Ten things not to say to a depressed person

Depression is a very common illness.  The World Health Organization estimates that between 5 and 10% of us are, at any given time, suffering from depression which meets the clinical criteria for a mental illness.  Over a person’s life-time, their risk of experiencing clinical depression is 10-20% in women and girls, and slightly less in males.  Yet despite the fact that depression is so widespread, it is apparently still a very misunderstood illness.  That’s the only conclusion I can draw from some of the insensitive, crass and sometimes downright bizarre things people have said to me about my depression over the years.  Do any of these unhelpful comments ring any bells with you?

1) “You don’t need to be depressed!  Just rent a funny movie. Or go and get yourself a massage.”  (One of my university lecturers)

The kind of person who says this is lucky.  They have never experienced genuine mental distress, and nor has anyone very close to them.  Problem is, while you are using the term “depressed” in the clinical sense, they interpret it in the loose, informal way we sometimes use the word in our culture – oh my God, it’s the last episode of my TV show!  I’m so depressed! – when we actually intend to convey that we are temporarily deflated, dampened, blue, melancholy.  It’s fairly easy to get through this kind of mild, transient low mood – say, by one-click ordering the Mad Men box-set – so the person with no sense of genuine depression will assume that you can get through your depression by simply making some small, cheering adjustments to your lifestyle.  In fact, they’re probably wondering why you haven’t done so already.

2) “It’s so hard to understand depressed people!  My sister’s just like you.”  (Mother of child’s friend) 

This is an extension of the type of attitude expressed above, only rather than just being puzzled and mildly irritated as to why you don’t just snap out of it, the person has become frustrated from having to put up with long-term exposure to a depressed relative.  They’ve shown their sister a funny movie!  They’ve paid for her to get a massage!  And she’s still depressed and quite frankly it’s a bit of a downer now, and they wish she would at least try to pull herself together.  Over time, this can develop into:

3) “She’s always depressed! Who wants to be around a depressed person?”  (Elderly relative)

This was not actually said about me, but in my presence, about someone who was grieving following a series of miscarriages.   If you care about people who say things like 1, 2 or 3, or you are forced to spend a lot of time with them, you could try educating them by providing them with some of the excellent material produced by organisations such as Mind, or the Royal College of Psychiatrists…. yeah, good luck with that.

4) “But you can’t be depressed! You’re so confident/bubbly/jolly/self-assured (delete as applicable)!”

I actually can’t count how many times someone at work or university has said this to me.  Here’s what I could say in response, to walk them through it, nice and slowly (although in actual fact, I never bother).  Some of the time, I really am confident/bubbly/jolly/self-assured/whatever – in fact, sometimes a bit too much so, and that’s a feature of my illness in itself.  Most of the time, though, I’m not – I’m self-doubting, self-hating, anxious, and convinced I am a terrible person and that I am awful at my job.  But in order to get by socially and in the workplace, I have to pull together some kind of functional persona to get through the day.  So, that’s what you will see when you meet me.  If big cracks start to emerge and I can’t hold the persona together any more, that’s when I disappear, because I have to take some time off work, and will stop wanting to socialise anyway.  Of course, this means that you’re very unlikely to see me depressed and anxious.  But then, you never see me naked either.  Some things are best saved for the privacy of home, thanks.

5) “I don’t believe there’s such a thing as mental illness.  People in developing countries like the one where I grew up just don’t have these sorts of problems.”  (Colleague)

It may be that there are some rural communities, including those in less developed countries, where there is greater social cohesion and less of an evident gap between rich and poor, where people have a greater sense of certainty and belonging and enjoy better mental health.  Maybe the person who said this was fortunate enough to have grown up in one of those communities.  It takes a big generalisation, however, to assume that this means all people in developing countries either have good mental health or “just get on with things”.  The World Mental Health Survey Initiative found that rates of bipolar disorder (my diagnosis) did vary between nations, but globally “the severity, impact, and patterns of co-morbidity were remarkably similar” with increased risk in suicidal behaviour for people of all nations who met the diagnostic criteria.  Sadly, but unsurprisingly, people in poorer countries were much less likely to have their treatment needs met, even when their condition was identified.

