Ten supportive things I’m glad somebody said to me

I certainly received a lot of comments on my last post – many, many more than I was hoping for or expecting! A couple of people suggested that it might be useful and/or interesting to see a similar list of ten things which would be helpful to say to someone experiencing depression. I have also had some interesting discussions in the past 48 hours about whether people can sometimes be unintentionally insensitive, because they simply don’t know what to say and feel awkward and embarrassed about not knowing what would help. So today’s post is a list of the warm, supportive, empathic things that people have said to me, that have helped me get survive my most recent depressive episode. It’s not intended as a definitive list, or a guideline, but anyone wanting to support someone struggling with depression could do a lot worse than taking a look some of the more general of these.

(A brief word about what I haven’t included. I’ve left out, “I love you” and “how are you?” I see both as somewhat double-edged, depending on who’s saying them and how they are said. “I love you” is usually a very positive and helpful thing for me to hear, but it has also been said in a way that increases my sense of guilt when I am feeling suicidal – “but I love you!” = “how could you think of doing that to me?”. “How are you?” when asked in sincerity can express a genuine desire to hear how you are coping, but all too often is a social nicety which doesn’t really want a serious answer.)

1)  “Here’s my number.  Call me any time.  And I mean any time.”  (Various friends)

An interesting feature about clinical depression is just how hard it makes it to reach out to people. As I sink deeper into an episode, my ability to connect with people – something I usually feel is one of my strengths – slowly peels away. First, I don’t have the heart for socialising in groups, attending evening classes, going to family gatherings, etc. Next, I stop wanting to meet friends on a one-to-one basis. Around this time, the idea of speaking to people on the phone starts to become abhorrent too.  In my last depression, in the spring of this year, I became so socially withdrawn after stopping work that eventually I stopped going into shops; the basic please and thank you, the smile and the eye-contact,  had become too difficult. I realised that I was becoming almost phobic about social interaction. If I went out, I went to parks or gardens and headed for what looked like quiet areas; if other people drifted near me, I moved away, terrified I might end up having to speak to someone. Sometimes I would go a whole day without uttering a sound and wonder if my voice even worked any more. The only way I felt I could communicate was through text, so Twitter and email became a real lifeline.

So when someone offers me their phone number during a depression, I am 99% sure I won’t ever call them (although I might text). But that doesn’t actually matter; it’s the offer, the genuine attempt of a friend or colleague to put themselves at my disposal, which helps. Someone cares, and they want me to know it.

2) “What can we do to help you regain your equilibrium?”  (Friend)

The person who said this is a friend in her own right, but she is also the mother of one of my son’s dearest friends, so our families know one another well. She was therefore concerned about my own well-being and also about how my children might be feeling. I couldn’t actually think of anything specific when she asked me, but I knew from her question that if I should ever need the children to be entertained for a little while, someone to talk to, or other practical help of any kind, she would do what she could to provide. I particularly liked that she did not say, “What can we do to make you feel better?” or, “What can we do to get you through this?” and that she dropped her question into our conversation as if it were the most natural thing in the world. There was no wanting me to be fixed, to hurry up and get better, but simple faith that my equilibrium could, and would, be regained over time.

3)  “That must be very difficult.” 

Two people in my life (one a friend, one a relative) take time to listen to me, and don’t say very much other than this. They sometimes ask questions, but they don’t offer advice; they don’t say they’ve had the same experience; they don’t try to suggest things aren’t as bad as I think they are. They simply acknowledge that what I am going through – whether the illness itself, the medication side-effects, or the consequences for my career – sounds as if it must be very hard to deal with. The result: I feel heard.

4)  “I know you’re taking your meds, but they’re not working for you, are they, sweetie?”  (Senior colleague)

A slight edge of constructive “tough love” in this one. I was explaining to my colleague that I didn’t understand how I could be becoming depressed again, because I was doing all the “right” things. I’d completed my NHS therapy, and my workplace counselling, and my self-funded Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy; I was exercising; and I was taking exactly the same dose of antidepressants that had kept me on an even keel for nearly ten years. Without realising it, I had started to believe that the treatment plan was unquestionable, so I must be the problem, in my failure to respond to it. My colleague helped me to see the reality: that the treatment was no longer working for me, and it was time to try something different. I left her having promised that I would make an appointment with my GP and request a referral to a psychiatrist for at least a medication review. And thank goodness I kept my word, because things got much, much worse in the interim.

5)  “What sense do you make of everything that’s been happening to you?”  (Consultant psychiatrist)

Full marks to my psychiatrist for working in a collaborative way with me to establish a diagnosis and treatment plan. He took a very detailed history, but at the point where many doctors would deliver an expert verdict on diagnosis, he asked me this question. I think he had already sensed that he and I had reached a similar conclusion, but he wanted to hear it from me, rather than imposing his views onto my experiences. I really appreciated that, because it left me feeling credited with intelligence and awareness, and with being the expert on my own condition, despite my evident state of crisis. I am very lucky in that my GP also sees me as having the best knowledge and insight into my own mental health. When I came to her saying that I needed to see a psychiatrist, after over five years of being treated quite happily in the Primary Care sector, she didn’t question my need for a referral for even a moment. If I was saying things were bad, things were bad. The NICE clinical guidelines for treating depression and bipolar stress that healthcare professionals should “be respectful of the patient’s knowledge and experience of the illness” and that they should “build a trusting relationship and work in an open, engaging and non-judgemental manner”, but I know only too well that not every doctor works in this way.

6)  “The times when you’re unwell don’t matter!  I’d rather have one of you than ten other people with a clean sickness record.”  (Manager)

This came from one of my first managers I had when joining my current employer. I had disclosed my condition as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act (now superseded by the Equality Act 2010) and had been doing well for over a year, when I hit a low-mood blip. I was going through a difficult relationship breakup, and hating myself for not being able to hold things together at work. My manager came into the staffroom and found me sitting alone, crying. I was mortified, because I was sure that she would think so much less of me for seeing me in that state. On the contrary, she was extremely warm and supportive. I expressed my fear that my tendency towards depression made me less credible as a professional person. She helped understand my worth to her and to the department, and my potential within the organisation, by showing me that my illness was small part of what she saw in me. OK, she was clearly exaggerating in saying I was worth ten other people, but it did me good to hear that my skills, productivity and general attitude far outweighed my mental health difficulties in her eyes.

7)  “Just let me know when you’re ready to come back.”  (Choir director)

Singing has always been a joy to me, and an excellent way to switch off my busy mind, but sometime in the spring I stopped going to choir rehearsal. As I’ve already said, I was finding any sort of social interaction tough, and choirs depend on you being an active part of a group. As if that wasn’t enough, I was beating myself up because I found it difficult to practise during the week, and becoming increasingly anxious about messing up in rehearsal or not being performance-ready for the next concert. Choir has taken a break for the summer now anyway, but the director has been in touch to see how I am doing and whether I’m likely to be back in September. It’s audition only, and there’s usually a waiting list to join, so I was starting to think that having been away so long might be legitimate grounds for her to give my place to someone else. Receiving an email saying that I don’t have to rush back if I I’m not ready yet, but that I will be welcomed whenever I choose to return, has put my mind at rest.

