The Do's (And Don'ts) When Your Friend Is Battling Depression

When your friend is battling depression...what should you say?

So Many People in My Life Were Struggling

A friend once sat next to me on a park bench and told me the only way he could get out of bed in the morning was by smoking a joint and turning his brain off from the pain.

For a while, I got long and desperate voicemails from my brother early in the morning about how he couldn't sleep, couldn't shake the feeling of being alone.

The more people I met in high school and college, the more the word kept popping up. I'm depressed. My mom is depressed. My sister, my cousin, my best friend.

So many of the people I care most about in the world have told me the same thing. They were in a fog they couldn't shake, a darkness sat on them like a two-hundred-pound weight. Life didn't seem worth living most of the time.

The word depression used to be so informal. It's been used to talk about everything from a bad day or a random mishap to breakups and funerals. Depression was sadness, was being upset by something, or maybe even being heartbroken.

For the longest time, depression was something that couldn't touch me. It was something I myself was immune to, so why should I care?

Despite so many people I knew dealing with this similar struggle, I really didn't get it. I'd had bad days too, but I always managed to move on. Things were hard sometimes, yes, but I still held so strongly to this belief that life was what you made it. That happiness was a choice, or something.

I didn't know how to help them. I didn't know what to say, so I talked their ears off and said all the wrong things.

Cheer up! Life gets better.
Just pray about it.
Maybe if you try just a little bit harder.
I understand what you're going through.
Look at all the good things in your life.

But Depression is REAL

An afternoon in June, that all changed.

For one of the longest hours of my life, I thought I lost someone who I cannot imagine living without. She had gone missing for hours, leaving only a scary note behind. I left probably twenty voicemails pleading for her life, my head pounding with the possibility.

I could have woken up without her. She could have been gone from my life forever.

And why? Because depression is real. Because for a long time, depression told her that no one would care if she just disappeared.
I sat in the car with her a few hours later, holding her hand and sobbing. I had no idea what to say, how to help, how to fix anything. But what I did know was that I didn't want to live in world without her without any of my friends who were struggling with depression.

Just Listen and Love

So, I shut up. I barred my mouth and let it sink in how incredibly amazing it was to have this girl in my life. No longer would I sugarcoat her pain, her loneliness.

Depression is one of the most powerful and subtle forces on the planet, a slow-acting poison that seeps into the life of every person who breathes air and thinks thoughts. I realize now that it wants to destroy me, and you are too. It either tackles each of us personally or vows to take shots at the people we care about. And now that I understand how much I've messed up all these years, I think it's starting to make sense what our part is to play in the fight against depression.

It's Not About You

If your friend is struggling, the first thing you must realize is that it isn't about you. That was the first trap I always seemed to fall in. I thought that I could remedy the situation, that the words that I said would actually make them feel better. I thought I knew what they needed.

It doesn't always make sense, it isn't always clear, and it's really freaking hard. What is the source? Hard to say. What will make it better? Who really knows?

Validate What They Are Feeling

Talking with many of my friends, they have told me that all they really want is for their feelings to be validated. In a society where bouts of depression are often downplayed, undermined, or ignored entirely, they just want to know that someone sees their pain, someone acknowledges the intensity of it.

"That SUCKS. You don't have to go through this alone if you don't want to."

It's that simple if we let it be. Our friends and family need us to hear them out and to hold them tight. They need us to listen to what they need, not be told what we think would help them. We need to let them talk about it instead of sweeping the rain cloud under a rug and ignoring what is really going on.

Each of us has a secret battle: depression, self-hate, pride, the wounds of the past, overwhelming fear, anxiety, you name it. We don't always want to talk about it, but we know it is there. And despite how much we try to hide it, it feels really good when someone lets us know that it is ok that we are struggling.

It also feels really good when the people in our lives give us the time and the space to struggle with our battle. It takes time, it takes patience, it takes resilience. The people in our lives need that from us as well.

No matter how dark life seems, or how low we feel, there is hope in knowing there is someone beside you to bolster you, to guard your back.

Will we always understand what our friends are going through? No. Will we always be able to help them? Definitely not. But can we always be there? If we care, absolutely.

 Meagan Prins, blog writer for HeartSupport shares her perspective in this guest post.

How does what Meagan said impact the way you will respond next time a friend tells you they are depressed?

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8 comments on “The Do's (And Don'ts) When Your Friend Is Battling Depression”

  1. I tried to kill myself and the next day I told my best friend. At first she was loving and caring then she said she needed a break when I really needed her support. She offered to talk to me every few days then we were to meet up a couple weeks later to chat. She tried to make up a lame excuse the day of then told me the truth saying I made her nervous and she needed a real break. I cried really hard the. I got angry. I was so confused. She hasn't talked to me in 1.5 weeks. I'm hurting so badly but I'm doing better then I was a month ago. I know I made a mistake and I know I'm a difficult person to deal with.... I really miss my best friend and up until this point she has always been loving and supportive while being aware of my mental illnesses. She never witnessed me that low before... I hate myself even more for it all. I only want to make peoples lives better and I thought everyone would be happier without me in the long run... I'm not currently suicidal but I'm really hurting. I don't know what to do.

    1. I am so sorry your friend has responded this way. That is really hurtful and it is not your fault. Some people do have a harder time understanding depression. Hopefully she will come back around. When you need to talk about how you are feeling, please chat with a HopeCoach - We are here for you and we really understand. Many of us have had our own battles with depression and so we are compassionate. Chat with us.

  2. And i am not "going through" anything right now, so there is nothing bad going on with me, nothing wrong with me, so I am just a neglectful friend, and honestly I am so sorry but I just can't help other people like what people should do normally. So now I have pushed everyone - almost, at least - away, but I still can't get the memories out of my head, and I know I could've helped so many more people, by telling them I am here for them...but I didn't. And omg I don't even know
    why I wrote this bc it has no relation whatsoever

  3. What if we can't ask what's wrong, because we are afraid of them looking at us and telling us we are stupid to consider it. What if I am afraid to see what follows, when it would be different from our daily routine no matter what. And what if we just caNt ask, and every single single day i am chewed up by the guilt and remorse of not asking what was wrong? every single day knowing how selfish it is to be afraid of someone telling you off, when it is that someone you are trying - and not even trying! - to help, not your own little broken bits. What if we know we are so selfish and terrible to not ask them what is wrong, and yet that thought doesn't help make us braver?can't. And in the end we just look on and see them suffering.

    1. (In my opinion) if you try to understand why they suffer they can't get upset, actually what they want is someone who care about them someone who might miss them someone who will reason them to survive not someone to confess all their problems (if they need such a person they will try to find it themselves) i can tell seeing people ignore you and your problems is the worst and even if you might be clumsy doing it trust me it's better then not doing anything and dont forget that you have the best intention but it's not the case for everyone so you are should not think that some people will do it better then you (and in time)

  4. What if I cant be a good friend in that time? what if i strugle myself with prblems and selfhate and anxiety and i want to help but i simply cant listen and cant sit it thorugh with her, because I know if i do i wil sink or fall deeper myself? I feel so selfish but i cant be a good friend. Also there are so many people at once who want me to listen and to be there for them.. i am tired and i cant cope with myself i cant do this with 4 other people too...

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