Don’t Count on Me to “Reach Out”

The bottom line is that you cannot wait or count on someone that’s depressed to ask you for anything. There is too much embarrassment and fear of burdening you. So if you want to help, you’re going to have to make an effort.

Depression is hard. It eats away at you from the inside out, and often, in the case of clinical depression, you don’t even have a specific reason for feeling the way you do.

When someone asks, “what’s wrong?” the answer is nothing. There isn’t a specific thing wrong. It’s everything and it’s nothing. It’s the biggest worry that you’ve held for your entire life about the worst thing that could happen to you, the fact that you don’t have the energy to even take a shower, and everything in between.

Your worries are big and they are small, but when you aren’t operating with a rational mind, every worry feels like it weighs 1,000lbs and is sitting on your chest, your shoulders, and your back. Your sorrow weighs you down, pushing so hard you feel like you can’t breathe. It tethers you to the bed, the chair, the four walls of your home. It stops you from enjoying your favorite television show, the pet you love so much, or a joke that you normally would find hilarious.

As I describe in depth in Depression Doesn’t Just “Go Away,” depression comes in waves. There are good days and there are bad. Often, the bad days are really bad, looking very similar to something I’ve described above.

While depression is an individual problem, there is a community of friends, family, and loved ones that will offer what they believe to be words of encouragement such as, “I’m here for you” and “let me know if you need anything.”

It is a kind offer, and one that should not go unappreciated. They are words that stem very clearly from someone simply trying their best to help and show that they care. It is a best effort of something that one does not understand or have the slightest idea on how to navigate, but they are trying their best.

Even recognizing all of those positives–this might seem selfish of me to say–those words still aren’t good enough.

The harsh truth is that I am not going to reach out to you. I will not text you and ask if you’re busy simply because I feel so lonely that I’m almost convinced I’m the only one on the planet. I will not call and tell you how I feel like I am drowning in my own self-pity, and how it makes me want to vomit. I will not drop you a Facebook message and ask if I can come over and just sit in your vicinity because I am lost in my own thought process and need to just be with someone that isn’t my parent.

I will not, “let you know,” even though I know that you’re there for me just like you say you are.

Neither will anyone else.

There is a shame that comes with a mental health struggle. For me, it revolves around having to look another person in the eye and say, “I can’t tell you what’s happening, but it isn’t good.”

There’s pride to be swallowed when seeking help and support, and more often than not, depression makes us feel like we are a bother, too much for someone else to handle, or simply just not worth someone else’s time.

So when you ask yourself how you can help a depressed friend, and you say, well, they’ll reach out! Stop yourself, because they won’t.

Unfortunately, the mental health struggle is just not that simple.

If you want to truly be a help, you’ll have to reach out to them.

Furthermore, if you want to know how they’re truly doing, you’ll have to ask.

This seems like a lot, but we all do it all of the time for our neurotypical friends. Think about it. If you’re angry at your spouse, parent, or co-worker, and a friend texts and ask you how you are, do you respond, angry?

Of course you don’t.

If you ask me how I am, I am not going to immediately reply, “depressed.”

That’s the second catch.

You can’t just ask, because that can be offensive or even make things worse. The last thing I need while not feeling depressed is someone texting me every other day to ask, “are you feeling depressed?”

If you truly want to help, you have to open up conversation. (The same way you would do with anyone else.) You cannot ask, “how are you,” because that gives the impression of a nicety, and encourages a response of “good.”

Like most things, it isn’t what you are saying. It’s how you are saying it.

If you don’t know how to say it, ask. Personally, I think, “what’s the best way I can check up on you?” is a fine question to pose. However, I do think, “how are you feeling today?” is the safest route to go.

The bottom line is that you cannot wait or count on someone that’s depressed to ask you for anything. There is too much embarrassment and fear of burdening you. So if you want to help, you’re going to have to make an effort. Keep the lines of communication open so it is easier for someone to talk to you about what’s going on. Ask them how they are feeling, talk to them about trivial things in your day, send them photos of animals, or things from the internet that made you think of them. Send a, “hey, was thinking of you.” Even if your communication is a funny meme here and there, it’s something.

Most importantly, just ask. Your friends are already fighting in such a tough war, and a single question is an easy way to help.

(If you need ideas on checking in, you can read my article here).

1 Comment

  1. Rebecca says:

    I love this so much! So relatable! Thank you for putting all these feelings into words. Will turn on notifications for updates from you ASAP


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