8 ) “I’m not going anywhere.”  (My partner)

Here’s another depression Catch-22. When I become depressed, I start to worry that my partner won’t want to stick around, because I’m depressed and boring (see no. 3, Ten Things Not to Say to a Depressed Person). This thought makes me feel more depressed, so I become more boring. Round and round it goes! I’m sure it must be tedious for my partner having me doubt his commitment, but he’s very good at providing the steady, constant reassurance that I need to hear.

A number of my friends have expressed similar sentiments. On hearing that I don’t feel ready or able to socialise at the moment, they have gone out of their way to let me know that they will still be there (as will the opportunities to meet up) when I’m feeling more like myself again. I appreciate having that spelled out for me.

9) “…as best you can.”  (Meditation teacher)

I love this phrase. It contains within it the biggest lesson that I learnt in my eight week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy course. When I started, I was determined to “do it right”. I swore I would never miss my home meditation practice, would attend every class, and generally be a model student. Halfway through, I had given up on my homework, and was thinking of leaving the course because I hadn’t lived up to my own expectations.  My patient, caring teacher helped me to see that I had missed the whole point of the course: the aim was for me to learn to be gentle with myself, in fact to be generally less judgemental and more accepting of how things really are. You can’t fit in a full hour’s practice every night?  Practice as best you can, for half an hour, ten minutes, even five. You feel uneasy doing a certain type of meditation? Explore that feeling as best you can, and once you have played with the boundaries of your discomfort, switch to a practice which seems a better fit for you.  Your joints won’t let you sit on the floor for 40 minutes at a time? Sit on a chair, lie on your back; try a stool, a cushion, a beanbag; try moving meditation, mindful yoga, a walking meditation, Qigong exercises – practice as best you can.

I’ve tried to apply this philosophy to the basic business of living as a depressed person.  For example, I know exercise is good for me, but when I am in the slowed-down state that is acute depression, moving my body around seems so difficult that it would be impossible for me to run or swim. So I exercise as best I can, giving myself credit even for a gentle stroll round the park or a walk up and down my own street. I know it’s best to eat healthily, avoid sugar and alcohol, etc, but when I’m very down I can only make the best food choices I can. I’m not always successful, of course; I still beat myself up fairly regularly for not doing “enough” exercise, or not eating “properly”, but then I try to bring myself back to common sense with this phrase.

10)   “Sorry to hear you’ve been poorly.”  (My cousin)

I have an older cousin who I’ve always really admired. He is a few years older than me, and when we were teenagers he was the cool cousin, the one who played in a band and had his own car. Even now we’re in our late 30s, I still look up to him and have a lot of respect for what he’s achieved in life. I had got myself really worried about telling him that I had been unwell, and particularly about my new diagnosis of bipolar, because I am never sure how people are going to react. Being phone-avoidant, I disclosed my difficulties to him via a text message, and he replied with a text including this sentence. I found it so comforting; it was just so matter of fact, as if there was no difference at all between a mental illness and a physical one – which is exactly how he behaved when we next met.

Looking over this list, what can I learn from it?  I think a few themes emerge:

-       I find it most helpful when people are able to listen and empathise, without trying to fix me or fix the situation.

-       I appreciate it when people are honest if they don’t know what to do to help.

-       Several of the comments in my last list negated my view of my own illness.  I can understand that it may make people very uncomfortable, but denying the existence of my problems is very disempowering. Good friends and good healthcare providers accept my version of my experience.

-       People who care about me also have a very important role in helping me see things as they really are (and myself as I appear to them), when I am trapped in spirals of negative thought and emotion.


About purplepersuasion

30 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards 2013. Winner of the World in Mentalists Mood Disorder blog 2012. Regular guest blogger for the International Bipolar Foundation http://www.internationalbipolarfoundation.org/ Expert by Experience working with Mind training department. Working on The Incoming Tide, a bipolar memoir. Find me on Twitter @BipolarBlogger or at my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/BipolarBlogger
This entry was posted in Mental health and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

109 Responses to Ten supportive things I’m glad somebody said to me

  1. You might have called this post “10 things that ain’t rocket science!” It’s strange – on the one hand it’s reassuring to know that the helpful things aren’t hard to do: on the other it’s hugely frustrating that most of us find it so hard to do them.

    But good to see that Twitter was one of the helpful things! :)

    • Of course it was! As if you didn’t know that ;-) Yes, true indeed that they aren’t complicated or difficult…. I think people just panic a lot of the time, and end up saying something which is, shal we say…..suboptimal!

      • Amber W says:

        I like Twitter for days when I can’t talk because it’s got a built-in limit. I’m not committing to anything more than a note.

  2. sueperfluous says:

    I agree with most of these, especially the ‘I am there for you’ type of comment. One I would add, but with caution, is anything that you know will make the person laugh. However, the caution is because you need to know the sufferer really well to be able to pitch this right. If you’re not sure, don’t do it. I was lucky with friends who were spot on with this, but boy, did it help to be able to laugh!

  3. LaFletcher says:

    Again, I’ve heard variations on all these and they all made me feel better. No matter what the exact words were that someone was saying to me, I think the thing I MOST appreciated was that they were sincere about listening and letting me talk through my problems. My BFF was the best for this — she never tried to give her own opinion or play “devil’s advocate” to me, which is something other people did that made me feel WORSE. Having the ear of someone I could count on to listen was one of the most valuable things I had.

  4. Thanks for this, I found your previous post interesting and useful in the “what not to say sense” but that sort of left me silent.

    Oddly, on twitter I find myself following a number of people taking anti-depressants (oddly because they are more open there than my friends “in real life” – what you say in (1) helps explain this perhaps). I referred to them as “bonkers” in my tweeted reply to you, which I know could be seen in a negative light but it’s meant affectionately and it’s my own code for things that happen to me that are to do with the brain not the body.

    I hate to be silent when someone essentially appears to be asking for help but I worry that what I say may push them over the edge.

    • Hi, nice to see you here as well as on Twitter. I too have found myself with a group of Twitter friends the majority of whome have some experience with depression, anxiety, bipolar etc and their openness has really helped and supported me through a very difficult period. People often can be more open when communicating by text than in “real” conversation – as I said in today’s post, other than my immediate family, I wouldn’t have communicated with anyone else for a while if not for Twitter. Personally, I think if someone says, “I read your tweet and I’m worried about you, but I don’t know what to say”, that’s OK. Glad you found the companion piece useful, it’s not so entertaining maybe as the previous post, a few people suggested a follow-up looking at what *would* help. Cx

  5. Henry Dunn says:

    Totally agree with you on these – it’s what Carl Rogers called Unconditional Positive Regard, couple with the trio of warmth, empathy and congruence (integrity). To some it comes naturally, others need to be taught. I remember at University we had a chaplain whose approach was to get on with, stop complaining (this is when I was suffering a particularly bad bout of depression and had decided to drop out for a year) Fortunately his pastoral assistant, who I am still friends with, was the non-judgemental, I’ll just stay here with you, type. He didn’t say much, sitting listening, but everything he said was a pearl of compassionate wisdom.

