Later I got thinking about the doctor’s advice. A very good friend explained how her relationship with her daughter changed for the better. Her daughter gave her a list of responses people give her when she talks about her depression.
- Why? What do you have to be depressed about?
- It is all in your mind…think positive and it will go away.
- Meditate, do yoga.
- Look at the less fortunate and count your blessings.
- These are all small problems…it is not something to get depressed about
- Life is precious…don't waste it
- Don’t be selfish…think of what it does to the others…
- Everybody has problems…you are no exception. Don’t pay attention to your problems.
- Relax…your problems will go away.
- You are over sensitive..you just have to get over it.
- Cheer up…
- Pray...If you believe in God it will go away.
- Do you think I haven’t tried meditation, or to keep myself occupied?
- When I am depressed, I am supposed to think about the feelings of those who aren’t depressed! Isn’t that selfish of them?
- Because my problems are less serious to others, I should not be worried about my problems? Now who is selfish?
- When I feel so low, I feel I am the least fortunate…so I can’t feel better in comparison to others. Besides, I want to feel good about myself because my life feels satisfying—not because someone else is more miserable than me!”
My daughter gave me another piece of advice which I’ve never forgotten. “When I talk to you, just listen…don’t give me solutions to my problems. Don’t tell me that everything will be all right if I do exactly as you say. I have to find my own solutions. Your job is to listen and help keep me safe if the need arises. I want you to listen…DO NOT ADVICE ME every time I talk to you.”
As the days went by I realized the truth behind her statements. My advice was not to teach her to cope with her depression…but to help me cope with the fact that I couldn’t fix her problem. With the best of intentions I was trivializing her experiences. Now I listen and rephrase my daughter’s own words…because she is trying to sound her thoughts aloud and look for strategies. I ask her if she needs help to develop a routine but don’t thrust it on her.”
Yes, I agree…most of the advice given is very relevant to help someone come out of the ‘doldrums.’ But someone who is clinically depressed has had these symptoms for a long time. There is a metabolic component to it. It is not possible to switch your thought process to start thinking positive. To be able to use these strategies, the person has to be on the path to recovery…therapy brings some people to that stage. For others medication combined with therapy helps. Still others benefit by having a caregiver who contributes time and effort. It is a combined effort and requires tremendous amount of effort and energy from the person with depression.
The next time someone tells you they are depressed, listen. Hold that advice on how to will those feelings away. Most of all don’t be patronizing by making the effort seem so easy. Those of who don’t have depression can empathise but we can never truly understand that person's perspective. ‘I know how you feel’ is really for our benefit.