I have seen articles going around Facebook and the internet about depression lately. A blogger I now follow wrote on this in a article titled how to help someone with depression. I really enjoyed his article as it is something that I have a very personal experience with myself.
Depression is debilitating and life threatening for many. Many people have lost their lives to depression due to suicide. There are many reason why someone becomes depressed. The reasons are not always clear and evident. In many cases those suffering from depression don’t understand the reasons either. This can make treating depression extremely difficult. Dealing with people with depression can be extremely difficult as well as those who live with, work with or associate with don’t know how to help them and often can feel like they are being dragged down by the constant negativity and miserable loneliness that constantly presents itself in some depressed individuals. I have been on both sides of this issue both as someone who once contemplated suicide and associating with those who felt the same way when I was not feeling depressed.
So how can you help someone with depression. I can tell you that the answer is not in a pill bottle. To often the drugs used to treat depression cause more harm that good. This video on you tube, while a parody of a antidepressant commercial, does highlight a truth that serves to distract from the real solutions to depression.
I say this because I have suffered severe depression and the answers were sought in a pill, rather than addressing the route causes of depression in the first place. Depression is very real. To this day I still suffer from lingering effect of my years long battle with depression. It is a serious emotional state that cannot be resolved by chemical manipulation of your mind. You can’t cure depression by providing drugs that have side effects of increased suicidal tendency, increased aggression, and depression as side effects. There are many more side effects, these being most notably related to the subject at hand. So what then can we do to cure depression.
I think the first thing we need to understand is that while considered a mental illness, not every Illness can be cured in a pill bottle. We need to understand that there is no physical evidence of depression. You can’t take a blood test or brain scan or other types of medical test to diagnose depression. Because this condition cannot be physically verified you must rely on the report of the individual and diagnose based on unverifiable criteria. For example just because someone attempts or does commit suicide does not mean they are depressed. Are members of a cult that believes by burning themselves alive they can get to heaven depressed?, or are they motivated by a strong religious belief that leads to that? Is someone mentally ill with depression just because they feel miserable and express there feelings and frustrations? Many of the criteria used to diagnose depression can also be simply how someone is feeling at that time that the feelings are expressed. Often there are clear reasons why someone is depressed and we must be careful when we diagnose this condition. We must understand that there are many reasons why someone would be depressed and force feeding them drugs designed to alter there mental state and emotional state of mind is not the answer.
To highlight what I mean let me use myself as an example of this. When I was a kid I was the geek, nerd whatever term you want to use. My friends list at school totaled to about 0. I was bullied, beat up, harassed, humiliated on numerous occasions. For example my Locker was broken into once and all my books, and things burned. I was physically assaulted and beat up on the school grounds. During a class swimming trip all my clothing was stolen or hidden away, leaving me naked and humiliated, I had to borrow a towel just to cover myself. This was my life at school. I went and spent 6 hours a day trying, unsuccessfully fending of school yard bullies. Often I would spend the nights crying myself to sleep. It got bad enough that I refused to attend school for several months, eventually my mother had to drive me to school so I went in one door and out the other. A change of schools did not help the situations. It was the same problems all over again. No attempt was made to deal with the bullies at any point. Rather my locker was just moved to the office while the bullies reigned supreme. I would come home from school and got the same treatment at home from my family, though not as severe physically at least. I would often hear things like “get out of my face you look like your dad”, “your dumber than a bag of hammers” “you dad disgusts me and you remind me of him” and other insults that would put me down and beat me down mentally. I was bullied all day and night at home and school. What kind of effect do you think this would have on a child?
Naturally and as you would expect, depression hit as a result of these problems I had to deal with day in and day out. One day feeling incredibly depressed and frustrated, angry with life in general and generally believing that I was worthless, God hated me and everyone else, no one cared for me. Since they hated me so much I might as well just kill myself and end my miserable existence. I was sitting on the side of the road when my mother drove by and asked me “what are you doing out here” I responded with “Thinking about killing myself by car” This should not of come as a surprise considering the things I had to deal with, nor my general attitude and emotional state at the time, I was not then nor do I now hide my emotions. I wear them on my sleeves as the saying goes. Her response was to immediately put me in the car, drive me to the hospital where I was immediately imprisoned, locked up and force-fed drugs all because of how I was feeling. I would spend hours just sitting in the doctors office saying nothing, his response was to give me more drugs. When I did talk I would say things like I hate you and I hate my life, just leave me alone. The response of course was not to talk about how I was feeling and why I was feeling the way I was but to drug me, ask how I was feeling and end the session. It was never about coping with or addressing the issue that caused the depression, it was always about whether the drugs were “working” or not.