  6. November Burns says:

    I discovered this blog today. I’m now sat reading it in the office along with a colleague (who is diagnosed bipolar) and we’re laughing at bits that echo our own experiences.

    I entirely agree with you about the “as best you can” motto. It was something I had to learn pretty quickly as not long after my depression diagnosis came one of CFS. To get out of the vicious spiral that is caused by “I want to go out. I don’t have the energy to. I’m useless. Now I’m more depressed and with less energy. I want to go out” etc. took a real effort to focus on “as best you can”

    I also couldn’t believe your description of your feelings in point 1 regarding socialisation. I feel exactly the same way, and assumed that nobody else did!

    • Hi, thanks for posting your comment! The episode I’ve been having this year has set me back career-wise, so I’m trying to find some positives in it all. One is if I can improve my writing skills through blogging, the other is if I can strike a chord with somebody so that they feel less alone in what they are going through. When I received my diagnosis of bipolar in May, I read a few blogs straight away; it really helped me to realise that a lot of the things I’d been experiencing were, while not *normal*, at least usual for people experiencing hypomania. It helped me contextualise my experiences, and realise it’s not just me who goes through them. Take care x

  7. skallymonkey says:

    Again, this is a really good post and one I’ll be sharing with friends/family.

    One thing I found upsetting when I had to “come out” to my family was that my brother, whilst saying he was glad I’d got help and that the help was helping (lol), but that it was now his life’s mission to get me off the medication I’d been prescribed. I know it was well intentioned and came from a good place, but since I’d only just started feeling better and had only just “come out” to my family (I’d been suffering for years) the last thing I wanted to think about was taking the “help” away! I think I needed to bask in the glow of success of taking a few VERY big steps (admitting there was a problem, getting help and admitting it to my family)

    • ABSOULTELY bask in all the steps you have been able to take, even if other people don’t get how big they are. Some people (such as me!) are on meds for years, there is absolutely no point in not being on them if they help you have a good life.

    • Amber W says:

      At my house, we have a phrase: “better living through modern chemistry.” There is no more shame in taking lithium than in taking Tylenol or insulin or lipitor or anything else. If there is something wrong in your body, taking steps to improve your condition is the responsible, adult thing to do.

  8. Pete W says:

    its difficult to think and feel as someone else feels and I’m conscious that often on Twitter we exchange pleasantries (which are fine, honest) however I feel inadequate as I can’t help make things better. You sometimes say you feel tired or teary or pissed off and I can only listen on the end of a keyboard in the hope I guess that the more you articulate how you feel etc that process in itself might be theraeutic in some way.
    You have given us all an insight into your mental health issues that is stark and at times uncomfortable but it really should be a clarion call for us to appreciate sufferers better and rather than try to say the “right” thing maybe just “BE there” which is what I try to do.
    Good luck in your future battles sweetie and God bless you. x

    • Aww, Pete, you don’t know how much you help me on Twitter. I always feel like you are there for me, as one of a group of truly lovely people that I would never have met without Twitter, but who are like my personal cheerleading squad. I am not sure how I would have made it through April/May without that support. You always have something kind to say and make me feel important, thank you so much xx

  9. Nat_2211 says:

    Love this…and have just posted to my Facebook page, I hope all my family/friends/collegues read this its an education…thanks for making my day x

  10. Both of your posts on how to talk to someone with depression are wonderful. Thank you so much for writing this. I have several depressed friends, and I’m afraid sometimes of saying something hurtful. This helps me to better connect with them. I love my friends and I’m so glad to have some better ideas to help make sure they know that they are truly loved.

  11. sp says:

    Thank you for giving me the strength to mention my depression in my job interview tomorrow. It’s not been fun, but I’m going to be able to cope. I’ll never be “better” (in the same way that I’ll never not be dyslexic) but I know that I’ll be able to do things I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I’m so looking forward to getting my degree (currently on hold because of depression and a trauma linked to past depression) and being able to do something worthwhile. Thank you. I will be reading your blog from now on (well as best I can anyway!)

    • Oh, wow, very best of luck! I have always been open and honest about my issues with my employers, and it has not backfired on me as yet, although I know from reading the thread on disclosure to employers over on the Mind blog that not everyone has had such good experiences. I’m really glad you liked my posts, I will try and post regularly – as best I can ;-)

      • sp says:

        Thank you! I just hope that they’ll be ok with it as it’s only a temp job. Thank you again!

  12. ann says:

    Thank you so much for this blog! I never talked to any doctor, never been diagnosed but I live with depression over 20 years. Over those years I developed pattern of crying when going home from work on a bus. I just turn my face to a window and hope that just even if somebody sees – won’t react in any way. (and nobody does) But it’s getting worse and I’m considering visiting GP (and holding back again because I don’t trust her even with a flu) as well I told my best friend. And she been supportive in best way possible: She said “Just call me any time you want but especially when you on a bus and feel like crying”. I resisted at first saying that I don’t want to bore her and what would I tell. But she said “If you call me – I will fell needed and I would love to feel that you need me”. That sentence made huge difference. I still don’t call her every time but even 1/5 times less cry is good, right? :) And she just talks to me how was her day, what she bought yesterday, what she is going to cook for dinner, simple things but it distract me from my dark thoughts massively.

  13. marzillk says:

    Just read this and your previous post – both are fantastic! I hope you’re extremely proud of yourself – beautiful writing, very funny, and very helpful. I do sometimes feel helpless in that I so desperately want to help you and my other friends who suffer with mental health issues and don’t have any useful help to offer, so I will keep reminding myself that just listening and being there is a help in itself. Love you, you brilliant blogger! x

  14. Pingback: Little words « shake and crawl

  15. Jake says:

    Thanks for your article. I really enjoyed it.

    My wife suffers mild to moderate symptoms on and off.

    I’m always struggling to find healthy ways to be there for her, and I think there’s a lot of value in what you have to say.

  16. DevieKlutz says:

    Hey, just thought i’d say this was really helpful to me. I’m still in my teens and from a less than supportive family (mainly because of how they were raised in the USSR) and I got diagnosed with Major Clinical depression when i was 14… 2 years later they said ‘wait no… maybe its Bipolar DIsorder… or not… we cannot really tell, sorry! oh! and we are refusing to treat you from now on!” Now I am almost 19 and in a really crappy place mentally. I still have a prescription for antidepressants but they sometimes make me feel worse… It doesn’t help that the insurance i have doesn’t cover a good therapist, so while i would love to get help i just cannot afford it… So reading your blog was a rather pleasant reminder of certain things, like the fact that there are people who are capable of support and there are good doctors and good treatment plans. :)

    • So glad you found it useful! There are a lot of people struggling along with similar issues, judging by the overwhelming number of comments I’ve had… sometimes it’s a bit of luck to find people/treatment that works, sometimes it’s perseverance. Although I’m in the UK so healthcare is free, talking therapies aren’t widely available, I had some therapy on the NHS maybe 6 or 7 years ago, I could do with some more now, but I know it would be months or even years on a waiting list. I’m finding blogging a surprising good form of free therapy for me!

