For Whom You Wait: Helping Someone Through Depression
The Point of This Article
I've spent all of my life helping people get through the roughest spots of life. From losing a job to being outright homeless. As I was growing up I constantly became the buffer for people who fell into depression. It's just what feels right. My morality will not let someone suffer alone. Maybe you're like me, but you just don't know how to help. In all honesty? No ordinary person does. There is no absolute and finite way to help someone through a mental illness, such as depression, without professional medical help, but I'm hoping that by the end of this article you'll be able to feel like you stand a chance.
It should be said that I am not a therapist or a doctor. I'm not anyone with any credibility recognized in an academic or professional sense. Remember, anything you read here is my personal advice and is not better than professional help, but my 'skills' have served me well and helped many close friends and family members.
"How Can I Tell?"
You may be wondering how you can tell someone is depressed. It's tricky. Most of the time, people who are going through their bouts of depression are very good at hiding it. Out in public or the rare times that they're around friends, you might have no idea that they are even having a hard time. After you stick around, though, it will show.
It could be subtle things like a change in normal habits. Eating less, being less sociable, even a change in the music they like. Others are more drastic. Things like self harm or suicidal thoughts. The more drastic things are the ones that, as a friend or family member, will scare you the most.
A watchful eye and strong connection can really help if you have even the slightest suspicion of what your friend or family member might be suffering.
Things to Look For
Changes of Habits
Things I've Noticed
-Wanting To be Alone
-Sudden Weight Gain/Loss
-Loss of Ambition
-Lack of Sleep
-Radical Change of Opinion
-Alcohol and Drug Abuse
-Lack of Hygiene
It's Hard to Help
This is going to be a sort of disclaimer. Helping someone through their depression is incredibly taxing. There are nights where you will fall asleep thinking I could have done more. And eventually it will interfere with your life. You might end up letting other friendships and family bonds start to wither because of how much time you're spending with that one person.
The stress of trying to keep someone else going is like carrying them on your back. It hurts, the burden is heavy, the thanks are little, and the payoff isn't amazing, but if you can stick with someone long enough to help them, the little moments will be your prize.
I can personally say that seeing that person smile more, or start to get out and socialize will make you feel like you've worked a miracle. And you just might have.
When you start seeing them, those little clues and terrible moments of internal pain, the best thing you can start doing is being around. Invite them over. If they don't want to leave the house, you go over to their house and hang out. Insist. Start becoming a staple, a static fixture in their lives that starts to seem normal. With that being said. If they DO NOT want to spend time with you. That's that. Don't try to force it too hard, it may end up ruining the friendship.
Make sure that you try to include them. Invite them to the things you're doing. Keep that thought in your head. "Maybe this time." It is important to remember that when they say no to the invitation, make sure they know that it's absolutely fine. Tell them it's okay and sound positive, even if it bothers you. The last thing they need is to feel extra guilt about turning you down. Because when they finally do agree to it and force themselves to tag along, even if they're not that involved, it will make it worth the nagging. That person won't know it, but in the smallest way, it's a step in the right direction.
Lift Some Burdens
This is where the little things will start to add up. Whenever you stop by, do something simple. It could be doing a small load of dishes, cleaning the counter, take out the trash and kicking some clutter around. Or, you could watch the kids for a day, take the dog for a walk, maybe cook a meal and chill out. Someone who is suffering from depression might find it hard to do anything. Any simple task might seem like a daunting challenge. If you take away just one of those little burdens, it might make a world of difference.
Keep A Dialogue
Talk to them. A lot of the conversations will end up being one sided, but that doesn't mean they're not welcome. Whether it be phone calls or the standard text message. Keeping a steady stream of contact will (hopefully) make them feel like at least one person cares.
Listen. Out of everything that I've ever done for someone, listening is the most helpful, genuine and effective thing to help. Sometimes a person with depression just needs to unload every one of those horrible thoughts and doubts that constantly plagues them. Just listen, talk, gain an understanding and figure out their mindset.
Knowing what's going on in their head will help you help them.
The Bottom Line
When it comes down to it, the key thing that you will need when helping someone through depression is patience. It will be a long road filled with trials and failed attempts, but when it is all said and done, knowing that you helped will be all the reward that you need.
Like I said before; this is personal advice that comes from my past experiences. It does not replace professional help, nor should it. The first thing you should do when you realize a friend or family member has clinical depression is to urge them to seek help.