April 20

What to Say to Someone Who is Depressed in Quarantine

Last week I spoke about How to Find Peace In The Chaos – there is a lot we can do while staying home, while also allowing ourselves to feel all the feelings that come to the surface. The week prior, I spoke about how you can feel anxious and grateful at the same time. I had planned to discuss ‘facing the dragon’, but I thought I’d hold that for next week while I discuss something that is current and relevant for me right now. I’ve had a difficult week myself, struggling with an episode of some heavy depression.

I know I’m not alone, many of you have been sharing the same storm, the same or similar boat. Some are experiencing BIG waves, some have been riding smaller waves that are still difficult to navigate. A lot of people are experiencing anxiety and/or depression for the first time. Many people have been developing a new sense of empathy for people who struggle with depression and anxiety, whereas before this quarantine, it was very difficult to understand how someone could feel so down, for such a long period of time.What does it feel like to feel this looming sense of doom, or afraid of something that can’t be seen, doesn’t make sense, and is very confusing to understand? What does it feel like to live with a sense of fear or anxiousness that lingers and is difficult to shake off?

I feel a deep sense of sorrow for people who are feeling these feelings for the first time, and have no idea how to manage them. I have a tendency to feel a lot of emotion at once. It’s something I choose to see as a gift I can use for good, but it’s also burdensome at times when I get stuck there in my head. I see someone who is hurting β€” I want to fix it and make it all better, but I know I can’t, and that hurts my heart. πŸ’”

Ever since this quarantine began, where many of us spent the first two weeks in shock, and the second two weeks after learning how to adjust to our new sense of reality in our homes, I felt completely unprepared for our entire world to change in such a sudden and major way, and literally have very little information to work with on what to expect for our foreseable future other than “we’re working on it”. People who live every day with a mental health challenge rely heavily on routines and reassurances on what they can expect. Having a plan brings stability and eases anxiety. Not knowing what to expect, and having that routine suddenly change, is not easy.

I can only speak from my own personal experience, but if you’ve been feeling a sense of depression, whether diagnosed, undiagnosed, or you can just relate, this is what my depression looks like when I fall into an episode:

  • Trouble sleeping, falling asleep…
  • Nightmares…
  • Sleeping too much/more than normal…
  • Difficulty waking up in the morning…
  • Complete loss of interest or motivation in doing things once loved (i.e. drawing, painting, gardening, writing, etc)…
  • ‘Emotional eating’ or skipping meals…
  • Pulling away from social interaction, not wanting to socialize…
  • Feeling more insecure than normal, persistent feeling of guilt or feeling like a burden to others…
  • Feeling a lingering sense of impending doom, future looks bleak, struggle to hold on to hope…
  • More easily agitated or irritable…
  • Restless legs when trying to fall asleep, recurring headaches/migraines, painful cramps, body aches all over…
  • Feeling like veins are on fire…
  • Recurring chest pains – panic attacks…
  • Life feeling like it’s moving in slow motion…
  • Difficulty concentrating, slowness in activity/thoughts, extremely difficult to make decisions – even on the most basic of questions…
  • Losing track of thought in mid conversation/mind suddenly going blank…
  • Easily overwhelmed (i.e. showering for the day feels like a huge task)…
  • Crying or easily triggered into being more emotional than normal or would be expected…
  • Death ideation, persistent thoughts of dying or suicide…

If you or a loved one is feeling suicidal, or you may feel they, or you, might be a danger to yourself, please call 911 or reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255…

My go to resources to help me manage my mental state of mind and regain a sense of purpose and control in my day to day is the following, hopefully it can be of help to you or someone you love:

  • Morning Routine
  • Breathing exercises…
  • Affirmations…
  • Focus on ONE priority for the day, something realistic that will give me a sense of accomplishment (i.e. clean the dishes in the sink, start a load of laundry, write this Mental Health Monday post, etc)…
  • Call my mom…
  • If things get way too overwhelming, I reach out to my therapist to talk…
  • I declare a ‘cave day’ when I need to, which gives me permission to ‘check out’ when life gets too overwhelming:

My cave days include my favorite things: bubble baths, a game (I love love love Zelda botw & Animal Crossing), extra nap in the day, favorite or very interesting show, time outside gardening or a sunny drive in nature… things that are comforting and don’t involve any sort of level of expectation or duty… the cave days help give relief of pressure of expectation or any sort of vulnerability to letting anyone down. They help me check out from the drama of reality in the world that can seem very sad and scary sometimes.

