Its very difficult when someone you
care about is depressed.† It
seems to sneak up on people.† Sometimes
it is most difficult to see it in the people you are closest to, or people you
love. You may forgive their behaviors easier, or rationalize them quicker.
But the reality is, it's not easy
living with or being friends with a depressed person.†
Some of the things that make it difficult for others are warning signs.
It's frustrating to live with a procrastinator. It can make you feel unimportant,†
not respected, hurt and angry. Yet, procrastinators often feel depressed
or frozen, unable to complete tasks. They may make promises they wonít keep.
Depending upon their level of depression, they may not feel like doing anything.
If you are an active family member and your partner never seems to want to get
out of the house, off the couch or out of bed that could severely isolate you,
as well. The person may not want to do anything you used to enjoy. It becomes
more and more work to remain in the relationship.
Thatís the truth. And, unless you recognize depression as a
treatable illness, you can succumb to your partnerís sadness, as well. Relationships
that only need some extra help can look hopeless when you are lost in the middle
of their depression and perhaps yours..
Throw out the Guilt
and Get Busy!
There are times when people need an intervention in their
lives to move in a healthy direction. You may have tried many times to cheer
someone up, but to no avail. Your guilt will not help your loved one. It actually
can hurt because it can prevent both of you from seeing what is really wrong.
Once someone knows they are depressed, they can do something about it.
Hereís what you do:††
- Provide empathy. People who are depressed
often feel they are crazy and lifeís situations are hopeless. Share your own
experiences with depression. Everyone who breathes has suffered through some
depression at various times in their lives.
- Provide encouragement. As hopeless
as it seems in the moment, depression can go away in a short period of time
given the right recovery tools. It may take longer to get to the deeper sources
of depression, but along the way a helpful therapist can give you tools to
enable you to pull yourself up from despair much quicker Ė and believe that
it can happen. For instance, people who suffer from depression and have experienced
some type of weight problems will benefit from going beyond treating the surface
depression and looking toward what is underneath. Often past loss, trauma,
extremely high expectations and other issues extend much deeper. Utilizing
the techniques discussed in Body Sense:
Balancing Your Weight and Emotions help reduce the potential for a
- Show you continue to care.
Send notes, cards or e-mail. Invite your loved one to activities. Keep
your expectations low.
- Do not assume responsibility
for their depression. While
you definitely want to show you care, you can not change another person. That
person has to do that. You can throw life lines. You canít make them accept.
That means if another person is raging out at you, donít accept it. Their
depression does not give them an excuse to hurt you. State that in clear terms.
Otherwise, you accept responsibility and the depressed person becomes even
less empowered. Be careful that you do not become isolated because that person
doesn't want to do anything. Make sure you get out and circulate with a support
system of your own because you may have temporarily lost support from a person
very important to you.
- Accept that you can not
do it alone. Many times it will take a professionalís assistance.
See a licensed mental health counselor. This not only gives you a second opinion,
it also spreads some of the assessment and caring around. The counselor has
been trained to move people out of depression. You may have been trained to
be a caretaker. Those things do not always mesh. Sometimes it takes letting
go and moving out of someoneís way to support a loved one. The therapist may
even want youor your loved one to consult with a psychiatrist. Sometimes medications
are needed for a short-time or long term, due to changes in the body's chemistry.
If their body chemistry is at odds with a person, they may need the boost
medication can give before therapy is effective Ė no matter what their best
intentions are. It is important your professional contacts spend time and
listen to you. If a medicine isnít working, tell them. As a concerned relative
or friend, ask that your friend sign a release of information which allows
the mental health professional to talk with you if you call. Even if you do
not have that, you can call or write a message stating your concerns and specific
symptoms you see. People often will not fully disclose or even be aware of
their behaviors. An upset voice to one person may be a complete rageaholic
to those around him. Family members may disclose their worry about someone
staying in bed all the time. That same person may simply tell the doctor they
sleep ok. Family members can provide vital information and often are important
in therapy sessions, too.
- It may take an intervention for a change to occur.
These provide a loving, yet firm reminder that your loved oneís depression
affects you and your relationship. In interventions, you ask them to listen,
then talk about specific incidents and how it affected you. Share that you
love and care about them, but that you will not be a part of their depression.
You want them to seek professional help. Offer to go with the person the first
time. It may ease their anxiety. However, make it clear you will not sit through
the entire first session with a therapist, and thereafter will participate
as invited by the patient-therapist team.
- Recognize that healing may include changes you
are not too comfortable with. For instance, a very compliant person
who hid all her feelings may become more assertive. That can be an adjustment
for family or friends.
- Do not become totally absorbed. It
is crucial you take care of yourself, get out with friends. Otherwise, you
may also become severely depressed. If you are worried about leaving a loved
one alone, definitely seek professional help. You need a trained outsider
to help you through these times and ease your fears.
- If someone you love or care about expresses thoughts
of suicide or violence to others, seek help immediately.
You may want to take part in our online course Improving
Relationships to help ease some tension in your interactions. If you'd
like to be contacted when our online course Decreasing Stress begins, click
Copyright Brenda Crawford-Clark