One of the things I realised when I was really struggling with my depression and various other issues was that my parents and family had no idea how to handle me, what to look out for or where they could find information on how to help me. So I thought I would share some things with you that have really helped me and my family and various other people cope with someone who has depression and other various mental health issues.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR.
Depression is a cunning and baffling illness, it disguises itself so well and makes you become a pro at putting up a fake front so it can be really difficult to spot when someone is actually really battling.
For me, the main signs of my depression starting were huge mood swings. I would be seriously hyper bouncing off the walls and then suddenly flip in to a rage and start smashing the place up before crumpling in to a heap crying, sleeping a lot or struggling to sleep, not being able to focus on any tasks, big and small, losing motivation in the things I love, spending more time alone in my room, being on chat rooms and social media constantly and the most obvious one – crying constantly, a lot of the time over nothing serious but just miserable.
If you know someone well and notice that they have started acting differently that may be a sign that something is going on. Some people put on a more happy and lively front to protect themselves from people finding out the truth of how they’re really feeling so they over compensate. Some people (definitely me!) start drinking more heavily and more regularly, they start hanging around people you wouldn’t usually associate them with and may go out partying a lot more regularly. Others may usually be incredibly sociable but then start withdrawing and spend a lot of time at home on their own or in their room alone with the door closed. When I was at school I’m not sure whether any of the teachers picked up on my depression. I never handed in a piece of work and they would sometimes ask me if I was going to do it, usually the answer was no, if it was yes it was a lie. For me this was one of the biggest alarm bells and one of the biggest signs of something not being right but I was never asked if I was ok or why I wasn’t doing my work. The truth was that I was either too exhausted to do it, I couldn’t focus on it or I just couldn’t face doing it. I’ve spoken to a lot of sufferers about this and they all agree on it, though some people go the completely opposite way and throw themselves in to everything to take their mind off being miserable.
The do’s and don’t’s of knowing someone with depression.
- Over crowd them and pester them to talk to you
- Force them to do things they don’t want to do
- Make them get out of bed if they really can’t
- Invade their privacy and read their messages or diaries
- Tell them to ‘just get on with it’ or ‘put on a stiff upper lip’ or ‘just think of happy things’ – trust me, we’ve all tried and if we could do that, we would have done it a long long time ago!!
- Neglect them or not invite them out to a dinner or something like that presuming that they wouldn’t want to come, you never know, that day we might be having a more positive day and be up to it.
- Treat them differently
- Judge or gossip about them
- Force them to see a therapist or doctor until they’re truly ready
- Try and fix them
- Freak out if they say they want to kill themselves, if they really wanted to they wouldn’t tell you and would have done it. Just offer support and love
- Tell them what they’re saying is wrong and they don’t feel that way, you don’t know, you can’t read their minds
- Interrupt them when they are confiding in you, it takes a lot of strength to open up and it can be incredibly scary sharing what is going on for them
- Let them know that you are there for them if they want to talk
- Show them that you love them but not suffocating them. If they’re miserable and watching a film, join them and play with their hair or just be a leaning post for them or let them lie in your lap if needs be.
- Tell them regularly that you love them, you’re there for them, they’re incredibly brave and you’re proud of how well they are fighting it
- Do research in to depression for more information, read some people’s stories like Rachel Kelly’s Black Rainbow or Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive so you can get some insight in to what it’s like to suffer from depression
- Believe them
- Drop everything, no matter how important, if they need you and don’t question them. It might be that they can’t get their arm in to a top but tiny things like that can set someone off so easily.
- Talk to other people who have suffered for tips and advice but don’t give the other person any information on who you’re talking about as this would break the trust the person has built up with you
- Look in to therapy centres or therapists that have been referred to you by other people so that you have them ready to go when the person suffering finally decides they’re ready
- Look in to the pro’s and con’s of antidepressants and other medication and the side effects so you can support their decision if they wish to go on them and you can recognise side effects
- Listen to them carefully when they’re talking to you
- Try to encourage them to eat but don’t force them
- Reassure them that it’s ok not to be ok
- Encourage them to have friends over if they can’t leave the house, but make sure they’re close friends who know what is going on and are understanding
- Go for a walk and talk every now and then
- Sit in silence with them if that’s what they need
If you are suffering, here are some things to think about:
- Do you want help and will you go to any length to get better and feel better?
- You are LOVED, you’re worthy of love and support, you are beautiful inside and out
- You are incredibly brave and the whole world is proud of you for sticking with it
- Suicide is not the only way out, you can get better and this disease can build you to become a hugely strong and inspirational person in the future
- YOU ARE NOT ALONE
- Talk to people you feel comfortable talking to
- You can say no
- You don’t have to people please
- No-one is actually judging you, don’t project and decide what people are thinking of you unless they have specifically told you
- It’s ok not to be ok
- Crying is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength and it is ok to cry
- Your mental health comes first, if you need to take time off work or out of school that is perfectly ok. Those jobs or degrees or courses will still be there when you are better
- Don’t be scared if you’ve just spent another day in bed, try to get out for a little bit and have a bit of fresh air, it’s safety will be there for you when you get back.
- You will find who your real friends are if they stick around and help look after you
- If you’re having a bum day and can’t get out of bed then get some friends over to join you with some food and a film
- Practice self care (see my two posts about that previously)
- Everything is going to be ok and you will get better
- Be gentle on yourself.
I hope this has helped in some way, please comment below with any other tips you’ve found useful that I haven’t mentioned, either as a sufferer or someone who is close to a sufferer. Just keep remembering, I love you, we love you, the whole world loves you.