I also look at it like this… I either keep in the state of mind that’s making me want to… to put it bluntly (those who live with depression can relate to what I’m about to say)… I either remain in the state of mind, in the same circumstances that is triggering the feelings of wanting to die, or I intentionally place myself in an environment or list of activities that help force my mind into easy and comforting distractions β€” intentionally changing the pattern of thought. Sometimes I need someone to help pull me away (i.e. “Let’s go for a walk”, “let’s talk”, or “want to play a game with me?”). Most of the time I find that I only need one day, but sometimes it rolls into a few days in a row… but if I can make sure to do my morning routine – even on the cave days, I can feel a sense of accomplishment that I’m still being productive. I’m still ‘getting stuff done’.

The reality is, there is very little that we HAVE TO do… we can make long lists of things we feel we have to do or “the world will come crashing down”, or we purposefully and intentionally make time to rescue our mental health. 99.9% of the time you will find that you can actually make that happen. You can take a cave day, or ‘an hour in my cave’, every day. It can be done. Some may not have the luxury of being able to take an entire day, but most of us can make arrangements to take at least an hour out of the day to ‘check out’.

Speaking on behalf of someone who has attempted suicide, and has often, in my darkest of days, just wanted it all to STOP – all the mental pressure and persistent drama in my head… ‘wanting to die’ actually is not what it sounds like. No healthy-minded person would ever want to die or end their life. Nobody in their right mind would do such a thing. That’s the important thing to remember. Often times people will say that person was selfish – but it’s important to remember that no healthy-minded, nobody in their right mind would commit such a horrific act. Unless you have lived in a depressed mindset, persistently, it is understandable why someone would have a difficult time understanding how someone could get to that point in their life where they would leave behind children, a spouse, countless people who love them. This is why we must take mental health seriously.

Knowledge is power.

The more we can learn why we feel the way we feel, why we behave the way we do, the better equipped we are to rescue our mental health.

When we have a rescue plan (aka ‘cave day’) in place, we can take back control and power over our actions. Yes, we will continue to feel all the difficult feelings, but we can give ourselves a plan of action and take it one day at a time, and simplify our day as needed. I have found that the more I learn about emotional health, behavioral health, the less I fall into the suicidal mindset – because I am able to have a sense of control, because I understand and I am aware of why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling.

What do I say to someone who is depressed? How can I help?

To keep it more simple and easy, because truth be told we are all struggling being in quarantine, here are 5 ways in which you can help someone who is depressed:

1) Permission to do nothing.

Depressed = a heavy feeling of weight on the mind. In this mindset we’re our very worst enemy, bully, and critic. The most common feeling that depressed people will say they feel is: “not wanting to be a burden to others”, “I don’t want to be a lazy person, but I feel so overwhelmed over the most simple of tasks!”. So one of the best things you could do is help be a voice of reassurance that we don’t have to do anything today – or encourage them to focus on just ONE thing, one very easy task. When that sense of relief finally comes to our minds, and the heavy weight is lifted, the first thing we will want to do is be productive and tackle our chores, goals, and regain a sense of purpose. You can be a great support in helping us to lift that heavy burden on our minds by voicing reassurance that we don’t have to do anything. Here are some examples of what you could say:

I’m so sorry to hear that you’re not feeling well. Perhaps you need to just rest today?

It’s OK to add in a suggestion to challenge them to do ONE thing, but keep your feedback as simple as possible…

I know you must have a long list of things you wish you could do, but I would suggest just keeping it to one thing. What is one simple thing you feel you could do today? It can be anything.

Help remind them ways in which they have been productive and helpful, it will help aid them in giving themselves permission to take it easy – because you have proven ways in which they have been productive and helpful to you and others…

I want you to know that I think you are so wise in looking out for yourself, and even though you don’t feel like it today, I want you to know that you have done so much for me. You have helped me:
____list of examples of ways they have helped you____
___x___

2) Validate the emotions.

The world often has opposing opinions on how we all should be feeling during this quarantine. There is one voice that is warning us all to be aware of many people coming out of this with some form of PTSD or new or worsening Mental Health challenges, and one voice that is encouraging us all to NOT fear, DON’T panic, BE grateful, HAVE faith… when you struggle already to keep a hold of the positive, it can feel like a heavy burden of guilt when those feelings of fear, anxiety, and sadness just seem so overwhelming, you feel compelled to ‘hide your darkness’ so others don’t see how weak you feel you’ve become. You can be a tremendous help by validating the natural and human emotions we all feel:

I can only imagine how this all must be feeling for you. I wish I could fix it, and take all these difficult feelings from you. I want you to know how loved you are, and how brave you have been to be honest with yourself and others about your feelings. Thank you for sharing your honest feelings with me.

