That’s my dad. His voice aches with the pain and helplessness he feels talking to me. I just told him that I quit my third job in fifteen months because of the troubles I’m having with anxiety and depression again.
I’ve had recurrent major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder for the past twenty-three years. I’ve done in-patient and out-patient stints at psychiatric hospitals. I’ve been suicidal.
When I’m feeling bad, I don’t always want to talk about it. Talking generally doesn’t help me when I’m in the middle of a rough time. I just want to be alone.
But that can leave my loved ones feeling helpless and not knowing what to do for me. And not having anything they can do for me can leave my parents, my friends and my wife suffering along with me.
So what can I tell my loved ones that they can do to help me when I’m having trouble with depression and anxiety?
Respect my need for space. I need to process these feelings myself. If I get stuck, I will go to my wife for help, but she recognizes when I need to be left alone. I like to work through things myself, observe how I react and talk about it with my therapist from a distance. That’s how I work. Other people might be different. But it really does help to be left alone when that’s what I’m looking for.
Ask how I’m doing. I know this can seem to contradict my last point, but it will never hurt to ask me how I’m feeling. I’ll tell you if I don’t want to talk about it, but I appreciate someone asking. It shows me that they care, that they’re thinking about me. It’s also a gateway into a deeper conversation about how I feel, if I’m up for it. Depression and anxiety can make me feel isolated. Knowing people care enough to ask helps me feel not quite so alone.
Just say hi. On the opposite end of the conversational spectrum, it’s also ok to call me up to let me knowing you’re thinking about me and just say hi. We can talk about last week’s game or the kids, it doesn’t have to get deep. Talking to other people about other things is a good way to get my attention off of myself. It’s comforting to know people are checking in on me.
Get me out of the house. Ask me out for a beer or take me along shopping with you. Again, it’s a reminder to me that the outside world’s not such a bad place and it helps take my attention away from my problems for a little while. It’s amazing how much perspective I can gain from going to my daughter’s soccer game or having a chat with an old friend over lunch.
Be there. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist or have all the answers. I just want to know that I can count on you to be there for me when I need you. Listen, offer encouragement, hug me. It means a lot just to know someone’s there.
Don’t wait for me to ask. Don’t make me be the one who has to initiate the conversation or the get-together all the time. The act of reaching out to me shows a tremendous amount of love and support on your part. It shows me your concern. It makes me feel worthwhile, which is something I don’t get from myself too often.
None of these things are monumental actions. But they can make a monumental difference to someone who is suffering from anxiety and depression. These tips can take some of the pain away for both the people who suffer and the people who care for them.
Author Bio – Jason has suffered from depression and anxiety for over twenty years. He writes to bring light to mental illness and the ways that those who suffer from mental illness can work to improve their lives. You can reach Jason via Facebook.