Depressive symptoms and mood changes are tough territory to work with. It would be great if everyone had the support of important others who understood. Unfortunately it doesn’t always happen that way.
Gina came into my office and slumped into the chair.
“I’ve had it. They just don’t get it. I can’t believe my friends. They know how hard I’ve worked to feel better, to get a handle on this depression thing. But they still want me to stay up late, have a beer.
When I try to explain, they tell me I’m no fun anymore. When I tell them how it feels to be depressed and even how feeling better is shaky ground, they say that everybody feels that way sometimes. Seems like they are telling me to “get over it.” AAUGHH! I’m pissed and I start to wonder if I am being a big baby. This is so hard. I hate feeling-well – ashamed.”
This is hard
It’s hard because usually others do care but do not understand. I remember thinking that a run of the mill headache and a migraine probably weren’t all that different until I actually had a migraine. My empathy for people who experience migraines is imprinted permanently.
It is hard because oftentimes you will look okay and others will relate to you that way, not realizing there is more than meets the eye. Or what you need to do to maintain that wellness. Sometimes friends and family simply want you back and to be okay.
It is hard because these kinds of interactions with others can trigger further self aggression, self doubt and negative loops of thoughts.
It is hard because it can create a sense of continually needing to explain oneself.
This can be isolating and make it effortful to engage in social activities.
What Can I Do?
Revise the belief “I must be understood all of the time.” Depression highlights this issue, but frankly no one is understood all of the time.
Choose a few key relationships where some level of understanding feels possible. Put in the effort, once you’ve established that the person is willing, to help them understand. This is best done intentionally and not in the middle of a social situation.
Know that acquaintances and incidental people in your world will often not respond to where you are and that is okay. It is a missed connection, no one’s fault and not personal.
When you are going into social situations be prepared. This may mean letting your friends know that you are staying for a limited period of time, or that you will be bringing mineral water to drink. It may mean that you have a few scripts mentally prepared. For example, the “what do you do?” question can send people with depression into a spin.
Have a response ready, “I”ve had some medical issues so I’ve taken some time off. I’m exploring what comes next in my life.” You get to decide how much you want to share.
Finally, consider attending a support group. It can be immensely nourishing to be in a room where people do readily understand and moments of recognition and shared experience pop. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) offers many groups across the country.
For more info on depression and mood disorders, please visit my website SupportforDepression.com