If there is one thing a person needs to know about depression, it is this: There is no valid reason to invalidate the experience of depression.
In other words, you should never ever say these (or any form of these) to a person experiencing depression:
- Other people also have problems; you are not the only one.
- You are overreacting.
- Can you not just get over it?
- I don’t know what to do with you.
- I don’t/can’t understand you.
- You’re just making your life complicated.
- You are just overthinking.
- Don’t be overly sensitive.
And the worst and yet the most used of all, the unpardonable words of:
It’s just all in the mind.
Well, I’ll tell you—fudge this mind. Now what are you going to do about it now that it’s all in my head? Will your advice, your solutions, your admonishments do me any good? Can you make the voices in my head stop? You love me, well then, what are you going to do now? Will that change what’s happening within me?
The problem with society is that it knows that depression happens but it refuses to recognize its impact on people until it’s too late. Until the teens die in drug addiction or gang wars. Until the employee shots himself. Until the young jolly woman overdoses herself with sleeping pills. Until the student jumps off from a building or is found dead on her dormitory.
The problem with people around us is we like to downplay depression. We don’t want the hassle of a messed-up mind of the person beside us. We don’t like to be bothered because we are too busy making our lives look so good in social media sites. Even if we already notice something weird on our friend, our classmate, our cousin—“oh wait, I have to post this in IG.” We like going out to our jobs and life and vacation trips and parties, without having the need to be there for someone who’s struggling in his/her head.
The problem with parents is that they often want their children to act “mature.” They want their sons and daughters to not be “weak,” to be tough and not show a sign of frailty. They always hold the “We have done everything for you” card when one of their children starts breaking down. They do not realize that depression is as deep as an ocean, and their son or daughter is crying out from the depths of the abyss. Crying out for what?
For companionship. For someone to lie beside them while they cry to sleep. For a person to embrace them when the pain is no longer possible to be put into words. For a living human to hold their hand when the mornings are cold and the evenings are pitch-black. For a friend to accompany them to places which give them a bit of solace, a bit of fresh air. For the rare opportunity of having someone who will not, even never, talk and babble like they know everything about their situation.
Ashley Abercrombie, in her 7-day devotional entitled, Finding God in the Hard Places, put it this way:
“Ash, how are you?” “Fine!” (Classic response when you are absolutely not fine.) “How are you?” I continued.
More small talk and then I hung up with my friend. Ten minutes later, there was a knock on my door. When I opened it and saw her standing there, I collapsed in a heap on the floor, and let out everything I had been bottling up inside.
She didn’t even say a word. She laid down next to me, and listened. Her presence felt so powerful. Without advice, solutions, or next steps, she just sat with me in my pain, and for the first time in a long time, I believed I wasn’t alone.
There is power in presence… Presence provides comfort, care, and a sense of security. It’s choosing to sit down with someone in the middle of his or her journey, and say, “I’m here. I am not trying to fix you, heal you, save you, or correct you.”
There’s humility in presence. We usually don’t have the answer to life’s problems, and we don’t have to act like we do. We can just show up and be with people, as they process life, and look to God for His help. There is only one Savior, and we are not Him.
If we become better listeners than advice givers, we learn to know people, rather than fix people. When we seek to know each other, we tend to withhold judgment and engage as two people on the same level. That’s actually what the truth is at all times: The ground is level at the foot of the cross. None of us are any better or worse than the other. We’re all just walking each other home to Jesus.
What people who are experiencing depression simply need is someone who will listen to the ramblings of their minds. To the mess up there in their heads. To their small joys and small victories. To their baby steps towards peace and happiness.
Most parents fail to see these things. Most people fail to see these things. Society fails to give importance to these things.
I even failed to see these not until depression happened to me.
So I guess this is why I am writing about it. It’s a different world out there for people experiencing depression. If depression is just a “It’s just all in the mind” matter; something that is smirked at by so many people because they regard it as something so simple and trivial, then why haven’t we extinguished it from our society? Why do so many people still relate with it? Why are my friends agreeing with me, reaching out to me for help and support? Why are we now having HOPE hotline in the Philippines?
If depression is a “just” thing, then tell me how you could JUST shut off all the blaring alarms in my head?
If depression is a “just” thing, then gather all the teens in the Philippines who are experiencing depression and tell them that it’s all just in the head. Wait for the numbers of suicides on the following months and years.
So to everyone, if you encounter a friend, a family member, a relative, or even a stranger experiencing depression, please do this grief-stricken world a favor: DON’T TALK. DON’T LECTURE. And make sure you don’t say any of the things I mentioned above.
Listen. Hold their hands. Embrace them unconditionally. Be there—WHENEVER. These are just simple acts of love which will tell them that they still matter, and that their thoughts and feelings are not invalidated. Do not ever, I say ever, make them feel that they are, again, making things up in their head. Please just don’t.
1. Don’t get me wrong, I have just decided not to think of getting hit by a truck anymore. I figured out that it would be far better to be a voice for some of the most misunderstood and yet strong-willed people I know and will come to know in my life.
2. I don’t hate most people anymore. Maybe some only. A few perhaps on the following months and years. That’s a beautiful progress for me. Teehee.
3. Thank you for these people who responded the right way to my previous post about depression. You are wonderful.
“Keep fighting jem, and keep sharing to us this valuable information so we can raise awareness and be of help to those who suffer from this, because anyone can experience this at anytime and anywhere. God be with you all the time.”
“Kudos Jem! Indeed depression is far from what people think it is. I hear people say they’re depressed but laugh after saying that and I’m just like ‘that’s not even funny’. I don’t like it when people use it so lightly because they don’t know, it’s so much more than being sad. It’s dreadful. It’s the kind of horror you don’t wanna go thru. Kahit ako (Even me), I don’t wish for anyone to go thru it because it’s just horrible.”
If you need help, someone to talk to, someone to listen, don’t hesitate to send me a message (Click here!). I want you to know that I’m here and will be praying for you as well.
Do consider professional help. Also, there are crisis hotlines you can call in your community, don’t be afraid to call them up. I hope you don’t quit trying because there is always hope, even when you have to look for it a bit further or deeper.