This type of response did not resolve anything for me and thousands upon thousands of others, It only served to created more problems and instability that the depression itself created. This is not the answer. What then is the answer. From my own experience and someone who has cured depression with help and without the aid of drugs may I make a few suggestions as to what worked for me.
1) Identify if possible the causes of your depression. This is not an easy task and may not be possible for you to do alone. I am a firm believer however that if you are depressed there is a reason for it. You need to take time to evaluate your life with a fine tooth comb if needed to identify why you are feeling the way you are. Look for all possible sources of frustration, stress and other things that could be causing your mental anguish and harm. Reach out to trusted friends and family and ask them to help you understand. Sometimes an outside perspective can help in ways you did not think was possible. They may see things you did not think of or could not see the forest for the trees so to speak.
2) Once you identify the cause(s) of your depression. Confront and deal with it. This is clearly something that is easier said that done. You likely wont be able to do this on your own. Like in my case my depression was caused by things that were really not within my control and that may be the case for you as well. When confronting and dealing with your issues that have caused your depression we need to understand that reaching out for help is not a bad thing. Help does not have to come through a doctor however. We need to take measures to cut out of our life those things that are causing us stress to the greatest extent possible. While I am not suggesting that you get in physical confrontations it may not be avoidable when dealing with bullies. This was my experience. When confronting those who would contribute to your emotional downfall if you can’t eliminate them from your life this can happen but it is amazing what the results can be. After confronting my bullies the abuse I suffered at their hands diminished by an extreme amount, while this did involved physical confrontation the pay off was worth it in the end. my stress levels over school life greatly diminished and made life at school while not great much better than it was originally. I cannot over state this however I AM NOT SUGGESTING THAT YOU GET IN A PHYSICAL CONFRONTATION TO RESOLVE YOUR DEPRESSION. I am only trying to help you my reader understand that to resolve you depression you need to be prepared to confront those people and things who contribute to it, hopefully without violence, however in my case that cannot always be avoided.
When you are ready to confront those things that are contributing to your depression and don’t know where to start it helps to speak to someone with experience with those issue to seek help in resolving them. While I did not have that luxury I can now share with you how I overcame and hope that in some small way it will help.
3) Focus on the good in your life. Count your blessings as the phrase goes. It is amazing how much you truly have to be grateful for if you just look. When you start focusing on the good in your life your can’t help but feel joy and contentment when recognizing how much you truly have. Focusing on the good really helps to put things in perspective. I know this can be extremely difficult when dealing with depression. I can honestly say it is likely the most difficult thing you will have to do to cure your depression. When you feel as if the whole world hates you and life is not worth living it is extremely difficult to see the blessing that you have. It’s hard to see the light when your world and mind is clouded with darkness and misery. But even the deepest depths to the oceans of despair there is light if you just open your eyes for a minute. It is not easy to see but I promise you it is there.
4) Get a hobby. It’s is truly amazing how this can help you to overcome you depression. I picked up reading as a hobby and have not stopped since. When I can get into the the world of fiction and fantasy for a while the problems of life don’t effect me. I can cope better and feel that taking a break from life can greatly increase your ability to cope with life in general. Life can be frustrating and aggravating, at times on a daily basis taking a break from life is like a good nights sleep, you awake energized and ready to face the day. Having a hobby can have the same effect in my experience as a good nights sleep when it comes to our ability to face our trials head on.
5) Final and most important is to put your trust in God and pray daily. I cannot emphasize this enough. God is our eternal father and cares very much how you feel and what you think. He Loves you and understands you more than you can ever know. Go to him in Prayer, trust in him, he will guide you and direct you. Listen to what he has to say. He speaks to you through the scriptures, conference and other leaders and mediums. He can help you in ways you cannot possibly imagine. I could not cure depression on my own. Putting my faith in God and through him has helped me overcome in ways that I cannot even begin to describe. It was not easy or a short path by any stretch of the imagination. It took years to come around and put all my faith in the God for the longest time I had felt he had forsaken me and did not care. I have since learned otherwise. He cares and loves you, for you are his child. Don’t forget that, go to him in prayer and ask for his help. Go to the temple if you are able for divine inspiration is there for you. Seek priesthood blessing from your church leaders. Go to God in all ways that you can. He loves you and does not want to see you suffer.
