Having someone close to you dealing with depression can be frustrating and difficult. You want to help, but how can you do it? It seems that anything you try just makes them worse. The good news is that helping someone with depression is easier than it seems.
The Right Start
I’m going to start out by saying I’m not a doctor. I have no medical degree. If you know someone who is struggling with depression the most important thing they can do is seek help. What I’m about to say in no way replaces proper professional help.
Instead, I’m here to give you, the friend, family member, or co-worker, insight into what you can do to help someone who is struggling. After being a part of your loved one finding a professional, the most important part of helping someone with depression can be challenging.
After all, what can you do? Why does everything seem to fall flat? Why does it seem they both want to be left alone and feel so isolated?
I’ve dealt with depression for as long as I can remember. It’s been an on and off battle for me. I’ve struggled being on this side of the problem and I can tell you a few things.
It’s Not Sadness
Too many people think depression is just sadness. The sadness is an effect of the depression, not the cause. Depression is full blown hopelessness. It’s as if someone took all your hopes and dreams and crushed them into a fine powder.
Imagine having something you really loved to do, such as acting. You had been acting for a decade and had finally received your big break. In one year, you would do your first season of a network TV show.
This would require you completely change your life including moving, quitting your job, and bolstering your online presence.
For a year, you change everything. You work super hard taking extra acting classes, and learning your role. You have changed your whole life around this new future. You shore up everything at your job, get through day after day at work, and eventually quit. You tell everyone on social media what’s happened.
Now just before you’re ready to go, you get into an accident and are unable to speak. The network moves on, and your big break and your hopes of acting are gone too.
It’s No Solid Ground
At this point, depression will most likely set in. Depression is a lack of solid ground. It’s feeling unmoored. It’s as if everything you had any faith in making your life worth living has been removed. Your future as you have seen it now feels bleak and pointless.
That’s not to say that there aren’t people or things in your life that aren’t valuable. It means that your understanding of the world and your expectations of how you fit in it are so unclear that you can’t make anything of those relationships or interactions.
Imagine walking in a park with your partner and kids having a wonderful day and enjoying the sunshine. Now imagine floating in space with your family completely in the dark. Are the same people still there? Absolutely! But can you enjoy that experience in your current environment? It would be really hard to do it, to say the least.
Helping Someone with Depression
If you want to help someone with depression, the key is to know that it’s not your job to fix anything. It’s not their fault they feel this way. Something has upturned their understanding of reality, and regardless of how you see it, they are struggling to find that solid ground.
Your job is not to help them find it. Your job is simply to sit in the darkness with them so they know they are not alone as they stumble around. If you’re one of those people who always strives to celebrate life everyday, this can be a challenge, but it’s what they need. After all, the key to better relationships is not about doing things our way, but about helping others in their way.
That’s it. That’s the main key to helping someone with depression after you have encouraged them to find a professional. For reasons you may never understand that may never make sense to you, their world is in upheaval. That’s all you need to know. All you need to do is be present. Often silently.
This seems strange and counterintuitive, I know, but it’s what they need, unless they tell you otherwise. They just need to know they aren’t alone. That’s the most valuable thing you can give them.
For a deeper understanding helping someone with depression, read my book, The Man in the Pit. It’s a simple allegory to clarify what it’s like for a person dealing with depression, providing a simple key to helping them.
You can help. The key is just to be there.