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7 Things a Person with Depression Does Not Need to Hear

11/11/2017

When I was a college student, from time to time, I would get into a “mood” and just decide to mope. I would reach for mood enhancing resources to fully embrace my sappiness. My favorite was a Pink Floyd playlist I had created. ;) In those days, if you called my landline and got the voicemail you would hear an outgoing message that went something like, “Hi. I can’t come to the phone right now because I am too busy wallowing in my depression. Leave a message and I’ll think about returning your call.” Kid you not.

Was I suffering from depression? Hardly. I was being a juvenile who loved to pout for the attention it brought me. After a while I would get tired of being a whiny punk and simply stop it. It really wasn’t that hard to reset my mood because there were plenty of hopeful things in my life. However, for those who suffer with legit depression this is not the case.

Depression can be described as a deficiency of hope. When a depressed person surveys the horizon they can find little or nothing to feel positive about or to look forward to. Sometimes this outlook is accurate. Sometimes this outlook is perceived. But in either case it is real in the mind of a person with depression.

Depression is seldom discreet. It has a way of bumping into everyone. It is hard for emotionally regulated people to endure the heaviness of a Debbie Downer. In an effort to sidestep the awkwardness of the mood, people will attempt to cheer up a discouraged person. This may work with a moody individual like a young Chris Campbell, but real depression is not an easy thing to overcome. If it were, then we would see people shaking off sadness all the time. Because, after all, who really wants to spend their life perpetually bummed out?

If your attempts to cheer a depressed person fail, you may be tempted to try to “fix” the person by pressuring them into more acceptable behavior. Usually this means making attitude-adjusting comments that you hope will jar a person out of their depression. Bad idea.

In this blog I offer you 7 things that a person with depression does not need to hear.

1. “WILL YOU SNAP OUT OF IT ALREADY?”

This statement implies that depression is a simple disorder with a quick fix. It discounts any sort of bio-chemical issues that may be in play. It attempts to bypass unresolved issues that lurk beneath the surface. It is a subtle way to bully a person into conforming to your expectations so that you can feel better. This statement is not about caring for the person suffering from depression. Instead, it is an attempt to control.

2. “IT’S ALL IN YOUR MIND.”

So what if it is? When I hear this statement spoken out loud I consider it an invitation to shallowness. You might as well say something like, “I think people would prefer you to be a superficial person. So please, just flip a switch and stop obsessing over whatever it is that is making you so awkward to be around…”

3. “I THOUGHT YOU WERE STRONGER THAN THIS.”

I will say this—those who would make this type of comment are usually people who avoid addressing their own emotional issues. This type of comment is both guilting and shaming. Just the two things a person with depression needs to remedy their situation. (Sarcasm)  This third statement is akin to “Suck it up”; “Quit your crying”; “Toughen up”, etc.

4. “NO ONE EVER SAID LIFE IS FAIR.”

Okay… so can we all stop for a moment and agree out loud that total fairness in an imperfect world with imperfect people is an impossibility? Great. Now that we have that out of the way let me point out that a person with depression has little energy to see the world from any other viewpoint than their own immediate experience. Extended sadness is like a black cloud that doesn’t just hover over a person, but it can actually engulf a person. This makes it hard to see the positives. Expecting a depressed person to have an ability to reason objectively is incredibly unfair.

6. “GROW UP.”

Depression can hit anyone. You aren’t exempt from it at any age. It may look different in a child, a teen, a young adult, and adult or a senior, but depression knows no age limits. The irony of this thoughtless comment is that sometimes it is the impact of an adult sized scenario that has been the biggest trigger of depression. Depression doesn’t take over a child who has a toy taken away from a playmate. Depression, real depression, always stems from serious matters. To imply that “grownups” are insulated from depression is ridiculous.

7. “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU CAN LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES?”

This question is just another way to state  the old popular adage, “You’ve made your bed and now you will have to lie in it.” Really. Even if a person can’t find hope, let me assure you that they are very aware of their mistakes. In many cases they are even overwhelmed by the awareness of their flaws and faults. Depression has a way of inviting a person to consider their imperfections through a magnifying glass. Compassionate counseling works to get the depressed client to put down the magnifying glass. This question (#7) works in the opposite.

Depression can come calling at nearly any time in life. If/when it does it will attempt to attach itself like Velcro and convince you that you are now defined by your sadness. But that is not who you are. Part of the good news of Jesus Christ is that we now have freedom from anything that would enslave us and limit the full potential of God’s design for our lives! This includes dominating negative emotions like depression. If you or someone you love is depressed, encourage them to seek help. Encourage them to be open to exploring all possible explanations for their extended sadness (physical, psychological and spiritual). Offer to pray for them. Ask what you can do to help. But resist the temptation to make comments like the examples given in this blog. Rather than projecting how another person should be feeling, offer loving support.

Resolutions Counseling—We’re here to help.