I’ve come to the conclusion that most people who have never experienced depression have no idea how to react when I tell them I have a mental illness. They either look away and change the subject, or say some infuriating things. I often bite my tongue to hold back my honest replies. Here is a compilation of my ‘favourites’, and the things I would love to say back but daren’t:
1. What do you have to be depressed about? – Do you really want me to explain how depression works!? There is often no reason, which makes it especially difficult to come to terms with. But if you must have something to blame then I’m struggling at university/in debt/going through a divorce/my mum has cancer and everything has got on top of me … queue more awkward questions.
2. But you don’t look depressed – What does a depressed person look like? Did you expect to come to my house and find me still in bed at 3pm, crying in to my pillow? No, because I’ve fine tuned my acting skills. I put a brave face on and pretend everything is ok.
3. Have you taken your antidepressants today? – Yes! Medication isn’t a magic wand. I’ll still have occasional down days. But actually the reason I’m annoyed with you is because you washed your red football socks with my white underwear and now it’s pink … your idiocy has nothing to do with my depression.
4. Oh my sister/cousin/great auntie in transylvania had depression. He/she swears by lavender oil baths/listening to beethoven/drinking her own urine. Have you tried that? – Do you really think 1 in 4 people would be diagnosed as having clinical depression every year if it was as simple as bathing in flowers or sipping on a glass of your own pee!?
5. Man up/pull yourself together/snap out of it – Ah so that’s all I need to do!? For 6 months I’ve been struggling with life and all I needed to do was man up? Great advice. Maybe I’ll man up and drink my urine.
6. Think of all your reasons to be happy, you don’t know how lucky you are! – I do! I think about it all the time. That’s why I feel so guilty for having depression. However, depression often has no one thing to blame, it is an illness. It’s like saying that thinking happy thoughts can cure the flu or genital warts.
7. Go to the gym/join a tennis club/try bungee jumping – I avoid seeing my friends and other social situations, why would running around, getting sweaty, with a room full of strangers help!? And bungee jumping? I considered doing that last week … but without the bungee cord.
8. I really don’t know what to say or do to help. Did you see Eastenders last night? – Don’t change the subject, ask me how you can help if you want to. I’ve plucked up so much courage to tell you how I’m feeling … tell me you’ll always be there for me despite not understanding why I am depressed. Tell me you’ll listen and never judge me. And tissues, bring tissues. Unless you like tears and snot on your new jumper.
Do you have any that you’d like to add to my list? Rant away Or what are the most helpful things people have said to you?
Here are a few ‘helpful’ additions from Twitter:
‘You only feel that way because you’re depressed’ @diski
‘You should try living in Sudan’ @lajineta