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Same S*** Different Day: Supporting Someone with Depression

Mental health media constantly tells those with illness to talk with someone.

This is an excerpt from https://depression.org.nz/get-better/

Firstly, that is easier said than done.

But secondly, if you are going to support someone with depression, and be there to listen, be prepared for the following.

1. Self Centred Tendencies

Most of what gets us into dark holes are centred around self. It will sound selfish and completely self absorbed. Deal with it.

2. Self Doubt

We doubt ourselves. We will put ourselves down and be the first to tell you how pathetic and useless we are.

3. Problems with No Solutions

The problems we face are often complex and have many levels of deep issues and very rarely have answers. Don’t try and fix the problem. Just listen. Support. Encourage. Show an interest by trying to understand. That’s all you need to do.

4. Repetitive

Get ready for a case of deja vu. Often what goes around our heads in the dark times will be a case of the Same S***, Different Day. And often what gets us into the dark times are reminders and triggers of those things. So that’s what we need to process and talk about. It will get boring for you. But don’t ever say anything about it. Please. We know we’ve told you before. We know we sound lame and obsessive and believe me, we don’t want to. But you asked how it was going, and if we trusted you tell you the first time, then we’re going to have to tell you again. Don’t say “I still don’t know what to do”. See Number 3. Just listen. Say the same responses you said last time. We don’t need anything new. We just need you to listen, and to give the same support that got us telling you the problem in the first place.

5. Repetitive

Did I mention this?
The issue that was real for us yesterday will very much be real for us again today. Don’t dismiss it just because you know it already and have heard it all before. Doing so just sends us the message that you don’t actually care any more and that we’ve become a burden.

I found this come through on my Twitter feed around the same time I began feeling the need to write this blog post. Obviously this is something many people are noticing.

So please – listen. It helps, even if you don’t think it does.

And please – don’t stop listening. If you stop listening then it adds to the sense of rejection, failure and loneliness that we’re already too familiar with. It also makes it harder to talk with the next person who might want to offer their support.

Lastly, thank you. Thank you for all you’ve done so far to help someone else. And thank you for all you’ll do to support us, even if it is just listening one more time.

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I’m always here for you: Supporting Someone with Depression

If you’re going to say someone with depression

“I’m always here for you”

then you’d better mean it. And you’d better mean all of it.

You’d better mean the words “always here“. Not that you’ll be there every passing minute of every single day – we understand that you have a life to live as well… But always in the sense of you’ll be there for us tomorrow, and the next day, into next week, next year, and the year after. Always. Because while it’s easy for you to say, it becomes something that we will hold onto like it’s the last hope we have on this earth. And it often is.

You’d better mean the words “for you“, because we need someone in our corner. We need someone in our corner, because often, by the time we need you, we’re not even in our corner fighting for ourselves anymore. We’ve already rejected our self worth, and we don’t need you taking offence at things we might say in the moment when despair has set in. We’re already offended enough at ourselves. We don’t need you to betray us; we’ve already betrayed ourselves. Often we can lash out at anyone who is prepared to listen, and that’s not an attack at our support people; it’s just that it becomes an outlet for the frustration and that can be taken out on those closest to us.

This doesn’t mean we get free reign and take you for granted, or a free pass to be offensive. It just means that in those moments when we hate ourselves so much that we give up and lash out with words to anyone who listens, that’s when we need the most support. It’s because we’re hurting, we don’t care anymore, and we take it out on those who we want to care. Most of us, if we’re lucky to make it through the darkest of times, will be incredibly thankful and equally apologetic in due course if you’ll give us the chance. But giving up on us when we’ve already given up; Getting offended when we’ve offended ourselves well before you came along, is not “being there for us“.

You need to put yourself to one side just for the moment and help us to stand on our own feet again no matter how hard it gets. If it’s hard for you, imagine how hard it is for us. And now imagine how hard it is for us trying to do that on our own.

That’s when people give up.

So please, before you say “I’m always here for you” please consider if you mean it, and mean all of it. Can you stand by those words through thick and thin? Can you stand by those words for as long as we need you to, not just for as long as you can? Because there is nothing worse to someone with depression than having those words said to you and then not being lived up to. In those darkest of times, in the depths of a depressive episode, those words will go around and around our heads and we will come to resent you, hate you, and be hurt by you when you’re no longer there. We will wonder “Well, where are you now?” We end up in a deeper and darker hole of rejection as we reflect on the friendship we once had with someone who said they’d always be there. The trust we once had is now gone, along with you, and has ruined our hope in others being able to help us either.