  17. I linked to this and the what not to say post from my blog. Hope you don’t mind. My readers needed to read it and I wanted to be sure you got credit!

    BTW, for both DEAD-ON! In my case I have BPD, but same shit different title, in this case.

  18. benny says:

    God, I would love to hear any of these. My mother, the only one who even attempts to help with my depression, has the usual line of “what do you want me to do about it?”
    Not to mention I can never tell her when I /am/ feeling depressed because she always makes me feel guilty about it. Like I do it simply to inconvenience her, or add yet another problem to her life.

    • Hi Benny, I get so much support via the internet because it’s so much easier to connect with people who do understand…. my lovely group of Twitter friends say stuff like this to me when I’m at home alone and feeling awful, and they have been a massive help in surviving this episode. Could you source any support online? Take care, C

  19. pimpdoubt says:

    Just wanted to point out that when you put 8 and ) it makes a 8) sunglasses guy, might wanna try 8: or 8. maybe?

  20. Pingback: links for 2011-08-03 « Thagomizer.net Thagomizer.net

  21. anon says:

    As someone who is deeply in love with someone with depression, I can’t thank you enough for your last two posts. I have found myself saying one of the items you suggested not saying – and not realizing how it would affect him. And this post is light in the darkness I’ve experienced in terms of that space between wanting to offer some real compassion and empathy – or even something constructively helpful, if asked for – and where the other person has to live, breathe, and cope with what is within no matter what is said. It’s a reductive illness, so those of us with pretty much only love to offer need to read and truly take in this post and your last one. Thank you from my heart. I wish you all that is well in all things.

  22. anon says:

    fought through a rough few years of depression in college and I can’t agree enough with #7. when a professor welcomes you wholeheartedly back into their class no matter how many classes you’ve missed or how much of the reading and work you haven’t done, it makes getting the nerve up to walk through the door much less of a struggle. “good to see you in class! let me know if you’re feeling up to contributing” instead of “you’ve missed a lot, how close are you to getting caught up on the reading”… as long as it’s not compromising the other students in the class, the best thing a prof who knows the situation can do is relieve pressure. sure, you might fail if you don’t complete the work on time, but you’ll definitely fail if you don’t show up anymore because you’re scared sick of facing the prof and class without the work done.

    and in the same vein as your last note: at the start of a really low day, I was chatting online with a friend and just going in circles of self-loathing. I thought she was getting frustrated with me because she was trying to give me some good thoughts and I couldn’t accept them. about a half hour later, I got a text from her that said something like “I know you don’t think so right now, but to me you are a strong, wonderful, beautiful person. you don’t have to agree with me, I just wanted to let you know that I think so, and you mean a lot to me.” it brought a lot of light into my day.

  23. Pingback: links for 2011-08-04 « Tunguska

  24. S. R. M. says:

    A friend of mine “shared” your blog with me on Facebook, and it has really struck a chord within me. I wish I could say more, but my present mental state prevents me from doing so…so I will just say thank you.

  25. Karen Roy says:

    I really wish I had known more about mental health when I was working (I left 6 years ago to have children). Instead of telling bosses about my tendency towards depression, I ended up taking days off sick and getting close to the line of being brought up on it. Mind you, one boss I DID try to talk to about it tried to help by saying, “You need to tell yourself, ‘I’m really not that important’ “. I think she’d read it somewhere and thought it would be a constructive thing to say. The stats about people dealing with depression and mental health issues in the work place speak for themselves. A colleague with, say, diabetes wouldn’t feel the need to shroud their condition in secrecy for fear of being viewed as unprofessional for having it.

    • Absolutely, Karen. I have mostly been lucky with my bosses, but one employer did take me to task for the number of sick days I was taking – which, surprise, surprise, made me feel more stressed and anious and take more sick days! It’s something to think carefully about if you return the the workplace, but the legal support of the Equality Act is really helpful.

  26. ER says:

    Thank you very much for this, my mum is in chronic pain and this was very relevant for the way relatives and colleagues have treated her, maybe because she’s not visibly ill.

    • Hi ER, I have had a few people telling me that they get similar reactions for chronic pain, back pain, chronic fatigue, etc. People can’t see a heart condition or diabetes either, yet they seem more willing to believe that those are “real illnesses”…. frustrating.

  27. Thankyou! This list is great, and the sort of thing I’ve been looking for a while.
    I haven’t read too much of your blog yet (was linked here by a friend), the ‘purple’ bit, the bipolar and your lovely style of writing all make me confident I’ll be commenting again.
    Thankyou for sharing your experiences :)

    • Hi Rebecca, I’m all about purple! (looks at purple yoga mat and purple meditation cushion in the corner). I’m quite a new blogger and fairly recently (re)diagnosed bipolar. I’m trying to post regularly as much as possible aroundthe rest of my life, hope you’ll check back soon :)

  28. Kimmy says:

    I don’t have depression per se, I have Complex PTSD and depression is a part of it. I find “How are you?” a very difficult question. I don’t want to lie if I am not so good, but I don’t want to tell them how I am either because I am tired of hearing it myself and it is often difficult for me to get clarity on how I am feeling and voice it in a way that feels “right”. But “I’m not going anywhere” was said to me recently and it was the best thing EVER!

    • I’m also struggling with Complex PTSD, and the depression that is a part of it. I, too, find it difficult on certain days to answer basic “small-talk” questions. Some days I can grit my teeth and bear it; other days, I’ll blurt out several sentences about past trauma and then blush bright red. And sometimes, like you wrote, it’s hard to know exactly what I’m feeling, so I’m stumped by this seemingly simple, everyday inquiry. I’m trying to forgive myself a little if I blurt out strange things, and focus on recovering my wits and getting back to safer social ground. But it’s hard, and embarrassing, and I definitely feel for you. Glad someone said some supportive words to you recently, yay!

  29. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve suffered with depression in the past and reading your blog made me feel very emotional. I can relate to much of what you have said. I’m now a Personal Trainer and have recently started working with a project in Oxford working with a group of people who have different types of mental health issues. I’m going to follow you on Twitter and keep up to date with your blog. Thank you for sharing and helping me understand more of what helps and what doesn’t :) I’m now going to read your 10 things not to say blog!

    • Great, glad you found my blog! A lot of people have found my 10 things not to say really resonated with their experience, any way the articles can be used to help people is fantastic.

  30. evenstarwen says:

    Reading this made me appreciate my loved ones whose support have been lifesaving. I hope you don’t mind if I write my own list to let them know how they’ve helped.

  31. evenstarwen says:

    Reading this made me appreciate my loved ones whose support has been lifesaving. I hope you don’t mind if I write my own list to let them know how they’ve helped.

