It’s two years since I came forward on this blog to talk about my journey through PostNatal Depression. Two years. Twenty Four Months. My son has grown up into a little boy, and me? I’ve changed too. Over the last two years I have come across a whole lot of different experiences when talking about my mental health. Most people are well meaning, and some interactions are really lovely. Others leave a lot to be desired. I got to thinking, perhaps a how-not-to-do-it list might work for a Mental Health Mondays post. (And then I got distracted by all the doom in the world so here we are on Tuesday, better late than never) So, here we are: 7 Things You Really Shouldn’t Say To Someone With Depression.
“I don’t think you need to take that medication for depression, you should really just try yoga/reiki/herbal tea”
Alright, this one is a big important one for me. This one is one that many of my friends and family who have had mental health issues have heard and it can be so, so damaging. If you’re not my doctor or my psychiatrist, you get no say on what medication I put into my body. I have come to terms with the fact that I take two pills every day so that I don’t spend my days in tears and planning on running away.
Yes, it’s great if the natural stuff works for you. I’m thrilled for you. I’ve found what works for me. If that changes, it will be a decision made in consultation with the medical professionals who have actually trained and had experience in this kind of thing. Come back to me when you’ve got a medical degree that you can’t just print off the internet. Just saying.
“Oh, someone’s off their meds….”
This one is just so offensive, and often inaccurate. It’s normally in reference to a bad mood, a grumpy comment or a stressed out retort. The things you need in that situation are calm, nice words, not provocation. It’s as bad as telling a woman she must be on her period because she gets angry.
“Yeah, I was really depressed last week…”
I am sorry to hear that. However, if I’ve confided in you about the dark parts of my mind and especially if I’m doing it in an emotional, big-deal confessional setting, telling me how depressed you were because you had a lot of work due for college, or you were too broke to go out, or your Tinder date cancelled on you doesn’t really compare. It’s not that it’s all about me, but in that moment, if you’re at least going to compare it, don’t trivialise it.
“You need to do more exercise and get some sleep, that should fix you”
Theres a sign on the bus shelter near my son’s creche that’s advertising the HSE mental health campaign. It says to ensure to get 8 hours sleep a night and your mental health will improve. As if it’s just that easy. Get the sleep and you’ll be fixed. My toddler is not in on this game at all, nor is the insomnia which has me staring at the clock and waking at odd hours of the night. As for exercise, it’d be something if I didn’t have to strum up Rocky levels of motivation just to put clothes on and leave the house. Just because it worked for you, doesn’t mean it’s an easy fix for everyone.
“You don’t look depressed”
I’m glad my face is at least paying attention to the “Please Look Normal” notifications. I’ve had some practice at this. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s a truckload of coffee and a decent concealer. I do try my best not to weep openly in public as to not make a scene. (See next point).
“You’re just looking for attention”
Oh god, anything but. I don’t want to have to tell doctors and friends and family that my own mind hates me. I don’t want to walk into a pharmacy every month to pick up my prescription and know that the pharmacist knows that I need medication to keep me on the straight and narrow. When the dark clouds do come over, I don’t want to see anyone, and definitely don’t want anyone to see me. Attention is the last thing I’m seeking.
“You Need to Just chill out, it could be a lot worse”
Yes, I have seen the news reports about Aleppo. The awful stories of deaths in Haiti from natural storms. Tragic car accidents killing whole families. I’ve seen friends lose jobs, watched the relationships of others around me end, people I love fearing homelessness thanks to unstable renting situations. I am well aware that I have it good. My little family is housed in a nice apartment, we’ve got good jobs, a happy healthy son and a lot of things going for us. I’m well aware that it could be a lot worse – but it doesn’t stop the horrible voices in my head telling me that the world is an awful place and bringing the clouds of doom over me.
And some alternatives to potentially throw into conversation with your friend with depression….
“I’m still here for you and I’m not going anywhere.”
It’s important to be told. Mental Illness can really mess with your sense of who is your friend and who isn’t – and can be a hard thing for a lot of people to handle, causing friends to distance themselves. Try not to be overbearing (nobody needs to be asked if they’re okay every five seconds) but let your friend know that you’re still there, hanging out in the background whenever they need to talk.
“You’re not crazy or weak.”
I’m self-deprecating to a fault, and I am Queen of Deflection. I call myself crazy probably on a weekly basis (generally while wondering how I got to this point). Most of the time I don’t mean it. When those clouds come rolling in though, it plays into the big old guilt fest of how much better my son would be without his crazy mother, too weak to get this depression to fuck off and leave us live our lives. So the use (by other people) of the words crazy or weak can feed into it – it’s bad enough when your own mind is saying it, but when others are too? Even when it’s well meaning and joking, if you’re in a compromised mental state context doesn’t matter.
“Can I make you a cup of tea?”
Tea is good. Tea is life. It’s a distraction from the ills of the world and a conversation opener if there ever was one. Can be replaced by hot chocolate for a sugar/comforting fix, but probably best to avoid coffee.
“If you want to talk, I’m here. Alternatively, if you need distraction, I’m good for providing that too”.
Sometimes we don’t want to talk. There are times we would rather gouge our own eyes out with pencils than talk about what we’re feeling and why and how it’s going to get better. Sometimes we just need a few moments of normal when everything is falling apart. So talk to us about Gilmore Girls, or toddler tantrums, or the latest celebrity gossip. Don’t treat us with kid gloves. We’ll talk about depression when we’re ready.
Those are just some of the comments I’ve had or seen others receiving – there are so many more out there that make the jaw drop too! Have you experienced any of them, or anything similar? Let me know in the comments below.