How To Help A Stressed Or Depressed Loved One
Having lived with a depressed partner for 3 years andsuffered anxiety and depression for 5 years, I'veexperienced both sides. In this article, I'll show youexactly what you can do - and, what you shouldn't do - tohelp your loved one.
1. Please, however frustrated you feel, please never say toa depressed or stressed person: "Come on, snap out of it.What have you got to be worried or sad about anyway. Peoplehave it much worse than you." Please understand that theseillnesses cannot be "snapped out of." You wouldn't say thisto someone with high blood pressure or pneumonia because youknow it isn't that simple. Stress, depression and anxietyare real illnesses that have specific causes. Asking someoneto snap out of it makes that person feel inadequate or thatthey're doing something wrong. Absolutely not so. Comparingtheir circumstances to people who are suffering greaterhardship is no use either. I couldn't have given two hootsabout other people when I was ill because theircircumstances meant nothing to me. I was struggling to solvemy own problems and couldn't see anything else. Knowing thatothers are starving, are terminally ill, or suffer insqualor didn't matter a jot because they didn't make myproblems go away. One more thing about such statements: theyconfront the sufferer with their illness and they putpressure on them. This will cause sufferers to retreatfurther and further into their own world. Better is tooffer love and support: "I'm always here if you need me orwant to talk." And 3 little words can mean so much: "I loveyou." I didn't hear them for 3 years and believe me, Imissed them so very much.
2. As a loved one, it is totally natural to want tounderstand what is happening. Many loved ones conductresearch into these illnesses to develop understanding.Nothing wrong with that whatsoever. However, a problem canarise if you start to impose your knowledge on the sufferer.This happens when you observe certain behaviors and habitsperformed by sufferers and comment on why they are behavingin such a way. For example, you hear a sufferer putthemselves down, so you say "That's a part of your illness.I've been reading about it and self-deprecation is one ofthe reasons why people become depressed. You need to stopputting yourself down." Again, this is confrontational andputs the sufferer under pressure. All they'll do is dismissyour comments and clam up whenever you're around as they'llfeel they're being scrutinised. A better way is to challengethem very gently by reminding them of a time when they didsomething good. For example, you hear a sufferer say: "I'museless, I never get anything right." You can say "Sure youdo, hey, remember the time when you...". Do you see thedifference in approach? The first is more like a doctorassessing a patient, the second is just a normal, naturalconversation and doesn't mention stress, depression oranxiety. This is very, very helpful as it shifts focus froma bad event: "I'm useless..." to a good one: "rememberwhen.." without exerting pressure.
3. Finally, you may find a resource - a book, a video, asupplement etc. - that you think will help someone to beattheir illness. Perfectly natural. But there's a problem. Itconfronts the sufferer with their illness and puts themunder pressure to do something about it. The result of thiswill be resentment followed by retreat into their own world.Isolation is a part of these illnesses. Sometimes, you justcan't bear to be around people. My ex-partner used to sleepin a dark room for an entire weekend because she justcouldn't handle anyone being around her. "I bore people,I've nothing to say of interest and I don't want anyoneasking me how I'm feeling. I just want to be on my own." Iknow, it cuts you to ribbons when you hear such words fromsomeone you care deeply about. But please, you must resistthe urge to DIRECTLY give them a resource you think willhelp them. For someone to emerge from these illnesses, theyhave to make the decision themselves. A direct offer willmore often than not be refused. So, if you find somethingyou think will help, leave it lying around somewhere yourloved one will find it. The idea here is for them to CHOOSEby themselves to investigate further. Such an INDIRECTapproach is more effective because once again, there is nopressure, no reminder, no confrontation. It is the suffererwho takes a willing first step towards recovery.
It is so hard to understand and reach loved ones whenthey're caught up in these illnesses but please believe me,these ideas are very effective and they will help.
See you next time.
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