  32. filmessayist says:

    I was wondering in the last 6 weeks or so , having gone into a depressive episode, what to say to people about my withdrawal from life. I have met some great new people recently, and had invited them round, but had to cancel…for weeks! i still find it sounds so blasé when i say, “Sorry I am depressed.” Any help with this would be appreciated. I tend to say i have flu or something. Guilt and shame still prevail for a depressed person. This is why we really need to work hard to break the stigma. i think the word “depression” is so overused, especially when people are just a bit fed up, that people will think i should just snap out of it, and go for a walk or something. Thank-you for sharing your blogs. They really are helping people to understand more.

    • Thanks for your positive feedback. A friend who reads my blog asked if would do a piece on disclosure of mental health problems to others – family, friends, colleagues, managers, children – and your comment has given me more to think about around that issue. It usually takes me a while for an idea to “cook” before I write it up, but it’s definitely something I want explore in a post in future. If you don’t mind, I will make a note of your comment for when I’m working on that.

  33. Rachel says:

    So fantastic to have such a positive blog – many thanks for sharing.

  34. M says:

    Hi, I could strongly relate to your first description of depression, as I feel the same and was nearly going to go insane recently due to enforced loneliness (circumstances; no family etc.) – but a strange thing happened also: the longer I stay inside on my own the happier I end up feeling. It’s as if whenever I meet someone I get a temporary relief (a different kind of happiness, or merely joy?) but the happiness I get from when I’m alone gets ‘reset’. So, normally between the periods when I’m alone (say, if I had an appointment right now and then again tomorrow at the same time for only an hour, with 23 hours in between all alone) I get really depressed. But once I got over this major depressive period (last week) I ended up finding out that that disappears. Have you ever felt this, by any chance?

  35. A. says:

    Thank you for doing this. And the original 10 things not to say post. Even though it’s nice to finally know someone feels almost the same way as me, I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone and hope things continue to improve for you!

  36. catnmouse says:

    I wish I had seen this list when I was battling depression. I would have handed it out to everyone around me. Hell, I think this list applies to everyday life no matter what your mental/physical state…it’s a list of basic emotional needs. Well done.

  37. Aoife says:

    A friend on facebook linked this blog post, and I went back and read a few of your earlier posts too. I’m really glad I did. I especially liked the positive aspect in this post, and it made me cry in a happy way as I remembered all the things my friends have said and done to support me.

    Back when I was still in college I took a year out to deal with my depression. I went to my doctor to ask for a cert to give to the college and he looked really dubious. He said if I did that it would go on my record that I had depression, and that it could cause problems if I ever wanted to become a politician or anything like that. I was shocked. I decided right then that if I ever did become a politician and they tried to use my depression against me I would turn it around on them and use the media attention to publicise depression and tell people that it’s not something to be ashamed of.
    I also made the more realistic decision to be completely open with people about my depression, no matter what. I’m so glad I did. Within a month no less than three college friends had approached me saying that they thought they might be suffering from depression but were afraid to tell anyone. (One of them is the girl who shared this on facebook, and I know that she’s also helped many more people. I’m so proud of her!)

    Reading these posts has reminded me how important it is to tell people about what depression really is, and spreading information. It’s also reminded me that I haven’t been doing this as much as I had been when I was first diagnosed. I’m going to try to start up again. Thanks for your honesty, and for your inspiration!

    • Hi Aoife, I first saw a psychiatrist when I was at university, I remember my GP made a massive deal about saying, “are you sure about this? It will mean a PSYCHIATRIC FILE will be opened up on you!” How funny, I had actually totally forgotten that until I read your comment. There are lots of times when it’s been hard for me to be open, but, like you, I’ve then been glad I did because someone else said it helped them. Really glad you liked my post :)

  38. Bex says:

    This is amazing! I am suffering with all of the symptoms of depression, my family seem to think the way to deal with it is to tell me ‘stay strong’ or ‘you need to be strong for yourself, nobody else can do it for you’ ‘I support you, but I can’t do it for you’ and the way it’s delivered sounds to me like ‘You’re really starting to winde me up right now, stop winging and crying’

    I can’t seem to get my words out properly and I don’t feel like any of my friends know how I’m feeling and tend to just nod, or look at me blankly, some say things like ‘you’ve got to find something that works for you’ which is really not helpful, as I’ve been searching for years!!

    This post is probably the best thing I have found so far. I will be printing 100′s of copies and leaving them all over my house!

    THANKYOU!

  39. anon says:

    I’ve suffered on and off over the years with mild depression and occasionally it’s dipped down into suicidal tendancies – and although my mother is a caring, supportive soul with pretty much everything else, she is utterly useless with depression in it’s varying degrees – she can’t see and appreciate the difference between a blue mood and clinical depression. My father was diagnosed about 3 years ago with pretty severe depression (and indeed there is a history of mental illness with both his parents) and prescribed some pretty heavy duty anti-depressants. Both my sister (who has had her own issues to a far greater extent than I’ve had to cope with on and off over the years too) and I got (and get) incredibly frustrated and annoyed at Mum when she calls / texts / emails us to moan about Dad. She belittles his (and before him, his mothers and his fathers) illness and describes at his ‘feeling sorry for himself’, one of the reasons that despite the fact I’d tell her pretty much anything about my life, I can’t share my own dark phases with her, nor can my sis.

    Until my Dad experienced it first hand (he didn’t exactly get on very well with either his Mum or Dad and to be honest, was previously far worse than Mum, typically saying ‘Get on with it’ and other equally “helpful” suggestions and remarks) he didn’t appreciate how incapacitating it can be. He got angry that I was “sad”, partly out of love and because he didn’t like seeing his little girl struggling through life, but rather than get angry at the lack of support I was getting, rather than trying to understand and actually help me, he got angry AT me. It took for him to go through it. He hasn’t ever been good with feelings, talking, dialogue, listening – but he is a whole heap more understanding now.

    I’m lucky (and at the same time, unlucky I guess, it isn’t exactly something you’d wish on anyone else is it, but it’s helpful when close friends and family have had experience) that my sis was always there for me on this and vice versa.

    But for those people who are out there on their own, the thought of a blog like this (specifically in regard to this and the previous post) with a ‘you are not alone’ and the generous way in which you’ve shared your own experiences, good and bad, is hugely warming.

    The UK is slowly improving in its approach to mental health and illness, but it has a long way to go. As a troubling / worrying aside, my Mum is actually a health-care worker. With two daugthers and a husband who have all got ongoing issues with depression, it really is a shame that she can’t see the wood for the trees and accept that we aren’t determined to feel low! But this post has actually given me the confidence to turn around and make a few suggestions of things she can say and do that help.

    Sometimes just seeing it turned into black and white on a page helps you see it far more clearly in the reality way from a screen.

    Thank you.

    • Hi, sorry to hear your story… families aren’t always the best place to get support, are they? :-s
      It makes me pleased and proud to hear that my article’s given you some inspiration to ask for the help you need. Wishing you all the best!

  40. Thank you for both of your lists. I purposefully married a woman who has no concept of depression (I’m continually surprised that anyone can exist in this state, but find it beautiful nonetheless) without realizing the difficulty of explaining depression to one whose daily existence is marked by constant joy. So both lists are now in her email inbox.

    For me, the comments I have received that simply acknowledged my depression have been the most supportive, while a denial of my depression’s existence tends to feel like a denial of my existence.