What can you do however if someone you love is suffering from depression whether severe or mild. This can be difficult and often we can be tempted to do and say things that don’t help but rather hinder and cause more harm than good. Running off to a doctor and getting drugs in my experience was the worst thing that you could do. So I will offer some suggestions from the perspective of someone who has suffered and still does on some days feel quite depressed.
1) Seek understanding. Listen, I mean really listen. I know that it can be draining, tiring and exhausting. Even frustrating and depressing for you as well. But when you take the time to truly listen to what a depressed person has to say, though it may not be obvious it means a lot. you may not see any changes in moods, behaviors or anything else at least not immediately and it may take years but to really listen is sometimes all that person needs. My battle was that no one would listen to me. No once showed any amount of caring and simply wanted to drug me. No one took the time to really sit down and listen. Any time I tried to explain what was going on in my life that made me feel the way I was, I was shut down and told that it is not that bad or its all in my head. Basically I was told “shut up and take your pills”
2) Be supportive. Don’t ever suggest in anyway that a depressed person should just suck it up. Or that it is all in their head, there feelings are not real or justifiable. Their feeling are very real and in many ways beyond their control. A depressed person’s mental state is very fragile. You wouldn’t tell someone in a wheel chair to suck it up just stand up and walk already so why tell someone who is depressed to just suck it up and be happy already. It really is not that simple. Like the person in the wheel chair analogy, you must acknowledge their condition and offer support where needed. Accept what they have to say as real and true. It is their reality and is not simply made up. This is vital to understanding and helping one who is depressed.
3) Empathize with them. Truly try to imagine the world from their perspective. Know and understand that what they are feeling is real and debilitating. Never stop telling them how much you love them. How much you will be there to support and care for them. Hug them. With empathy it is also important to not take anything said or done personally. Someone who is depressed will often lash out at those closest to them. Try to understand how they are feeling and that it’s not personal. Responding with love and kindness will go along way to helping them get better. My recovery from depression was helped more by empathy and support from my wife than anything else that anyone had ever “done” for me. Because of her love, respect, patients, and empathy I am the man I am today. I can still be quick to anger and frustration at times. These symptoms of depression never truly go away. I am an emotional roller coaster and while generally very happy most of the time I can still get depressed, though short lived these days. It was her empathy and compassion that saved me from the cloud of darkness and brought me into the light.
4) Respect boundaries. From my personal experiences this is vital to helping someone suffering from depression. Trying to force someone to talk about their feelings or not giving them the space they need can be destructive to them. When asked for space, or time to themselves it is important to respect that. Don’t force your will on them, for the Greatest of intentions can result in the greatest of harm. Giving the space a depressed person needs can be helpful though painful to you when you are only trying to help.
5) Never stop providing love and kindness. Small acts of kindness go an exceptionally long way to providing the love and support a depressed individual needs. These small acts of kindness while they may be rejected show a genuine love that a depressed individual needs. Small acts of kindness go a long way to building trust with that person. You can’t help them if they don’t trust you or your intentions. Often someone who is depressed will have little reason to care or trust others. By providing small acts of kindness either by asking or just doing it can go along way. My wife does this for me constantly, which is why I can honestly say that I have not been depressed to the point of debilitating misery for over 10 years.
My wife by applying these 5 principals has been instrumental in bringing me out of the darkness of depression and misery. She did not know what she was doing she just acted as she felt she could. The result was a man who can live with himself and has known more happiness in the last 10 years of my life than I had in the previous 20.
If you are depressed and suffering I know what you are going through. I know that you probably feel that I simply can’t understand and maybe your right. I won’t pretend to fully understand your unique perspective but I do know what it feels like to want to end your life. I have been there. I have come through the darkness and lived to see the light. I want you to know that there is light in this world and it is not as dark as it might appear to you now. Because of what I have experienced. I have felt what Madonna described in the song Confessions
There was a time
I suffered so much I want to get it out of me
I would cut my arms
Not to kill myself
I don’t want die
I know I am lucky to be on this earth
I did It so the physical Pain
Would calm the pain that was eating me inside
Nothing was erased
I leave with my past tucked away
Deep Inside of me
It comes out as an explosion and…
It invades me
I believe we are messengers on Earth
I believe in angels
I am blessed by God to tell myself
I suffered that much to become who I am today
I have been there. I know what it feels like and by the grace of God and an angel my wife sent to earth I have been saved and rescued from this misery that has engulfed me. It nearly destroyed me. Don’t give up faith. Happiness awaits you. Don’t give up on life. Your are more important that you can possibly realized. I pray that you will come to realize that as well. For those that have loved ones dealing with depression. Don’t give up on them. They need your love and support more than you can ever realize.