What Not to Say
The Nots are fairly easy to categorize. They have certain things in common: They cast blame, they are reproachful, they're angry, and they don't work. Here's the top four things you should not to say and why:
“Snap out of it”. You can no more snap out of depression than you can snap out of a heart attack. It's a medical condition that needs to be treated.
“Are you still in your bathrobe?” Overwhelming fatigue and inability to do simple tasks are symptoms of depression. They're not character flaws.
“Get a backbone, for God's sake. There's nothing to be worried about.” Your loved one understands this, on an intellectual plane. The body, however, doesn't, and the fear is still real.
“Don't bite my head off, I just asked a question.” Irritability is one of the symptoms of depression. This is the one that may tax your patience severely. Don't take this personally.
You may think “tough love” is the way to go, but most depression sufferers will only have an adverse reaction to this kind of approach. Even softer approaches might not be the best. “I know exactly how you feel” is a common expression, showing empathy. However, you don't know exactly how someone else feels — to do so would mean you'd have experienced life exactly the same way. Everyone is an individual and has different life experiences. Speak what you do know. Try a simple, “I love you.”
Hide and Go Seek
If a disability isn't visible, people tend to overlook it. How many times have you parked by the grocery store and seen someone, seemingly healthy, park a car in the handicapped spot? If you didn't notice the sticker, you might think this person was just looking for a quick entrance to the store. You might even have heard someone challenge a person who parked in the handicapped place and perhaps were witness to a polite explanation that the challenged person had a heart condition. Humble pie for the attacker. The truth is that so many of our disabilities are below the surface, invisible to the casual observer. It's only when you go deeper that you see what the problem is. Depression is like that. Since it doesn't come with a rash or a full body cast, it's sometimes easy to forget that your loved one is suffering inside.
You did not cause your loved one's depression. You also cannot cure it. Understanding and accepting these two truths can be difficult and will require massive amounts of patience on your part. Patience is not easy to come by. There are so many times when you just want to scream, throw something, or hit the wall. You know that's not productive, and you'll probably have some repairs to attend to when your venting is finished, so you pass on venting. There are other outlets that work better, and some of the recommendations for folks suffering from depression work very well for the rest of us. Yoga is one of them. If it's at all possible to sign up for a class with your loved one, there are a lot worse things you could do with your time. Even if you have to go alone, yoga will teach you patience, discipline, and relaxation. All of these will stand you in good stead during this tough time. Physical exercise is another outlet that has benefits for both your body and your mind. Getting out of the house and involved in an activity that burns off calories and negative energy is healthy for you.