    I’m glad to hear (well, not glad but perhaps less lonely) that others have had therapy experiences in which the professional seems to have no sympathy or knowledge about depression. When I finally got myself into counseling in college I talked for less than ten minutes when the therapist interrupted me and said “You know, I don’t think you’re depressed at all. If you were really depressed, you wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed to come to me today.” He then spent the rest of the hour explaining that my blue mood was probably due to demonic influences and that I ought to pray more. I later found a helpful therapist who was supportive and got me on medication that helped, but when her practice moved I was in a good place and felt like I didn’t need to seek out continued help.

    Now that I am looking at getting back into therapy and possibly back on medication, I don’t know where to start. Is there any helpful advice anyone might have in seeking out a therapist like what to look for or types of questions I should ask?

    Thanks.

    • Hi, I guess it depends on whether you are paying for therapy yourself (in which case you may be able to exercise more choice) or whether an insurer or a state healthcare provision will be paying. I’m at the point where I can’t quite afford to pay for my own therapy, but if I were able to shop around I would want to know the therapist’s general ethos (for example, the one you saw in college seems to have been coming from a certain Christian viewpoint that wasn’t a good fit with you), what therapeutic methods they favour, how long they have been in practice, etc.

      Anyone else have any advice for Androclesethelion?

  41. Jacqui says:

    After telling you the bad things said to and about me doubting the reality of my illness, my happy memory burned into my brain, was from a lovely psychiatrist I had, who when I asked him in the middle of an episode, “Am I really ill” after hearing all the negative comments about me,
    said:

    “DON’T EVER LOOSE YOUR BELIEF IN YOUR SELF”

    and I keep that thought when ever I doubt myself.

  42. Kate says:

    It’s amazing, that you’ve got that kind of support. That’s never happened to me.
    On the other hand, I haven’t been diagnosed anything. (The closest thing was when I was discussing the results of my personal profile test with my career consultor and she said, just by the way, actually, that I’m ‘prone to depressions and should go into therapy’ and then instantly dropped it). I know that I’m depressed, unstable, withdrawn and all that stuff. Everybody knows it. They just dismiss it as a joke, as my image, attention seeking or as the result of the lack of a sexual relationship in my life. They don’t take me seriously even though I’ve tried explaining.
    They think it’s completely normal (the “crazy normal” kind) and it’s just hormones because I’m a young woman, practically just a kid. And yet, nobody’s ever told me that “it will be okay” nobody’s even ever asked me if I’m okay. I guess I’ve trained them not to. Trained them not to care or think positive around me, that is.
    I hope, someday, I’ll find some unmovable rock of a person or at least some understanding.The time will tell.
    This is actually the first time I’ve read a blog on this topic. And it’s given me some food for thought. Thanks, really.

  43. DublinMichelle says:

    Thank you so much for your wonderful blog. I wish you all the very best in your treatment. My mother had a lifetime of depression, from the age of 20, and starting taking lithium in the early/mid 80s (when she was 50) and never looked back – i really hope it helps you as it helped her. Wishing you all the very very best. M

    • Thanks, Michelle! I really find hearing positive lithium stories helpful. I am only on day 3 of treatment, so too early to see any effect as yet. Really hoping it will help me.

  44. Kelsvs says:

    Thank you for writing this. I mean it. Depression is a problem for me as well, but I’m awful at analyzing it (I get to feeling like my thoughts or opinions don’t matter or are way off base).

  45. scooby says:

    I’ve been on and off(more off lately) my whole life.
    When I was having a really hard time my now ex would make a funny face and knock her fist on my forehead like a monkey. She knew that I was in there somewhere behind this huge wall and it would make me laugh, bring me out, and make the world seem like way less of a scary place.
    That did the trick for me more than any pill I have ever taken.

  46. Lucia says:

    Yay, thank you :) Very useful and very happy and good-for-the-soul to read

  47. Corcora says:

    Thank you thank you thank you – my partner had your blog and a bunch of purple flowers waiting for me when I came home after a few days away. I have been living with depression for a year or more and while I have heard most of your ‘things to say’ list – especially from my partner – I have also heard many of your other list. I too find that people who ask YOU what they can do and recognise your authority on your self are so helpful. As are those who reassure you that ‘it will pass, it will pass, it will pass’. Or at least, ‘it will ease’. Thank you for your blog. I’ll be a regular visitor. Especially as my yoga mat is purple too ;)

  48. Mrrphh says:

    Your blog is wonderful. Thank you for writing. I am a person with an adult-acquired neuromuscular disability who uses a power wheelchair. What strikes me about both of your ‘ten’ lists is that I could have made the same lists about being in a wheelchair! Amazing.

    The other thing I want to say is that at the beginning of my diagnosis and treatment, for the first 3-4 years, I had to take 100 mg/day of prednisone alternating with 0/day. They insisted to me that prednisone had no side effects. Well that regimen was like taking 5 hits of speed on one day and then crashing terribly, cripplingly the next. Eventually the research literature began to talk about the psychoactive side effects of prednisone. Fortunately I had a clinical psychologist who was adamant that there was no such thing as a 24-hour, ‘rapid cycling’ clockwork bipolar disorder (every other day, at 5:00 pm, I became fully and deeply depressed).

    For me, though, it was a stunning insight into bipolar disorders and clinical depression: There most certainly is no ‘snapping out’ of it. Thirty years later, when my husband became severely depressed and had to go on disability, I was able to walk beside him for the three years it took to gain some management over it.

    I will say that I can think of no way for someone without depression to even begin to imagine what it is – short of my experience with the prednisone therapy, that is. It’s certainly not just mood, it’s mind crippling and I am so very sorry that so many people are having to surmount it.

    Thank you for reading.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by to leave a comment, sorry it’s taken me a little while to reply – computer trouble! Other people have said to me that the lists reflect things said to them around physical difficulties, so I guess it shows that people who are lucky enough to be well struggle to know what to say when faced with any kind of disability. I feel exactly the same way, so sorry that so many people are going through the same stuff; whilst it’s really nice to know that my articles “spoke to” so many people, it makes me a little sad to know just how many people out there are suffering and feeling alone with their problems.

  49. ALW says:

    Thanks for this and your last post – they’ve both been helpful as someone trying to be there for friends.

  50. Rachel says:

    I adore #6 – it’s one of the best feelings to know that your work is valued even when you cannot make it in every single day all year. (And to be honest, knowing that makes it easier to come in on the so-so days.)

    • Oh, gosh, me too. She was a wonderful manager – in fact, and all round wonderful woman! Sadly she left my organisation and moved on to bigger and better things, so we are no longer in contact.

  51. phylor says:

    Fantastic post and discussion! Do you mind if I post a link to your site from my blog:
    http://phylor.wordpress.com ? I blog about chronic illness/chronic pain. I’m chronically (clinically) depressed and have recently blogged about my struggles with it. I think some of the folks who visit my blog would like to read this as so many of those comments also work for folks with chronic illness/chronic pain.
    I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog — this is my first visit.
    Thanks for posting this list.