I know you wish you could be strong in mind all the time, but it’s natural to have these feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and fear when there is uncertainty and ‘unknowns’ happening. What you’re feeling is so natural and understandable.

If I were in your same position, I would feel the same way too.

I wish I had all the answers, but I don’t. I hear what you’re saying, and I thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings with me. I love hearing what’s on your mind. It helps me to feel not so alone in having similar feelings too.

3) It’s not your responsibility to fix it.

This is a challenge for me. Because I know how it feels to be depressed, struggle with anxiety and other mental health challenges, I battle against my impulse to want to ‘rescue’ people from having to struggle too. But the hard truth is we cannot ‘fix it’ for others. The best thing we can do is remind them that we are always here – we won’t go away, they are loved by many, and needed, and we want them in our lives:

I want you to know how much I appreciate you being honest with me in how you’re feeling. Thank you for being a part of my life, thank you for reaching out to me on your bad days.

You speaking out honestly in how you feel gives me permission to be honest with my own feelings too. Thank you for being brave, even when you feel weak – you are giving strength to so many people. You are such a shining example to many – just by being yourself.

You being brave to be open in sharing your real feelings and story, gives others hope and courage to reach out for help when they need it. You are so important to many people you don’t even know. Your life serves a valuable purpose, in maybe even saving lives.

I know how difficult it is for you to reach out when you’re feeling down, but I want you to know that I am always here and I want you to talk to me when you’re having a bad day, or when you’re feeling insecure and struggling with your thoughts.

I love you, every colorful side of your personality. I love you not just when you’re at your best, but also when you’re not at your best. I love everything – EVERYTHING about you.

I want you to always be a part of my life. I am proud of you every day you choose to keep living one more day. I know life is difficult, and a great challenge to face some days. But you are an important part of my life, I need you – and I want you to be in it – just as you are.

I wish I could fix it and make it all better, but I know I can’t. What I can say is that I am here. I will always be here for you, to reach out to, and listen to everything that’s on your mind. I want to hear how you’re feeling.

4) Reassurances of love.

Reassurances of love can be simple. Sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly what to say. Thankfully the internet can be a helpful resources with image quotes. To make it super easy, I’ve compiled a collection of image quotes that you can copy and paste into a message to send to a love one who is struggling with challenging thoughts. I know one method of ‘keeping my head above water’ is to read positive quotes so I can help my mind change the narrative that tries to push me down. It’s meant a lot to me when loved ones and friends have shared a positive quote in a text or email to me. It helps remind me that they’re thinking of me and that simple act of love means A LOT.

Famous Quotes - DoTheDifficult.org - Quotes & More

5) You can’t be the hero, but you can be a support.

It’s in every good-hearted person’s nature to want to fix it and make everything better for someone, but there is a point where you have to take a step back and remind yourself of what you really have control over. Unless you fear someone will harm themselves, or is a danger to themselves or someone else, there is nothing you can do, nor should you try because you need to take care of your mental health as well. You cannot make anyone feel anything, you only have control over yourself, and you cannot take responsibility for how others are feeling (or what they ultimately decide to do).

Remember, you cannot lift someone else up if you yourself are not standing on solid ground.

So if you feel yourself being pulled under, give yourself permission to say “no”, give yourself permission to send a simple note of ‘I love you’ or even a heart emoticon, and carry on taking care of yourself. You don’t have to do big acts or gestures of love to make a significant difference or be of help and service to someone. Simple acts often get translated into big gestures of love, and it is enough.

Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been thinking of you!

I wish I had the right words to say, so I am going to just send this heart to remind you that you’re loved. ❀️

::hugs::

Thank you for being a part of my life.

I am so grateful to have you as a friend. I never want to imagine my life without you in it.

My Dad and I have this thing with numbers. When I was a little girl, in church he would always squeeze my hand three times to say “I love you”. Then it became a competition, and I would squeeze 4 times “I love you more”… soon it became 9 “I love you more than you will ever know”. So, every once in awhile we will text or email just the number. I love it πŸ™‚


I hope this has been a helpful resource to give you some ideas of how you can help others. Maybe my sharing of how depression makes me feel can help you better understand how you, or a loved one is feeling. Maybe you haven’t considered giving yourself permission to have a ‘cave day’ (they help SO much!). And maybe my suggestions of what you could say to your loved ones can help you in some small way. If this has been helpful, please feel free to share.


If you or a loved one is feeling suicidal, or you may feel they, or you, might be a danger to yourself, please call 911 or reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255…


Tags

Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Mental Health Monday, Suicide Awareness


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