In my last two posts I tried to be as brutally honest as my pride would allow me to be. Thankfully, I’m coming out of it, I can feel it. It’s still there, that sense that something isn’t right, but it’s not something I’m seeking to escape from anymore.
There were a number of things that were done for me while I was unwell. I’d say some of these things I didn’t even realize until the fog started to lift, but, they helped me all the same. I understand that dealing with someone you are concerned about, whether it is depression or suicidal thoughts, can be difficult. It’s an unpredictable mental state and being a part of someone’s world when they are in it is hard. I’ve been on both sides of it and I think I’ve learned a little of what might be beneficial and thought I would share.
Please keep in mind that if you are reading this post in hope to find a solution in how you can help a loved one it might not be here. Take from what I suggest if you think it might help, but you know the person and whether or not it may benefit them or make things worse.
Firstly, find your resources. There are some things we struggle to talk to even our closest friends about and in this case a stranger might be more helpful. There are many places that offer help, and finding a number of them and offering and encouraging a friend to speak to someone may help them get their thoughts in order. This isn’t necessarily due to what the person on the other end of the chat/phone/email might say (in my experience they didn’t say much at all). It may simply be that through telling their story they’re able to see it more clearly and work out where the damage is and what needs to heal. Do not take offense if they don’t feel they can talk to you. Remember, they are most likely hoping to come out of this, and as you may have noticed from my posts you can become a different person when in the worst of your depression. They might not want you to remember the things they say and think about when in the depths of it.
Offer support in small ways. Whether this is carrying out a task for them that you know they will not be able to achieve in their current state, or helping with daily chores. Small gestures can mean a lot. I know that just having someone take a couple of dirty cups out of my room and into the kitchen nearly brought me to tears because it was a show of kindness. We don’t always need to show we care in grand ways.
Speaking of small offerings of kindness, food and drink can go a long way. When I am depressed and especially when I am in a place like I was for the past few weeks, food and drink are far from my mind. I mentioned above that I almost cried over a cup, well even fish and chips made me emotional. Odd, huh? Probably ridiculous to some. But, I wasn’t eating and so having someone bring me food helped me get some energy back.
The one we hear a lot: listen. I’d like to add to that: but don’t expect to understand. We don’t need to understand where the person is coming from, what they are saying may make no sense whatsoever, but just like speaking to a stranger can help organize thoughts, so can being allowed to speak about what’s on your mind. Try to be non-judgmental, know that you will most likely not be able to fix their problems, but be there when the thoughts become so overwhelming they need to be let out. It may help to try and learn about the specific issues they are dealing with, whether this is depression (whichever form it may have appeared in), anxiety, or another mental illness. Education on these topics can be beneficial to help you learn how to best handle this type of conversation.
Be patient. I can’t say this one enough. Depression isn’t a choice to fall into and it is a hard place to come out of. Do not rush them or tell them to snap out of it: you do not snap out of an illness. It is gradual. It can be the pits of despair one minute and fine the next, it can be days or weeks, but it is not for us, or even them, to know how long it will take. Encourage them to come out of it, support them to come through it, but don’t demand they snap out of it immediately.
Help them remember who they are. Depression has an amazing ability to make it seem as though we have no interests. Even the slightest enjoyment we may have once taken in a favourite book or film can be lost. This doesn’t mean forcing them to sit down and watch a film Clockwork Orange styley, it can be as simple as bringing up a scene you know made them laugh, or asking them to jog your memory on a book you know they like.
Let them know you are thinking of them. Whether this is reaching out and letting them know you are there and that you care about them (even if you haven’t been in contact for some time – as someone did for me on this very blog), sending them a picture you think will make them smile, buying them their favourite chocolate; anything. Anything at all that says: You are on my mind. Believe me, thinking that no one cares about you is not as self-pitying as it might sound. It is a horrific feeling to have, to feel alone in a room full of family or friends, and can be an unwelcome thought in a dark hour. Don’t let them get to that place. You don’t have to pester them, but I know how easy it is to think Oh I must contact so and so and then not get round to it. Get round to it. Do it. That person you’re thinking of right now. Send that message.
Don’t be afraid. It is a terrifying thing to think you might be making the wrong choice over whether or not your friend is in danger. But, should you truly believe your loved one is at risk of harming themselves, throw precaution to the wind and call for help. I will say to try to be prepared for this. Contact a mental health charity and ask about actions you should take at different stages of a friends depression, and for signs they may be considering suicide. Perhaps even discuss with your loved one any possible ways they think will bring them back from the edge before they reach that point. If you are dealing with someone who has suffered from depression for a long time, they may be aware of when things are about to become too difficult to cope with and seek out your help. I know that when I self harm (something I rarely do), I am getting to a point where I will need intervention because I am becoming impulsive. Be on your guard though, and watch for signs that something has changed. If someone really wants to die, in my experience, they are going to try and fool you into thinking they are fine. Remember, you are not alone in helping, you have a number of places to turn to.
Lastly, take them seriously. I know it is easy to have doubt over whether or not someone will do something when you have heard them say that they can’t cope, or want to die, or are giving up a number of times. In the end, if they are saying these things, then something is wrong, and could be fatally so. Do not dismiss them. Do not bait them into suicide. Again, take them seriously and do what you can to help them.
Mental illness is so direly misunderstood when in the end it is just that, an illness. To some, seeing me list suggestions such as bringing food or helping with chores could seem laughable. I am not saying to baby the person (you are not their slave, you are their friend), I am saying that just like you would help a friend with the flu in this way, why wouldn’t you help someone in the depths of depression? It is exhausting to live with a mental illness. Energy is as important during these terrible periods as it is when trying to heal from any other illness. Food, drink, sleep, stress relief, are all necessary to help someone feel even just a little bit better. You might not be able to heal their mind, but you can give their body everything it needs to try its damned hardest to get them there on their own.
I’m sure I’ll think of more I could have added to this and fret over saying lots of stupid things. If you have read this and you have ideas from your own experiences that might help, feel free to share. If you have read this because you are worried about someone, thank you. Be sure to take care of yourself as well.
One final thing I was unsure of how to say or where to write but I feel needs to be said: If the worst should happen, and their illness kills them, it is not your fault.
Thank you, Dad, Mom, Michael, Ste, Ryan, Jules, Shio, and Eiman.
Talk to someone: https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us