    • Hi Phylor, so sorry it’s taken me a while to respond, I have been having computer problems (no laptop for nearly a week!). I would be most honoured if you would post a link on your blog, I know that many people who suffer from chronic physical illnesses face the same kinds of attitudes as those of us battling mental illnesses. Now I’m back up and running I hope to post again soon, got several idea I am working on.

  52. JLY says:

    My most recent bout of depression has caused a setback in my career as well, and as such, I haven’t recovered from it. I’ll gladly echo what everyone else has: Thank you for writing and publishing this… I felt as though I was reading something that I had written… I shared it on Facebook and, for the first time, openly admitted to everyone that I suffer from severe bouts of debilitating depression. I have you to thank for this.

    • Hello, and thanks so much for your comment. It’s been a huge eye-opener for me that in writing honestly about my own experience, so many people have been able to relate so much. I am really glad that you found the article so useful, and I hope that in sharing it with others you will get lots of support from those around you x

  53. Pingback: on friendship, affirmations, and happy places | Phylor's Blog

  54. How I wish I had been able to read this wise and sensible post when my mother was alive. She had depression; she resisted the diagnosis fiercely, but with hindsight, I would have been a much greater support to her if I’d read something like this. And an ex with depression might not have become an ex if I’d thought harder about some of the things you say.
    Good luck.

  55. Pingback: LINK: Ten supportive things I’m glad somebody said to me | The Woolf Project

  56. Aileen says:

    I too have gone through phases where I couldn’t deal with people face to face or even on the phone. I found texting was the only thing I could do even with close and supportive relatives as my concentration was not even up to using my computer. When I recovered some more I found the nice supportive people of the bipolarworld chat room. There at any time of day or night you can find people to talk about BP,meds and life in general, both for crisis support if you need it, or just for light hearted chat if that is what takes everybodies fancy (support is always given priority though). Most of the folk in bpworld are in the US though there is a smattering from around the world. Lately I have discovered twitter and am finding it a godsend. I have made a number of friends with mental health issues and found being in touch with them, and often reading their blogs when they have them, to be very therapeutic. I also find twitter to be great entertainment otherwise as I can follow a lot of interests and through links find a lot of reading to keep me happily occupied while I am sick. For instance I haven’t really followed NASA stories in years and now I am gripped by the Mars Science Lab/Curiosity mission which is one of the things that can brighten up my sick/downtime a little. I do try and get as much face to face social interaction as I can but people who are not on sick leave and who have jobs and families don’t have as much free time to give as I have spare, so my new net friends really are very much needed and appreciated.

  57. R. F says:

    Possibly one of the most helpful ones I’ve heard is simply “You will get better”.

  58. kbear says:

    Wow, I am touched. This blog is amazing, please keep it up! You’ve done so well here and are truly helping others cope with day to day life. I also love to write, and you’re an inspiration.
    As a young adult (only 18) I have struggled with mild depression and anxiety since I was 10 or so. Mostly just mood swings and high sensitivity to everything around me (EVERYTHING)!! but i am still learning about myself and mental illness and know that mental illness does not mean we are weak. <3 One of the nicest things to hear is "I'm here for you, no matter what." Or "I'm not going anywhere." I can say I feel a lot better than I used to and after seeing a wonderful social worker and experimenting with a few meds and having a supportive friend, I can control my bad days, for the most part lol.
    Reading this was a great reminder to me as what someone going through this needs to hear. It can be hard to think of the right thing to say to someone with mental illness, but this list is a very big help. My boyfriend and best friend of 6 years has struggled with mental illness for as long as we both can remember. It's difficult to be in the relationship at times, but when I tell him he can only do the best he can, and when he's ready to talk or take a step, I'm right there beside him, he seems to be grateful and a little more hopeful.
    Again, thank you so much xx

  59. hastywords says:

    I love this and am going to re-blog it tomorrow. Thank you for taking the time to put it all into words.

  60. Gavin says:

    Thanks for your article. I think its very helpful.

    I am the supportive partner in my own situation, and being understanding and trying to be empathetic does not come naturally to me, although I try really hard it can push my partner further away and I’m really struggling with it. Its not always easy to say the right thing for certain people and I wondered if you hahag any advice for people like me in this situation?

    • That’s a really hard question to answer – what I find helpful may not be what another person finds helpful, even in the exact same situation. This is why, although lots of people asked me to write a piece suggesting what they *should* say, I opted for sharing what *I* had found supportive – I don’t feel I can speak for what would help others x

  61. PookyH says:

    This is a fabulous post – it offers so many constructive ideas. I am just writing some training materials which touch upon this topic (in this case, how to be a good friend for a student workshop) and you’ve given me loads of great ideas. Thank you x

  62. Sadie says:

    I’m glad you linked this from Twitter this evening as number 9 was something I really needed to hear – I am two weeks into a six-week mindfulness course and getting increasingly frustrated that I don’t seem to be able to get it “right”.

  63. Ellen says:

    Dear Purplepursuasion,

    I have been dealing with anxiety, sadness, disappointment, frustration, de-motivatedness and clinical depression for years. I have felt misunderstood, underestimated, lonely or like a party-pooper way too often during my life. It is a vicious cycle of thoughts, emotions, and memories that I cannot shake. So this article, and the previous one about what not to say really struck home. I was in tears reading both texts, happy and sad tears. So thank you.

    Personally, I realized I had a real problem when I was twelve. My father got a job in Asia, and we moved there from Europe. I lost my friends, was in culture shock, had to attend an English language international school, with a different school culture, and I had to make new friends. I had never been a very happy person, I can’t even remember when it started, but given my family history I would say I am particularly vulnerable to being mentally unstable. In whatever way. International schools are home to a great number of kids who have been (regularly) displaced, may not have the best relationship with their parents, and have too many resources and too little supervision. In this context, they can find their own ways to cope with the pressures of life. These ways may be healthy or unhealthy. For the first time in my life I met people who abused their bodies with alcohol, drugs, or by actually physically harming themselves. Or people who purposefully engaged in unhealthy romantic or sexual relationships. For the very first time I considered suicide, at the age of twelve. After much thought on my own – I did not feel like I could go to anyone with my feelings – I decided the following:
    - I would no longer write in my journal ONLY when I was feeling down, or rather NOT when I was feeling down, because it was depressing to read those entries again later on.
    - I would try to figure this out myself, because I would risk being diagnosed ‘insane’ in a legal medical document by going to a psychiatrist or psychologist. I was convinced that – since most people are not very intelligent (emotionally or rationally), and therefore could not relate to me – that this would surely happen. So, the plan was me-myself-and-I.
    - I would not commit suicide. That would be quitting, giving up, and it would be cowardly and selfish. Selfish, given that I had the privilege of growing up in a safe and wealthy environment, that I had a good stable family, that I had all the opportunities in the world, and that I knew others would literally do anythings to trade places with me. So who would I be to throw something like that away?!? I decided then and there that I would not be allowed to seriously consider suicide again, unless I had lived at least of my possible life (by age 45), tried my hardest, was still unhappy, and had no one (such as children) depending on me. Might be strange to say, but I still think my thoughts as a twelve year old make a lot of sense.

