Handling Feelings of Depression
Having feelings of depression affects millions of people. Both the caregiver and the care receiver suffer from depression in many situations. Attempting to care for someone who feels depressed while feeling that way is particularly difficult. If this describes your life, I encourage you to seek help from a qualified professional rather than attempting to manage it alone. Contact your doctor or local mental health clinic for assistance. The effects of depression can weigh down every part of your life, making everything you attempt to do twice as hard. You owe it to your struggle with fatigue, if nothing else, to find a way to reduce, if not eliminate, the depression.
Key Facts About Having Feelings of Depression
Fact 1 – Depression is a Serious Condition
A person cannot simply “get over” feeling depressed because they set their mind to it one day. There is a chemical imbalance at the root of their problem, and without a way to replace it, their symptoms will not get better on their own. Instead, depression continues to drain away their energy, optimism, and motivation.
Fact 2 – The Symptoms of Depression Aren’t Personal
When a person is experiencing depression, they feel as if they are numb and disconnected from everything and everyone around them. It’s exceedingly difficult for them to connect with anyone because they withdraw so far into themselves. They may say hurtful things and lash out at those they love in anger and frustration; however, they don’t intend to hurt anyone. Depression takes charge of their actions and tells them to push everyone away, even those they love the most. Therefore, try not to take it personally, although what they say may hurt.
Fact 3 – Hiding the Problem Won’t Make It Go Away
Helping to hide someone’s feelings of depression or pretending there isn’t a problem is dangerous. Failure to acknowledge the symptoms of depression can result in the problem progressing to a more serious level. Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away; it only delays treatment and could eventually lead to thoughts of suicide.
Fact 4 – Your Family Member Isn’t Lazy or Unmotivated
When someone is depressed, they are exhausted all the time. It takes all their energy just to breathe and keep putting one foot in front of the other. They want to get help, but they don’t have the energy to do anything about it. The thought of picking up a phone takes too much effort; it’s like climbing Mount Everett. Caregivers can help by being patient and providing ongoing encouragement to take baby steps toward recovery.
Fact 5 – You Can’t “Fix” Someone Else’s Depression
As a caregiver, you want to make your family member better and take on their struggles for them when you see them drowning. However, you can’t do that with depression. The person suffering from depression must fix this problem on their own. You can encourage and help guide them, but the “fix” is theirs. You are not responsible for their happiness. You can offer love and support, but ultimate recovery is in their hands.
Talking to Someone About Feelings of Depression
If you notice someone displaying signs that they are having feelings of depression, it’s important to talk to your family member about your concerns sooner than later. But, how do you start that conversation? What do you say? It’s scary to think about bringing up a serious topic with someone when you don’t know what to say to them if they ask you for help. It takes a lot of courage, at times, to take that step.
Tips to help with the conversation
Here are some tips to help with that conversation.
Being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice.
You don’t have to “fix” them. You’re there to listen without judgment.
Often, just being with them in person, letting them talk, or just sitting with them and letting them share your presence is more than enough.
If they do talk, it’s not the time to make a judgment about what they tell you. Just let your depressed family member say what they need to say.
After they tell you something, talk more about how they feel about what they shared rather than the details of what happened. It’s the feeling about the story that is causing the depression.
While they talk, actively listen. Look at their face. Nod your head, showing that you hear what they are saying. Acknowledge comments with short words or sounds. Depending on how you think the person would accept touch from you, a gentle pat on their hand, shoulder, or back might show empathy.
How To Reach Out to Help Someone Who May Be Depressed
During my research on this topic, I found this great FREE resource, “Helping Someone with Depression.” You can obtain a copy at www.helpguide.org. I think their recommendations on how to have a conversation about depression are excellent. The information printed below is verbatim from that resource.
“Starting the Conversation:”
“I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
“Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”
“I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately.”
“Keeping the Conversation Going:”
“When did you begin feeling like this?”
“Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?”
“How can I best support you right now?”
“Have you thought about getting help?”
“Ways to Offer Encouragement While Talking:”
“You’re not alone. I’m here for you during this tough time.”
“It may be hard to believe right now, but the way you’re feeling will change.”
“Please tell me what I can do now to help you.”
“Even if I’m not able to understand exactly how you feel, I care about you and want to help.”
“You’re important to me. Your life is important to me.”
“When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, or minute—whatever you can manage.”
“Things Not to Say:”
“This is all in your head.”
“Everyone goes through tough times.”
“Try to look on the bright side.”
“Why do you want to die when you have so much to live for?”
“I can’t do anything about your situation.”
“Just snap out of it.”
“You should be feeling better by now.”
Resources for Information on Depression
” Helping Someone with Depression” at www.helpguide.org.
Self-Care for Depression–Coping with bad times.
Caregiver Speaker Elaine Sanchez’s website http://www.caregiverhelp.com
National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255
Caregiving Videos on Managing Emotions Produced by Elaine Sanchez CaregiverHelp.com
Elaine K Sanchez Published on Dec 10, 2012