Friday, June 15, 2012

10 Things Not to Say to Depressed People

I've recently had trouble managing my depression. I don't often chat about my personal problems, and I do try to keep it light and fluffy so I won't be going too in depth into my issues, but I felt I needed to address a few things here. When it's under control you'd have no idea I even had depression, but when it starts acting up it's a pretty miserable experience for myself and the people around me. On top of that, at the forefront of a lot of the problem are friends and family members who really just don't "get" what depression is and are consistently saying the wrong thing and sending me into a spiral. Then of course they say them again, it's a pretty vicious cycle.

I was at a loss to explain to these people why what they were saying was hurting me because in theory a lot of these things they said should make sense, and shouldn't manage to hurt me. In my search I came across someone who did the work for me so I don't want to take credit. Please visit Notch Notch on her blog to read the original post. Numbers 9 and 5 get thrown at me quite a lot.

1. “Remain Positive”
I think: Duh! I know – but how? To me, my reality is that the world has already caved in. What is irrational to you makes utmost sense to me. I’m so angry / upset / sad / lonely / devastated / hopeless / in despair… Why can’t you understand me?
I feel: Recoil further into my shell to avoid future contact and meaningless advice because you never told me how to remain positive.

2. “Don’t think like that”
I think: Why not? What’s wrong with thinking like I do? It’s an honest opinion. I really think this. It’s negative all right, but that’s what I think, so what’s wrong? So how should I think instead? Like you? But I don’t agree with you, and then I become you if I think like you…? 
I feel: I did something wrong for thinking a certain way, and you reprimanded me for thinking so. Thus, I withdraw, and berate myself for thinking the way I do, and spiral further down into depression due to self-criticism. 

3. “Pull yourself together” / “Snap out of it” and the likes
I think: How? Snap out of what? I don’t want to be like this either, you think it’s fun?
I feel: Feel completely useless and hopeless that I’m incapable of holding myself together and getting better. Depression snowball with this sense of incompetence.

4. “Why do you need to be depressed?”
I think: Umm… I don’t know, I wish I knew. Doctors said it’s because of some imbalance in serotonin in me. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW!!!!!!!
I feel: Accused of committing a heinous crime to be depressed. Confused because I don’t know what happened to make me depressed and how it all happened. Lost since I don’t know how to get out of depression. Feel inferior and worse about myself, so I hide from you as well because I don’t want to feel inadequate. 

5. “Look at how lucky you are already! Be thankful”
I think: I am thankful for what I have. But what does that have to do with depression? Doctors and every website I’ve read say depression is an illness and has biological factors. Depression needs to be treated as any other sickness. You are lucky too, be thankful – stop having a freaking cold and sneezing germs into the air I breathe!
I feel: Misunderstood as a spoiled, ungrateful little girl when I’m not. Frustrated for being misunderstood, cry, wail, sad. Retreat into my hiding place – again.

6.  Go do something and you will feel better.”
I think: Go do what? I can’t be bothered. I’m tired. I’m not interested. I have no energy. I just want to sleep. Doing something won’t make me feel better. Leave me alone.
I feel: Tired and lethargic, and no energy to think about what to do. Harassed because you keep telling me to do something.
(N.B. What did work, was instead of telling me to do something, my fiance simply made me put my clothes on, slid me into my boots, and dragged me out of the house for a walk, talking about random things on the way, not once mentioning anything to do how I was doing or asking if I felt better.)

7.  “What’s wrong with you?”
I think: I WISH I KNEW. I wish I knew. Oh how I wish I knew. Can you tell me? Can somebody tell me? I don’t want to be like this. Why am I like this?
I feel: Absolutely hopeless because I don’t know why I became like this, and I was unable to find out the reasons behind my depression. Very belittled and angry at myself. Can’t deal with this. I might as well die.

8. “You should do this…” or “You should not do this (such as kill yourself)…”
I think: Why? This is my life, I'm allowed to end it if I want to. Why should I eat? I’m not hungry.
I feel: Patronized by your condescending tone (even if you didn’t have one). Rejected for not doing what you think I am supposed to. Another bash to my already dwindling self-confidence – you just succeeded in making me feel more desperate and more depressed.

9.  “See how others suffer even worst, and have no food to eat, be grateful for what you have”
I think: But you told me not to compare myself with others when I told you I was envious of others who have achieved more than me. So how double faced is it that just because others are less fortunate I can compare with them? I know you are trying to tell me I should count my blessings – I do, trust me I do. But how does this solve my depression? I still feel that life is not worth living despite being grateful for what I have. I am too tired to carry on and try.
I feel: Baffled as to why sometimes you say don’t compare and other times you tell me to do so. I don’t understand how being thankful makes me feel better, because what I have now has no meaning and no value to me. I JUST WANT TO DIE. Maybe if I die, there’d be more food for those who don’t have any. Proceed to jumping out the window from 30th floor.

10.  “It’s all in your head…”
I think: IT’S NOT! But I know. How do I change my head? It’s not my fault. I didn’t want this. I can't control it. I’m trying but I can’t!
I feel: Furious at myself for not being able to control my head and thinking. Inept at everything I’m trying to do and worse, for disappointing you. Alone that no one can understand me. Alienate myself. Doomed to fail; might as well die…

My hope is that these 10 items will spread like wildfire (wishful think on my part most likely), I want them to become common knowledge so that no one will ever tell someone with depression that it's "All in your head", cause it's not, it's frustratingly real.


  1. I've heard each and every one of these at one time or another (most of them more than that, though) and it always completely frustrate me. If I knew how to just make it better, I would. Trust me, I have no desire to cry myself to sleep or to feel useless or like a failure. But please, by all means keep trying to convince me that it's really that simple.

    I know how you feel; I come from a family where depression isn't considered "real". It's just a thing you do when you want attention or you're feeling lazy. But I'm living proof that neither are true. I hate attention and I might not be the most active person but I'm not lazy either. I try, it's just that my efforts go largely unnoticed.

    1. One of the great failures of humanity is our inability to understand one another. But it does keep things interesting.

  2. Thank you for this post. I have heard most of these comments, myself. One of the hardest ones for me to answer is, 'WHY are you sad?' It seems impossible to get people to understand, at times.