Attitude Towards Depression


 

In the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter and the sharing of pleasures.  For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.   —Kahlil Gibran

 

Taking care of a depressed person is often very stressful and frustrating.  Many close to a depressed person have  tried everything they know in order to get the person to seek help.  They have also struggled with trying to make things better for the depressed person, often to the point of their own exhaustion.  Sometimes, caretakers become depressed themselves as they find their efforts have made little difference.  Family and friends of depressed people miss the former person they knew.  They see the dark cloud of depression not only affecting the person’s life, work and family, but they see it eating away at their own relationship as well.

Those close to a depressed person often struggle with their own feelings toward that person.  Feelings of concern, frustration and fear combined with futile efforts to make things better can lead to stronger feelings of anger, helplessness, despair, resentment and guilt.  Please know these feelings are very normal.  No one can make another person get help for depression and no one can take away another person’s depression.

People who are depressed may behave in ways uncharacteristic for them when they are not depressed.  It is not uncommon for a depressed person to be irritable, angry, argumentative, withdrawn, unmotivated, lethargic and self-defeating.  They may say things that are hurtful, harsh, irrational or unusual.  For those who are not depressed, these behaviors are hard to understand and very difficult to bear.

As a relative or friend of a depressed person you should pay attention to your own feelings.  If you find that you are feeling overwhelmed, overly frustrated, depressed, anxious, exhausted, or guilty, then it is time to start taking better care of yourself.  You cannot help another person if you are struggling yourself. 

 Please remember your feelings and reactions are normal.  It is essential to take good care of yourself.  Friends and family of those who are depressed experience a range of emotions from compassion and empathy to anger, frustration and even hatred.  These feelings can be expected since it is very difficult not to take personally a depressed person’s behaviors.  A depressed person’s life is being negatively affected by depression, but so is yours.

You don’t have to be alone.  Dealing with depression on your own can be a lonely and isolating task.  Your friends may not understand, yet you need the support of others.  Depression is a common illness, and there are many others who also have a depressed person in their lives.  You may wish to join a support group and connect with others who understand your struggles.  Talking about your feelings, getting the issues out in the open in itself can help relieve you of some of the stress just knowing others are there to listen and support you as well.

Please remember it’s not your fault.  It is not uncommon for family and friends of depressed people to feel guilty or wonder if they hold some responsibility for another person’s depression.  Depression does not occur because of anything you say or do.  Depression is a medical condition, like diabetes or heart disease, that needs to be treated.

 Your feelings will change with time.  Family and friends of depressed people go through various emotional phases.   Initial reactions include disbelief or denial.  It may seem that depression will just magically go away if it goes unacknowledged.  After some time, people may experience some anger or resentment that life as they know it has changed.  People also may feel grief that the person they once knew seems lost to them.  After a depressed person seeks treatment and begins to feel better, family and friends often feel relieved and lucky or blessed that things are improving again.

But don’t lose hope.  Depression is a very treatable illness!  Psychotherapy and/or medication have been shown to be quite effective. 80% or more of those who seek help for treatment can feel better within several weeks.  

Take good care of yourself.  You need to set boundaries and limits on how much you can and will do.  This is a healthy and necessary thing to do.  And it is okay to take a vacation from caretaking once in a while.  Schedule time for yourself and do things that bring you enjoyment and satisfaction to keep yourself healthy.  This is not being “selfish,” it is being healthy and compassionate towards yourself.  You may also choose to seek counseling in order to have a place to process and manage your own feelings.

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.   — Khalil Gibran 

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In Touch With Feelings


 

Why  is it important to be in touch with your feelings?    Because it is when we’re in touch with our own feelings that we become honest with ourselves about who we are, where we came from and where we are going.  We dare to be willing to take risks and become more vulnerable in relationships.  We cease to view life from only a black and white point of view and are more willing to recognize gray areas.  Being open to the spirit of the inner child in our soul will allow us to enjoy our life to the fullest without constraints or restrictions of how we should think, feel or act whether self-induced or received from friends and family’s words because they love us. 

We  develop better ownership of our feelings and reactions when we understand and trust our emotional responses.  Our emotional responses happen for a reason, even if that reason isn’t directly related to our current situation.   We may be reacting from old conditioning, past experiences or unacknowledged needs that have not been met. But when we take the time to explore our emotions, we can better understand the reasons behind our feelings.  Instead of reacting to whatever we are feeling, we can choose how to respond.  Get in touch with what your emotional responses are conveying to you today, and your interactions with people can be productive and more satisfying and enjoyable.

 

Currently  I’m doing my best to understand my feelings.  When I add grieving from the devastating and tragic loss by suicide of my husband, my feelings become prominent and mixed.  One thing is quite certain – the intensity, complexity and duration of feelings after a suicide is significantly shaped by how we are treated by those we encounter or look to for help.  Please re-read the prior sentence. 

Check in and be there for us.  It is most important for friends and family of suicide survivors to let us be who we have  become – people forever changed by tragedy.  Support whatever form our grief takes and believe me, grief has a mind of its own.  Of course trying to understand is okay, but just caring is enough.  Realize that you can’t possibly relate to what we’re experiencing and you don’t have to.  And it’s okay to talk about “it” because that’s all that’s on our minds.  Expect some anger and conflicting expressions towards our lost loved one as our emotions are in constant turmoil. 

Permit  any statements we make about responsibility, blame or guilt to just flow.  It will sort itself out over time.  And do mention our lost loved one – we do not want to forget them.  Most important:  avoid setting any timetable for recovery as there isn’t any.  By all means, do NOT stop seeing us.  And don’t let your own sense of helplessness keep you from reaching out to us.  We really need you as friends and loved ones to help us share our grief and to help us go on.    

Again,  it’s important to allow us to be in touch with our feelings whatever they are and to let us be whoever we are due to such a tragedy.  Life is the reality of constant change.  Some good, some not so good.  Often it’s a matter of the glass half full or half empty as to the outcome of transformation. 

Life  ends when you stop dreaming, hope ends when you stop believing, love ends when you stop caring, friendship ends when you stop sharing … so share this with whomever you consider a friend.