Friends and family play a crucial role in our lives. Many of us go to our close friends and family for advice, support, encouragement, or just to spend time and have fun. However, having a close relationship with someone who is suffering from depression or another mental illness can be extremely difficult. Here are some things to know.
It can be a struggle to be a good friend to someone else when you’re unable to be a good friend to yourself.People suffering from depression often experience self-deprecating thoughts, and lack of crucial things like sleep, motivation, and proper self-care. This may make it difficult at times to extend that arm of love and care to others.
Depression can feel like a full-time job. Managing depression can be exhausting and consuming at times. Forgive your loved one for being tired, irritable, or unavailable. It isn’t that they don’t love you or care about you, they just may hardly have anything left to give at times.
Depression is not a choice, and it doesn’t mean that they are ungrateful. Saying things like “just focus on the good,” and “you have so much to be grateful for” might come from a place of good intention, but it usually doesn’t help. Of course, those with depression often recognize that they have a multitude of reasons to be joyful and grateful. This fact might actually exacerbate feelings of sadness and hopelessness when they are unable to feel that joy and gratitude. While there are always steps to be taken and effort to be made to improve one’s own condition, depression is not merely a choice to wallow in sadness for no reason, therefore it’s nearly impossible to make a choice to “be happy.”
Your friends with depression may need you to hold them accountable. Being there for someone with depression is all about balance. It requires forgiveness and understanding, but also support and accountability. If you can see that your loved one isn’t taking steps to manage their depression, you may need to nudge them to talk to a professional, stay on top of taking their meds (if that is in their course of treatment), or find healthy outlets for their feelings. In addition to this, it is critical that your friends and family are not trying to manage things through their own means, which may be harmful methods. Be open with your loved ones about what you see and feel is best, without being overbearing or critical of them.
At the end of the day, you can not solve someone else’s illness. Being a good friend or family member is so important, but so is taking care of yourself. If you find that you are hurting yourself in order to care for others, take a step back and release the reigns a little bit. It is your responsibility to be a good person and a good friend. It is not your responsibility to cure someone of their mental illness. Do what you can, whenever you can. Support and encourage your loved one, but remember that it is an illness that often takes much time, effort, and formal training to be able to treat. This is why it is always a good idea to encourage your loved one to seek support from a trained professional while also assuring them that you are there for them, too.