Oi m8, hv u trd nt b’ sad?”
Welcome to yet another instalment of ‘Shit depressed people have to hear!’ Fucking hell, this series just keeps on giving. This time I’d like to talk about advice, specifically by people with no actual experience of mental health issues.
I have a strict P or P -rule, which stands for Personal or Professional. If you’ve got neither of these experiences regarding depression under your belt, I don’t want your fucking advice.
Harsh? Probably. Because people are just trying to be kind. They mean well. Yeah, and they are also doing my fucking head in. So I’m expected to be grateful AND a bigger person when people verbally vomit their nonsense at me. I’m the one who’s unwell!
There are people who are so much worse off than you are.
Have you ever thought about stamp-collecting / jewellery-making / bowling ….
Going for a run is better than any antidepressant.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Whatever you do, don’t take any medications!
Just pull yourself together.
Have you tried (insert something they have seen on youtube)?
Have you read (some article about a mental health condition but it’s not the one you have)?
I have days when I’m in a really bad mood, so I know exactly how you’re feeling.
I know how you’re feeling because my uncle’s wife’s sister’s hamster also had depression.
Oh you have insomnia? Have you tried turning your phone off an hour before going to bed?
Can we just make something absolutely crystal clear? Nobody, NOBODY, knows how I feel. Neither do I know how someone else feels. I can sympathise, refer to my own similar experiences and say that I can understand how that made me feel but nobody will ever know what it’s like in another person’s head.
People often forget that no depression, or any mental health issue at that, is the same. Everybody is unique and so are our illnesses.
But however do your issues manifest, suggesting that you know what’s going on inside that persons’ head or minimising their issues into something that can be fixed by a nice, brisk run (exercise does help, but when it’s being offered as the only solution) is fucking unforgivable.
I think the way words like ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ are used is also a problem. Oftentimes people say that they are ‘feeling depressed’ when they’ve only had a bad day. When I had an anxiety attack at work, I had to admit to my colleagues that a busker band that played the same three songs continuously outside our office for two hours contributed to my anxiety.
“To mine as well!” they’d laugh, and I couldn’t even manage a grin because I had just spent the last fifteen minutes wandering around the office like an idiot because I was just too overwhelmed and uncomfortable on every level it’s possible to be uncomfortable on, and I could only manage singular words at the time.
Listen, I know that people want to help. I also know that it’s not easy to help someone with an invisible illness. What do you say to someone who looks the same but is unwell? If they had a broken arm you could ask is it difficult to have a shower, offer to carry their shopping, write your name and a little message on the cast to show support.
But even on an occasion like that you wouldn’t behave like you had just graduated medical school and knew everything about bone fractures. You wouldn’t google self-help ways to heal your own broken arm. You wouldn’t claim that you know how it feels to have a broken arm, if you’ve never had a broken arm.
It must be scary. You’re worried that you’re going to say the wrong thing. Often enough the person is feeling so rubbish already that you shouldn’t be afraid. Just ask them how they are, even if it feels a silly question.
If you don’t know what it’s like to have a mental health condition, that’s your starting point. A genuine enquiry about someone else’s well-being has the potential of being much more useful and meaningful than any piece of advice or a link that you can dig up.
Even though I suffer from depression, I usually steer away from any conversation regarding medication because they can have such different effect on people. And even though I can relate to many things depressed people talk about such as numbness, lack of energy and feelings of being caught in a rut, I still can’t venture into the territory of ‘knowing’ what it’s like for that person. Then I wouldn’t be any better than the cunts who share a picture of a forest with a caption ‘this is the real antidepressant.’
To some people it’s an ego thing. Like what I talked about in “I want to be there for you”-post. A lot of people LIKE the idea of being an empathetic person, who offers support to someone who needs help but doesn’t quite understand what it entails. You can however hear the choir of angels that resounds in their head as they realise what a fantastic human being they are.
These are the people who take a selfie with a homeless person, or raise thousands of pounds so they can go volunteer on Barbados, which in my opinion is basically a paid holiday. (Why don’t you just donate the money? I never understand it.) It’s not about helping, it’s about them feeling better about themselves and ticking off the box that says ‘I cared.’
My only recommendation on how to deal with these sort of people and their advice is something I very much live by.
Just fuck off.