In this week’s episode, I want to bring something to my Friday Feeler family which is a result of observations I’d been having over the last few months, personally, and also with clients, people I work with, and have been speaking to, and this is the topic of depression.
If you follow me and my other co-hosts, Aliyah Quadri and Sumayah Hassan, on Honest Tea Talk, you know that we talk about ‘Surviving Depression’ in episodes 2 and 3, and in our conversations with sisters on the posts and the videos we’ve put out, there has been lots of talk about surviving depression as a person who actually experiences depression, but what hasn’t been spoken much about is being on the other side — what about if someone in your life is experiencing depression?
As is the case with other forms of mental health, those of us who aren’t in it, or are close to someone who’s experiencing some sort of mental health issue, we may find ourselves either:
— not knowing what to do to help or support that person
— doing things we believe would help us if we were in that situation
However, it’s for us to recognise that everyone deals with their mental health challenges in their own unique way. There is no cookie cutter way to deal with a mental health struggle, specifically with depression, because of the taboo and stigma that it comes with.
And so in today’s Friday Feeler, I want to share with you some things I believe are useful for you to know as someone who may be in another person’s life who’s experiencing depression.
1 – Accept where they are
This is a really big thing because, you have someone you love and care for, someone who has great meaning to you, and they’re going through a mental health challenge, and so your immediate response might be,
‘How can I fix it?’
‘How can I make them better?’
‘How can I make them ‘normal’ again?’
They may be in a place where they’re in denial about their mental health struggle, or depression.
They may be in a place where they’re actively seeking help.
They may be in a place of confusion.
They may be in a whole host of places because depression presents itself in different forms, and how that manifests in different people will be different, so one thing I want you to do is to accept where they currently are, even if where they are might not be optimal.
Also, realise that, especially if they’re in a really bad place, that’s not where they’re going to be for the rest of their lives, so avoid writing them off because everyone can rise; every single person has the potential to get better, and while it might be hard to see someone you love and care for suffering, possibly even drowning in their depression, I want you to know that it’s important for you to accept where they currently are.
2 – Their depression is not about you
I’m bringing this, real, and honest here, because I’ve heard people say to their loved ones,
“What have I done?”
“Have I made you unhappy?”
“Have I caused your depression?”
They say things of this nature where they project their own feelings and make the person’s challenge with depression about them.
Their depression is not about you.
You haven’t necessarily done something that’s made them depressed.
You haven’t necessarily caused their depression.
Their depression is not a sign of them not loving you, not caring for you, or that they’re unhappy with you, so it’s really important that you detach your emotions from what you see, hear, and feel from that person.
I know this personally as someone who has been around people with depression, as sometimes they may say or do things that might be hurtful. Recognise that the person is more than their behaviour, and their depression is not personal — it isn’t about you.
3 – Step into their shoes
When we’re looking to support someone with depression, it’s really important that we step into their shoes. What I mean by that is, to ask them: “How do you want to be supported?”
Usually, when we want to help someone, we help in a way we would want to be help, in the way we think and see we’d benefit from support. But when someone’s on the inside of depression, they might want to be supported another way, and that might be:
— they want to be left alone
— they don’t want to talk
— they do want to talk
Everyone deals, handles, and wants to be supported in a different way, so instead of imposing how you’d like to be helped, I’d like to invite you to say to them, “I’m here for you. I love you, and I want to support you. How can I support you? What practical things would be useful for you that would help you in your experience with depression?”
4 – Respect their wishes
If they share their wishes with you, respect them.
So if you’ve asked them how you could support them and they tell you, “I’d like you to stop calling me”, or “I’d like to see less of you”, then respect that.
I know this can be a challenge. You may want to just go in there and fix everything, however, it’s important that you respect what their wishes, especially if they’re to get better, and if they’re to get to a better internal and external space.
What they’re asking for could very well be the best thing they need to be supported even if in your mind, it’s something completely contrary to how you believe they can get better and improve.
5 – Take care of yourself
When you’re a supporter of someone with depression specifically, it can start to weigh on you because you care for them, you worry, and you drive yourself to the wall trying to figure out a way to help them. In this process, you might end up wearing yourself out, so it’s important to take care of yourself.
This could mean seeking a counselor, or someone you can offload to, express to, speak to; someone who can lend you their ear; someone who can just listen to you.
It’s important for you to have a space to offload to because there will be pressures on you, and tension within you that will end up negatively impacting you, so offloading to a listening ear would be amazing for both you, and the person you want to support.
Taking care of yourself could mean finding ways to maintain your own well-being, such as doing things you enjoy, things that bring you happiness, joy, calm, and contentment. Craft that time for yourself.
In order to best support someone with depression, it’s important that you’re looking after yourself, because if you’re not in a good space, you’re going to show up in a certain way with that person, and it’s not going to be useful.
I hope that this is of benefit to you and that it helps you in your quest, in your mission, in your role to support someone with depression, inshaAllah.
I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts about this week’s episode, especially if anything stood out for you. Leave your comments below, inshaAllah, or join us in the Evolve and Emerge Growth Squad on Facebook, and let’s discuss there.
Have a beautiful weekend, and week ahead, my lovely. I look forward to being in your inbox again next week, inshaAllah.