It’s a difficult position that you’re likely all too familiar with: comforting someone close to you when they are suffering from depression. It’s hard enough to deal with issues of your own, but there’s a fine line between offering solace to someone and coming across as dismissive or hurtful. If the proper level of care and consideration is not taken, you may find yourself hurting the people you care about rather than helping.
It’s not easy. And that’s fine. It’s something you are supposed to struggle with. People you care about deserve the maximum effort you can put into providing kindness and compassion to them. It’s not easy, but it’s not supposed to be.
That said, this is not a blank check. It is not an excuse.
Not knowing what to say to your loved one is never a good reason not to say something. If you care about them, you should let them know that you do and that you are there for them.
That said, we all know the feeling of not knowing what to say and forcing something out anyways. Oftentimes, we say something we regret or look back on with shame. We say something that sparks one of those memories, the kind that keeps us up at night, wondering what we could have or should have said instead.
At KetamineNews, we can’t help your loved ones for you. That’s your responsibility, and there is no one on the planet better equipped to deal with it.
But we can guide you towards the right way to speak to them to impart how much you care. We’re going to break down some of the most popular ways to mishandle this conversation and why exactly you shouldn’t say these things.
What You Shouldn’t Say (And Why)
“Get over it.”
Telling someone to get over it has never helped anyone get over anything in the history of humanity. It’s tone-deaf and lacks compassion.
Rather than just telling someone to get over it, why not offer your help? Maybe your loved one has waiting room anxiety and is afraid to get treatment—you could offer to come along with them so they feel comfortable in the waiting room.
“Suck it up.”
If you can’t tell why this is a hurtful thing to say to someone you care about, you may want to rethink the way you treat your loved ones.
“A lot of people have it worse than you.”
This one is deceiving, because it is true. There are starving children and people without homes, people dying from disease, etc.
But it’s not a contest. Comparing pain only serves to create more pain. Your pain does not have to be worse than everyone else’s to be valid, or to be deserving of treatment and compassion.
“It’s all in your head.”
Yes, it is all in your head. But you are not your mind.
A thought is a chemical change in the body that your consciousness—you—becomes aware of. You are not always in charge of what you think.
Even if you were, does that mean that depression is any easier because it only exists in your head?
It becomes clear that anyone saying “it’s all in your head” is not saying “there is a chemical misfire somewhere that requires the right treatment” but is rather saying “you are making this up and do not deserve to get better.”
“Life isn’t fair.”
Life isn’t fair, that is true. But you don’t have to like that fact either. At some point, we all will take a moment to lament something unfair.
If this gets the best of you, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s difficult being a person and it can get overwhelming. Take your time.
“You don’t look depressed.”
Not everyone that is depressed looks depressed. It hits everyone differently.
“You just want attention.”
Let’s think for a second about the kind of attention society directs towards people openly struggling from mental health conditions: shame, guilt, hypocrisy. Who would want this kind of attention? Not everything is a conspiracy.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
Thanks. Depression cured.
In case no one has told you this before: it’s perfectly okay to feel sorry for yourself. Chances are you’ve gone through something or you’re afflicted by something deserving of that.
If you find that you feel sorry for yourself all the time, you may want to think about treatment for your depression. Feeling sorry for yourself can be quite a heavy burden, and you don’t deserve that. You deserve to feel better.
“Try thinking positive.”
Man, you think, if only I had thought of that.
If it was as simple as thinking positive, I don’t think that more than 7% of American adults would suffer from depression.
“Everyone has bad days.”
Yes, everyone has bad days. If you’re having a bad day and you feel it’s contributing to the symptoms you feel, who cares? You’re allowed to have bad days. There’s nothing more human than that.
And, my personal favorite….
“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”
This little idiom goes over so many people’s heads, it’s probably sitting on millions of dollars worth of frequent flyer miles.
“To pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps” dates back to at least 1834, when it was used in the Workingman’s Advocate: “it is conjectured that Mr. Murphee will now be enabled to hand himself over the Cumberland river or a barnyard fence by the strap of his boots.”
If you don’t speak 1834 (most of us don’t), what the author is getting at is that this is an impossible task.
When you tell someone to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, you are using an idiom someone invented to make fun of people being assigned impossible tasks.
If you find yourself saying any of these things to somebody you really care about, I strongly suggest taking a step back and examining why. If you care about someone, you should trust them when they explain their struggles to you rather than questioning them or their motives.
And if someone you care about has ever talked to you like this, we here at KetamineNews would like to apologize on their behalf. They may not even know they’ve done something wrong yet, but we can all work to better understand each other’s struggles.