed
I can’t even open my books to do my homework.
I can’t even call my grandmother to see how she’s doing.

Being depressed, I am constantly dealing with such an all-encompassing apathy. The feelings of not wanting to exist have made asking myself, “what’s the point?” apply to every part of my life. 

There are days when every mundane action seems impossible. This past summer was extremely difficult for me: working overtime at two jobs, really struggling financially, the usual qualms with existence. This stress escalated my depression–and the apathy that my depression often comes with–so that at one point I found…

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Confrontation and Honesty

People nowadays seem to think believing in something and arguing that belief makes you a “bitch.” What makes a person a “bitch” is when they argue something they believe is when they use attacks and instead of argument and logic. When they use name calling and let their anger control them. That is when someone is a “bitch.” A person who stands for what they believe, but does so in a reasonable way and without hate sowed into their argument is not a “bitch.”

However, nowadays the more I think about it what people seem to think of as a “bitch” is someone who is blunt and is blunt about confronting a problem. Confrontation is not a bad thing. When I was suffering with my episode of depression, I would have to confront my friends about the distortions my mind was telling me. Usually, I would have liked to do this in private with the person, however it was rare for such an occurrence to happen. Therefore, I would have to ask them through text, because it was the only way to privately talk about this. At its worse, when I was really desperate and the person had a nag for not texting back I would contact their best friend and ask if so and so hated me. The Confrontations did help clear up and give me clarity on what was lies and what was actually reality. This, in a way, eventually made me braver about confrontation itself, especially among friends.

It should be noted though, my system of adapting to my perceptions of my mental illness more than likely made things awkward between me and my friends. Well, not all of my friends because some understood my brain wasn’t working. It was probably very bothersome to them because they probably thought I was attention seeking, but I wasn’t. I was trying to figure out what was truly going on. It’s understandable my friends who had not known me for years would find it awkward because they didn’t know what normality was for me.

The reason I came to be so confrontational at times is because I would express my thoughts to my therapist and she would emphasize communication. In a way, I may have hyper focused on communication and become to brutally honest. Then throw in the distortions, being ignored, and the irritability of depression and maybe I had an excuse. However, in my mind that does not excuse my behavior for being grumpy with my friends. Moving on to my point, there has to be difference between honesty and being brutally honest, but I think in some situations it’s hard to find the right words that will turn brutal honesty into gentle honesty.

I will acknowledge talking in face to face where voice tone and facial expression is able to enhance meaning, though it’s not always possible to talk face to face. With the ease of texting and calling, wording things can be very crucial. However, this is a skill more often than not is something people lack. Myself included. Therefore, perhaps communication has become more necessary in the world of texting. If you can’t understand the tone of the person’s text message than ask about it. It is worse to assume the tone is negative when it is not meant to be than to just ask. In addition, with the innovation of emoticons the tone of a text message can be clearer. Therefore, it is a good way to show the right interpretation of a text. Everyone has busy lives and with texting a person is allowed to have time to sort out things and go about their busy schedule. It also allows for them to have time to think of a good response to something and not have speak words from their shocked state.

Moving on from that, whether you confront someone face to face or through texting, my overall point is confrontations is not a bad thing. It can help a person grow, solve problems, and give clear communication between individuals. Confrontation may entail brutal honesty, but from what I have learned from my experience with clinical depression I would rather have someone hurt me with the truth than kiss me with a lie.

The Alone in Depression

The one thing really eating me right now is how no one understands what it’s like to have major depression. I can remember how people would offer me advice of trying to think positive or to fake being happy. Those things don’t help. I can’t out think depression. They didn’t understand my brain was broken and wasn’t working right. It’s hard knowing no one really understands. You feel very alone and afraid. Afraid to trust someone again with opening up to them. Afraid they will invalidate your feelings and afraid they will decide to leave you because they can’t fix you. Afraid to trust they will understand your illness affects your behavior and distorts your perceptions. Afraid once they see how much you need them, they’ll turn and walk away. I have lost many friends because of my depression.

From what I gather, losing friends and having friends ignore you is very common for people with clinical depression. People don’t know how to handle it, but yet you don’t know how to handle it either. In fact, you have no choice in the matter but to force yourself to handle the illness and put one foot in front of the other. The thing is you learn how to handle your friend with depression one step at a time too. Just how the person with depression has to choose to handle their situation, you can choose to handle it as well.

It’s really hard when you reach out to someone when you are in need and never hear back from the person you texted, messaged, or called. The fact is ignoring someone who needs you is only making it worse. If you don’t know what to say be honest and say that, don’t just keep ignoring them. I would rather be hurt with the truth than still be reaching out and finding nothing to grasp on to.

I feel like these things happen because of the lack of education about what depression really entails. I wish there was a way to fix that. People need to have more compassion and empathy towards people with depression and try and imagine what the person’s malfunctioning brain is doing to them. They need to also just listen and not try to fix it. Having someone there to combat the lies of depression really helps. The reassurance you do care and love us helps in the midst of our blackest moments. Little gestures like making us a card, even giving us a hug, being excited to see us, and really just showing you care as we go through each day really helps.

It’s very hard when you feel like no one really understands. It makes you want to crawl into bed and bawl your eyes out. You just feel so alone, and we really appreciate it if you try to understand. If people want to understand ask us what happens in our mind and understand it’s because we are sick. Researching depression also helps a lot if someone wants to understand what depression is like. They even have site that tell you what not to say to someone with depression and what is good to say to someone with depression. Therefore, there isn’t an excuse about not knowing what to say. They also have sites that tell you how you, as a friend, can help a person with depression and how to be there for them. And, very important, being there continues even when they start counseling and being put on medication. Medication takes six weeks to find out if it is working and the person may have to try more than one.

The worst thing you can do is ignore your friend when they need you. Granted, it’s true what they say you see who your real are when things get hard. Maybe in the end, one should expect to lose good friends.