Does your friend or perhaps a loved one suffer from depression or anxiety? Do you know how it feels?
Depression and Anxiety can be severe for suffering individuals to face. Often although they may desperately wish they had the support of their friends and loved ones, it can be tough for them to ask for this.
On the other hand, it can be really challenging for family and friends to understand and to help, particularly if they have not experienced it themselves. When someone has a visible, physical illness, people can see it, recognize it and acknowledge it. And they respond with care, they visit or call the suffering individual to have some news, etc.
However, the thing about mental illness is that people around often do not know how to react, they may be confounded as to what is going on as they see no external signs of problems. Others may think “it’s not a real illness.” As a result, they end up not really “being there” for the person at the time of their greatest need. This results in suffering individuals feeling even more isolated.
The following line by a client captures this situation well: ”when I broke my leg, my manager and colleagues were ringing to see how I was but when I was off with depression the phone never rang.”
Despite the recent high profile accounts of people suffering from depression, a sizeable part of the population is unaware of how depression and anxiety affect individuals. And even if you could empathize with a loved one or friend who is going through depression or anxiety, there is the difficulty of really being of value to the individual since these are very personal experiences.
And if you do understand and therefore do try to reach out to the suffering individual, you may sometimes feel that your gesture is not appreciated. This may leave you feeling confounded and occasionally frustrated. As one individual said, “I have a close, long-term friend who has been suffering, and it is difficult to know what to do, I want her to know I’m there for her and to check she is ok, but it’s so hard to reach her she doesn’t answer the phone or respond to messages”
This is because when you suffer from depression or anxiety, life can feel incredibly lonely. And the challenge is that the very things that can potentially help us start feeling better such being physically active, talking to someone, going out with friends are the very things that are so much more difficult to do.
If you could have a glimpse into the mind of people facing anxiety or depression, you would really appreciate just how difficult it must be for anyone who suffers from depression and/or anxiety. Recognizing that when we suffer from mental health issues, we start experiencing and perceiving the world around us as entirely different from other people. Like one patient said, “I dread horrifying outcomes all the time and feel I have no control over them. My thoughts tend to be negative but yet very convincing although later when I’m somewhat ok, I realize they are baseless or untrue.”
If you genuinely care to help the most significant thing you can do is to offer your patience, non-judgemental listening and if necessary a sincere word of hope. It is not what you do but “who you are being” to the one suffering that really matters.
To may want to read the post on patients descriptions of their feelings.