6) “But look at how lucky you are!  You have a lovely husband and beautiful children!” (Acquaintance)

Oh!  Do I?  Thanks, I wondered who those people were who keep following me around.  Here’s the thing: yes, I have, and that’s part of the problem.  There have been times when my immediate family circumstances have contributed to my mental ill-health (e.g. post-natal episodes, the loneliness of the stay-at-home mother, marital difficulties).  There have been other times, however, when no matter how happy and stable my family situation, I’ve become unwell for other reasons.  Then I am consumed by guilt about the fact that I can’t be the partner or the mother than my family needs.  It is upsetting and frightening for them to see me in the ugly depths of suicidal despair, and in a horrendous Catch-22, this only make me more depressed and self-hating.  So, thanks for the reminder!

7) “What did you think motherhood was going to be like: Little House on the Prairie?” (Parenting helpline volunteer)

No, I actually assumed we wouldn’t have to make our own log cabin and sunbonnets.  Neither did I assume, however, that I would be on a pink fluffy cloud of pathological elevated mood right after birth, followed by incapacitating postnatal depression that made it really hard to care for my children.  I rang that parenting helpline on particularly desperate afternoon, and tried to explain to the call handler that I felt overwhelmed by the loneliness of being in a new town without a network of friends, by a colicky baby that wouldn’t stop crying, by a two year old child whose behaviour was becoming worse and worse in response to an increasingly withdrawn mother.  Needless to say, I felt about ten times worse after calling.  I really should have complained, but didn’t have the energy.

8)  “Feeling sorry for ourselves, are we?” (General nurse, delivered in snotty tone of voice)

I wonder if this person has had a re-think about their suitability for one of the caring professions yet?  She was on duty when I came into A&E because I was suicidal, and clearly felt that I had no business wanting to kill myself when she spent her time putting people back together.  I can understand that suicidal people might be frustrating to doctors and nurses who are not in the mental health field, but I would point out that being snide and nasty isn’t particularly likely to make people think the world is a place they want to keep living in.  A classic example of, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  Please.

9) “What is it you want from me? This service is for people with serious mental health problems.” (Community Psychiatric Nurse)

What do I want from you?  Ooh, I don’t know.  Some support, so that I don’t feel so much like killing myself all the time?  Before this conversation, I wasn’t aware that a condition such as depression, with a 6% suicide rate, or bipolar with its whopping 15% suicide rate, wasn’t considered serious.  That makes the survival rate for bipolar 85%; some cancers now have a better 5-year survival rate than this.  Bipolar has been shown in some studies to shorten life expectancy by 16.3 years for a woman.  Diabetes UK states that for Type 2 diabetes, life expectancy is shortened by up to 10 years.  5,706 people killed themselves in the UK in 2009 – coming up three times as many people as died from skin cancer that year (2,067).  I’d be pretty shocked if a nurse didn’t think that skin cancer or diabetes were serious diseases.  Just goes to show that even some healthcare professionals are more inclined to bring stigma and misunderstanding to bear, than risk statistics and factual knowledge, where mental health conditions are concerned.

10) “It’s probably your age/hormones/period.” (Various GPs, in my teens)

Argggghhhh!  No, my moods do not follow my menstrual cycle!  No, there is no possibility I could be pregnant!  No, I’m not “just a moody teenager”!  I’m not keen on labelling or medicating kids, but GPs really should learn to differentiate between an emo kid, and one with a suicide plan.  Also, I would like to think that perhaps we have moved on from blaming women’s uteruses for their mental health problems.  Whatever else my womb might be doing, I’m pretty sure it isn’t wandering about and/or giving me bipolar disorder.

So that’s my top – or perhaps bottom – ten.  What are yours?

Addendum 04/08/2011: I have been amazed, touched and overwhelmed by the response to this blog post. People have left such wonderful comments and I am happier than I can say that so many of you have found this post to be help. Please do keep your comments coming, but I hope you will understand that due to the unexpectedly popularity of my blog at the moment I can’t manage to respond to every comment as I used to do. PP


About purplepersuasion

40 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
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399 Responses to Ten things not to say to a depressed person

  1. Viv says:

    had every single one of those and each has made me want to go berserk and let them know what it really feels like. Sadly, this gets you nowhere but sectioned.
    yes, guys, I know that it seems to suck that I sometimes am below par, but hey….
    Recently(as in the last six months) have had the experience of someone who I’d listened to through his endless issues, basically fudge supporting me through mine saying, “I feel so helpless, I don’t know what to say.” Do you know what, buster, nor did I but I found something that did help you.
    It’s horrendously disappointing when people who should understand, don’t.
    Rant over, bloody marvellous bit of stuff there, Charlotte!