    Over the years I made strides and had real set backs. I would manage to ‘fix’ a part of my own behavior that I had identified as dysfunctional, but one set back would ‘undo’ the many little ‘fixes’ that had preceded it. I held my head up as high as I could, which was not very high. I did what was asked and expected of me. Most days were really tough. A long dreadful struggle. I was also dealing with, and to some extent still am, with the dilemma of keeping up appearances. On the one hand I was happy that people fell for my acting, on the other hand I wished that someone could still see the true me. Could see how much I was struggling. I also knew that that was unrealistic, because I did not allow anyone to truly see me. I found myself simultaneously dreading and looking forward to someone simply asking the ‘how are you’ question again. Simply asking it again would not have allowed me to give the expected and often desired small-talk shallow answer of ‘i’m fine’ again. This never happened.

    My relationship with my parents is far from perfect. Though I know they love me (and I love them!), I have not felt emotionally supported by them. My dad is busy thinking about his own life and his own problems. He has never really known what goes on in my life. My mom can be quite insensitive, and rather than provide a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on, would say things like ‘stop crying and think of a solution’ (she would still say that). When I told her for the first time that I was being bullied – for which I needed to gather a lot of courage, and I only told her after three years of bullying in elementary school- she said “you shouldn’t care about what other people think, they are just jealous”. What?!?! That’s it. A suck it up and don’t let them get to you piece-of-advise! As an eleven year old kid, that was advise I could not use. It was not helpful. It simply made me not return to my mother for any advise on sensitive matters.

    When I was twenty-two I became truly clinically depressed. I became dysfunctional. I could not find motivation or energy, I could just make it to class, but I would not have read anything. I could not concentrate and study at home. I could barely socialize, especially not in group settings. In the absolute lowest point I cried for three days straight, until my then boyfriend took me out of my house and brought me to his. He is a chronically joyful person, so he could not relate. After I calmed down and stopped crying hysterically he broke up with me, and said that he was doing that “for me”. All I thought was ‘thanks buddy, clearly I can count on you’. We got back together for a few months after, but that is another story. After that complete emotional and mental break down I decided that in ten years time the doing it on my own approach had clearly not worked, and I needed to get professional help. I spoke to my academic counselor to state that I was not fit to study, and I decided to pause my studies. My GP referred me to a great psychologist, who helped me tremendously. She gave me insight into my anxieties, my coping mechanisms, and gave me real practical tools to work with. With her help I started to recover during the months to come.

    Though I have not felt as down as I did back then, purely because I have not let myself go down that low again, I have had my fair share of ups and downs. I am still studying, had some more delays, but am currently working towards completing my university master’s degree. I have missed classes, cancelled meetings, isolated myself, and cried. Real experiences were always tied to these events, such as being sexually assaulted, being heartbroken, having a boyfriend enter a psychosis and become dangerously paranoid, loosing my dear grandfather and my dog (whom I had since I was fourteen). A lot has happened, and I struggle to hold on to the good memories. To remember that I can live with these experiences and losses. Now I am crying again. [breathing break]

    The internet has provided me with a lot of support through reading other people’s stories, suggestions, and motivating moral guidance. I feel less alone, and I am learning to understand myself better through the stories of others. You suggested once to look up ‘walking meditation’, I think that is something that would work for me, and I will read more about it. I read your two articles, and for both articles I read all the comments that were left. I am really impressed by the open-hearted, empathetic and intellectual responses that your articles sparked. You have really touched people, including myself. I found your ‘what not to say’ article last night, when I was feeling down and wanted to just search online for anything that would pop-up when typing in:
    - “i sometimes wonder if someone is following me online”
    -”i spend a lot of time with my computer on and nearby but it it doesnt make me happy”
    -”i feel like i am performing a juggling act in order to keep myself calm, motivated and functional”
    -”i think i might somehow have an issue with teachers”
    -”i think my laptop is a library, and a hampering vehicle of communication with the internet”
    -”should i use a search engine like a chat room with you?”
    The search results were astonishingly interesting and diverse, and I would recommend to anyone to just search using a long sentence. I did have a doubtful moment, still not sure of it, that someone was influencing the search results. I know this sounds paranoid, but I am still not sure. Right when I typed in the last search request, after I got suspicious, my kickassaccount gained awards for “100 searches completed” en then “1000 searches completed” and someone elses name popped up in the list of feedback given on my own profile. So I might have been hacked. I also cannot see me uploading/downloading stats anymore. Not enough of a computer wizz to figure it out though or do anything other than get a new computer. Though I think if someone hacked me through kickass that they have the skills and info to hack me again anyways. Anyways, – doubtful whether I should delete this last part but I wont – I was feeling down and consulted the internet. I found a lot of interesting things, maybe someone else would like to see what they get when they type in these search requests.

    Your article was the most touching thing and most constructive thing that I have found in months, and you and your commentators have definitely helped me already. Currently considering to start a blog of my own about my experiences and the way I have coped thus far. I may not be the best example to follow, but I am still alive and have not given up. Over the years I have been able to address my issues more openly, to share my history, to share how I am doing, and to ask for advise. I do believe that I am doing better, slowly but surely. I believe that it takes time, effort, and a dedication to yourself. You need to know and try to believe that you are worth it. You deserve happiness, and you can achieve it. I would like to finish on this note.

    Have a great day everyone, and don’t give up on yourself!

    xxx

    Ellen

  64. Ellen says:

    correction for my comment:
    - lived at least HALF of my life

    added info (for purplepursuasion, though you could incorporate it in my really long comment):
    - After completing my high school education in Asia we moved back to Europe. After a sabatical year, some family issues, and working through those issues I started my bachelors.
    - I am now 25 years old
    - The last bit sounds with the search requests sounds a lot more paranoid than it was. Context: The idea originated from a skype conversation I had with a friend. We had discussed what we would need to do to be followed by cybercops. Regardless from which country. And what they would have heard or seen us do. What trigger word lists exist online, which are hilarious and rediculous btw. Plus, I like to just spit-ball search requests to see what I find. I like to be surprised.

  65. Pingback: Ten things not to say to a suicidal person | purplepersuasion

  66. smash82487 says:

    Wow! This article has really given me great insight on how I can be supportive to my partner who is dealing with bipolar and addiction. This is very new to me and something I haven’t dealt with before, but it’s an experience and if I can be a real friend and a really offer my love and support I will sleep better at night. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences.

  67. Bella says:

    I have not read all of you’re answers to things, but I do think it is dangerous to tell people certain drugs are not ok. Because they are not ok for you doesn’t mean they are not helpful for others.

  68. Christopher says:

    Thank you.

  69. Mir says:

    Thank you, my partner is struggling with a severe depression at the moment and I’ve been saying all the wrong things unintentionally because i didn’t know how to and because its making me feel insecure :( It is really important to know what or how to say things to let them know they are not alone.
    Also knowing that its not personal makes it easier to cope with the change in behavior.It’s still not easy, but i love him no matter what and i want to be there for him in the best way i can. Reading this was really helpful to me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s