One of the most frequent things I get asked in my depressive states is "What can I do?" This is a big question to ask someone who is asking themselves the same thing. There is no real guidebook for depression and there is even less information available to those who are there to support. So many loved ones with good intentions who are lost and overwhelmed and terrified that they will say the wrong thing and ever more afraid if they say nothing at all. In the moment, I don't know what to tell anyone. I don't know how to communicate what I need because at the time I don't even know. I can barely find reason to get myself out of bed let along suggest how someone else should behave.
Depression is not a one size fits all disorder, therefor this article may not work for everyone but here are a few suggestions based on my experience:
Just be there. Not necessarily physically, but any way you can. A simple text asking "How are you?" or "Can I bring you anything?" goes a long way. In a deep depression, I feel alone and isolated. I don't want to be by myself, but feel as though I'm a burden to those in my life. I wont ask anyone for help because I will feel guilty asking you to take time from your own life for something I need. Ridiculous, I know.
Dont give me advice. This is a big one. Even if I'm asking you what to do, don't give me suggestions on what to do in the future or for anything past the moment I'm in. Telling me what may happen if I don't go to work tomorrow will just create more anxiety for me. Depression and anxiety go hand in hand; depression is a constant feeling of things that happened while anxiety is living in the things that may happen. I need to be in the present right now. I need to get through this minute before I can move on to the next. When I ask "what do I do?", tell me to breathe. Tell me to have a glass of water. Encourage me to do things to get me through the present moment.
Don't let me stay alone all day. Take me out of the house even just to accompany you on errands. Give me something to get out of bed for. Make me feel useful. Depression is constantly lying - telling me that I'm worthless, that I have nothing to offer. Help me to prove it wrong.
Ask for help. You can't help anyone if you burn yourself out. Don't take on my battle. I'm so lucky to have so many amazing people in my life and even luckier that they rely on each other. There is so much guilt I feel to be interrupting your life, it brings some comfort knowing you have someone else to share your feelings and ideas with (especially when I wont listen).
Get me up and moving. While exercise is a extremely beneficial in mental health, it can be really hard for me to get out and do anything active. Book a fitness class, invite me to join and don't give me an excuse to not go. Pick me up on the way. While I may not seem into it at the time, afterwards I will be so grateful that it happened.
Give me a hug. Physical contact is an amazing thing (if you don't like touching people, hand me a dog). If you are someone I trust, a hug or a squeeze can be so beneficial. Someone once told me that everyone needs someone to exhale into at the end of the day - this rings true especially when you have a disease in your head that is constantly consuming you, telling you lies and leaving you mentally and physically exhausted.
Don't compare your battle to mine. Although you may have experience with mental illness, everyone's experience is different. Even my experiences differ from one to the next. Comparing my illness to yours or someone else's feels like you're setting me up for failure. It makes me feel like because I'm feeling or doing something different, there is something wrong with me.
Don't get angry with me. I know dealing with someone who has given up hope can be incredibly frustrating and confusing, but please don't be angry with me. Given the choice, I wouldn't be like this so please lend me some patience. I am especially sensitive to your words and actions so if you feel yourself becoming angry, take a step back. Harsh words and actions will set me back more than you'll ever know.
Don't give up on me. I know I can be frustrating (I deal with me every day), but your support means everything. There are bad days, there are good days and they can change at the drop of a hat. My depression can be triggered even when things have been good. It can be something small or it can be piled on. Stress can trigger depression, boredom can trigger depression, loneliness can trigger depression. I don't know when or where triggers will happen, but know that it isn't me. I have depression, I will always have it, but I am trying my best to control it.
Know that I love you, I appreciate you and I would not be here without you.