Getting Help When You Feel Low

Dealing with Depression: A Guide for Friends and Family of Sufferers

It is almost impossible to understand how clinical depression feels if you've never been depressed yourself. No description, however evocative, can really put you in your loved one's shoes — but being unable to empathise doesn't mean you cannot sympathise. Knowing and acknowledging that difference is just one key component of supporting somebody with depression, but here are some other things you can do.

Have Patience

Depression isn't just about feeling sad, despite what common knowledge may suggest. Sometimes it's about feeling numb and empty as much as feeling sad, and that can make it difficult to express your feelings. It is also likely to make you feel very tired, which makes sufferers irritable. However illogical and irrational your loved one seems to be acting, try to be patient. Something is messing with their ability to handle everyday situations with the usual strength and stability, and they can't help that.

Equally, try not to take any harsh words they say to you personally. No matter how it sounds, it's highly unlikely that they mean it — and if they need to be alone, know that's not an indictment against you either.

Nurture, Don't Nag

Being low can hamper a person's ability to remember to take medication or attend appointments — and their energy to do both those things, too. It can be really helpful for those around them to issue gentle reminders so that doses and therapy sessions aren't missed. However, know that your loved one is probably doing their best; if they don't respond to the first few reminders about their appointment, then perhaps you can offer to help reschedule it for a day that's not so difficult, instead. It's important to come across as supportive, not judgmental, so be careful not to use pointed phrasing as you do this.

Also, take it upon yourself to ask how therapy is going, and be ready to offer encouragement. Depression counselling and therapy can be very emotionally taxing, and the nature of the illness can make it difficult to see the silver lining in any situation. As such, helping your loved one to see the benefits and improvements that therapy is having on their life may help to keep them invested in the process.

Find Alternate Routes

If your loved one is finding it difficult to manage their everyday life, help them to come up with creative solutions. If the effort required to wash up their dishes is preventing them from cooking and eating, suggest paper plates or offer to batch-cook a week's meals with them. If they keep missing alarms, help them to find a spot in their room to place the clock that isn't too far from the bed so as not to rouse them, but far enough that they'll have to get up to turn it off.

It can be uncomfortable and emotionally draining to suffer alongside your loved one, but neither of you is alone. Your support is very valuable and likely to be very appreciated — even if it doesn't seem to be in the moment. Keep these ideas in mind as your loved one seeks depression treatment