Depression is miserable, and the chances are that if your family and friends have not encountered someone with depression or low moods before, they will have little idea how to help you. They may be embarrassed, feel awkward and frustrated with your continued apathy and apparent hostiity and often they drift away on a wave of helplessness.
It need not be so however, and with a little help from your friends, things can start to improve very quickly. So what can be done to help your friends understand and support you when in the depths of despair, or maybe feeling just a little low? Here are a few tips from someone who has benefited from the much needed strength and enduring patience of her wonderful friends and family, without whom I would have self-destructed years ago.
“A friend is one who knows all about you and likes you anyway” (Christi May Warner)
Firstly, it’s good to talk. In my book, a friend is someone you can talk to without fearing reprisals or judgement and who can share your concerns with compassion and impartiality. If you can talk to your friend, you should be able to overcome the barriers of embarassment and stigma surrounding depression quite quickly and discover that a problem shared feels infinitely much better than a problem stewing away inside, draining you of the energy and resolve to find a solution. So next time you get invited round for a cup of tea and a chat, go.
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down” (Oprah Wnfrey)
Moodscope.com-A really useful on-line interactive tool for helping you and your friends to monitor your moods and provide support when needed. Each day you can track your mood by answering a few questions and will receive your Moodscope score, a percentage between 0 and 100, indicating how happy or sad you are. You can also nominate a “buddy or buddies” to receive the results so they can monitor your moods and ascertain the level of support you may find useful on any particular day. A great way to keep in touch and prevent withdrawal, a common sympton of depression.
What does depression feel like?
A difficult emotion to explain and an almost impossible one to understand, depression comes in many different guises and is complex and unpredictible. It is crucial however that friends try to understand how depression may affect a person, and the symptoms it can produce. This poem tries to explain to non-sufferers what it feels like.
Learn to accept help-a friend in need is a friend indeed
Remember, a friend is one who believes in you when you have ceased to believe in yourself. They are precious. Don’t lose them.
Sometimes it is difficult to accept help when you are depressed and not in a position to reciprocate whether it be emotional or practical support that is needed. “A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked” (Bernard Mettzer) and will come to your aid regardless by not necessarily taking “No thank you” or “I’m fine” as your final answer. Clearly everyone will be different and have to be treated sensitively but often friends can be more firm than they think without causing distress or offence to the person depressed. Kid-gloves are often required, but some cajoling and persistence will also be appreciated on occasions.
Top-Tips for friends
Be patient and understanding. Make it clear that it is not the person you are frustrated with, just the illness.
Keep in touch either by visits, phone calls, emails or texts. Facebook and email can be useful if leaving the house is a problem.
Encourage healthy eating and exercise habits
Show that you care by learning about depression, it’s symptoms and impact.
Offer practical as well as emotional support. This often frees up much needed “me” time
Expect the unexpected. It’s a rocky road and a rollercoaster ride for everyone. Be prepared.
Tell your friend to “pull yourself together”-they are not curtains.
Expect too much. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”
Encourage the consumption of alcohol. It doesn’t solve underlying issues and is a depressant.
Remember, a real best friend is someone who can see the truth and pain in you while you are fooling the rest.
That’s what a friend means to me.