So say “I’m here for you.” Mean it.

Say “I’m always here for you.” But mean it.

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Howie Mandel Pushes for Mental Health Reform

We saw this video on Ellen today, in reaction to the recent Las Vegas shooting tragedy.

Howie makes several great points in this short interview, and provides a fresh perspective on events like this, but also for mental health and how it is treated. He expressed strongly his favoring in a change to nevada marijuana laws in the treatment of mental illness.
The most poignant part of the whole segment though is when the audience begins to chuckle, thinking he had made an off-the-cuff joke, and he stops them and puts them in their place. This highlights the issue; that so often mental health is a source for humour that the stigma will almost always be there, where its difficult to get people to take it seriously.

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Stand on your own two phantom feet

Two weeks after her 41st birthday, Sue Cook’s life changed for ever.

She was on a pheasant shoot when she was injured in a freak accident.

A woman standing near her failed to unload the unused cartridges in her gun.

As she put it away, both barrels went off.

‘I looked down and stared at my left wellington boot. I couldn’t see blood, but it appeared to be on fire,’ says Sue, now 45, a marketing specialist in Stamford, Lincolnshire.
Sue had her leg amputated.

Four years on, she is struggling to cope — and not just because she has lost a leg.

For though it isn’t there, the missing leg causes Sue constant pain.

‘It is excruciating,’ she says. ‘I have a constant burning sensation down through my leg and foot, even though neither of them is there any more.

“Phantom limb pain is now understood to be a consequence of how the nervous system adapts to damaged nerves and the loss of a limb, and affects around 59 per cent of amputees. However, it is still poorly understood and difficult to manage.”

Phantom Limb Syndrome has been well documented and publicised and those that are still fully-limbed can understand how amputees could still imagine that their limb would still be there. But understanding is not experiencing, and I can’t begin to pretend I know what it’s like to have to go through it.

However, as I was walking through my home suburb this morning, it got me thinking of a way that others might be able understand the darkness those of us with depression go through.

Early in my battle I was told by a so-called friend that I needed the hard word and that I should learn to stand on my own two feet, rather than rely on them to always be there for me. Such comments essentially lead to the destruction of the friendship, which certainly hasn’t helped with my illness at all.

But it got me thinking about standing on my own two feet. Earlier this week, my wife showed me an article from Conquer Worry.
In it, the writer describes what depression is like for them, and it is reasonably accurate for me too.

They write:
“For me, this is Depression. This is how it has felt for me. It’s as if I could see the possibility of living a happy life, and all I had to do was break the surface of that water. But I didn’t. It’s not that I couldn’t do it, because I don’t think that I tried. And people judged me, and blamed me for not trying. It wasn’t that I couldn’t break the surface of that water; it was that I couldn’t even try.

It took all of my strength (in fact it took more strength than I thought I had) just to get up every day, go to school, go to work, and crawl back in to bed. It was a living hell, a nightmare. And they were right, I wasn’t trying. But they didn’t understand that I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I wanted to, I really did. I just couldn’t.”

You see, now that I look back on it, I found (and still find) the comments from my friend to “stand up on my own two feet” insulting. It’s not that I didn’t want to. I just couldn’t try. I couldn’t do it. Not on my own.

It got me thinking of what I used to say about my situation. You wouldn’t ask a man with a broken leg to walk without some help.
Taking this one step further, you wouldn’t ask a man with no legs to stand up and walk (while in recovery). It’s not that he doesn’t want to. It’s simply that he couldn’t. He might even feel like his legs are still there, but regardless, he can’t bring himself to walk. Even though his mind might create the sensations of having legs, it doesn’t change the physical limitations because of his situation.

In some ways what I’m going through is the reverse of this. My legs are fine, as is my body. Physically I feel in as good a shape as I have been in the last 10 years. But I almost have a phantom mind. I may want to be better. My body is completely better. But no matter how much I want to, I wasn’t trying. Because I couldn’t. I can’t. And while my body gets up every day, and gets ready for work and school, and takes me through my day, my mind doesn’t want to and doesn’t try. It can’t, and so it won’t. Everything else tells me my mind is there; but it’s not. It’s phantom.

For now.

Related Reading

WW1 surgeons could do little for amputees’ pain

The amputees in agony from limbs no longer there

When Depression Feels Like Drowning