    • Thanks so much, Viv… I think you hit the nail on the head, it’s so disappointing that people sometimes seem to make no effort at all to understand. Even saying, “I don’t really know what you’re going through, but it sounds hard” would be so much better than saying something mean or pretending there is no realy suffering involved. xxx

      • zuza says:

        I agree 100%. I hAve the same experience plus no support from family because I’m emigrant and stay at home who only run kids to school ,not going out,not speaking to adults. I hope you feel better and more happier.

    • skallymonkey says:

      Viv, you have just hit such a massive chord with me. I seem to have spent my life listening to friends, giving them advice and general being there for them, yet when things got really bad for me about 3 years back I lost my 2 best friends and my sister-in-law refused to have anything to do with me (I’d done nothing other than break down on her on a night out and how I was feeling came gushing out, not long afterwards I sought medical help).

      Fair weather friends. I’m sad to say I don’t put myself “out there” for others as much any more and I’m much more inclined to keep myself to myself. It’s not something I’m proud of or happy about but I think I got to the point that I realised I needed to look after myself for a while and not worry so much about other people.

      On the upside though, I’ve generally found people who have depression or who have a history of depression are much more empathetic and realise that when someone comes to you to talk they’re not looking for you to “fix” their problems.

      • Jacqui Smith says:

        the same happened to me only i lost my husband and four of my grown up children why because they where selfish all the years i had looked after them but when i needed looking after for a while they left me to it one time i needed to go to hosptial my husband pushed me into my disabled daughter and said you take her i had acute psychosis but i did get better needless to say i will never speak to my husband again would he of stepped over me if i had a heart attack “yes he would”

  2. Timo says:

    Good post. Just sad how some people have the be the ones that know better. Even sadder are the ones that have the need to deny the reality.
    There must be something deeply wrong with a health care system that allows the kind of responses you quoted. Could not imagine that happening in my country. Well, in the 1970’s or before that possibly.
    Anyway I still believe that depression is unfortunately a kind of problem you are pretty much dealing with alone. One can get a lot of help from a good specialist and especially from medication but still if one hasn’t got the will power to sort things out it is very hard to get well. Nobody else understands what’s going on (or not going on) in my head as well as I do.
    It isn’t an easy fight but you are a strong fighter.

    • You are right that number 4 is a bit of a double-edged one – it’s good that I can generally appear competent and professional. It’s when people still refuse to believe it, that it’s annoying. You are also right that the ones from the healthcare professionals – especially the psychiatric nurse – are probably the most disappointing, they have been trained and are being paid to be caring. I am glad to hear that elsewhere things are better. I think the UK has a lot to learn from Finland re: education and healthcare.

      • Yes number 4 is a total lose-lose situation. If you DO appear depressed then people want you to pull yourself together but if you manage to put on a brave face and hide your suffering then people say “see, you’re fine”.

  3. Timo says:

    Actually, I don’t see item no. 4 extremely negative. It can surely be annoying but with that comment people may just be genuinely expressing their respect that you are getting along well (at least they think so) despite of depression you’ve just told them about. Alternatively they may just be expressing how surprised they are of the fact you are sharing with them. I see the phrase “You can’t be depressed” more as a figure of speech than actual denial. Of course the meaning of the phrase depends on how it is said.

  4. We’re on two different continents, but I feel as if we’ve shared the same road when I read this post. I’ve had these ten experiences and their variations, over and over, from both well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning folk. As you point out here, even professionals in the health care field–and in the MENTAL health care field–can be utterly clueless as to how to help someone in pain from very real, and very devastating, diseases.

    Lately, I relate most to #3. I’m at a stage in life where I have few friends, since I’m no longer working due to my very real/very devastating illness. The friends I have, have busy lives with more friends and activities than I do, so when we talk or meet up I’m talking about how I haven’t slept in 3 days and I’m worried about having to go back to the hospital or I’m having nightmares about past trauma…and they’re talking about what outfit to wear on their date. Okay, it’s not that simple, and they talk about their problems, too, but I always feel like I’m a Big Depressive Bore. I’m slowly getting more people and things to do in life, so hopefully #3 won’t be so prevalent.

    Thanks so much for an excellent, insightful, and really witty example of all the things people say when they’re trying to…er…help.

    • I understand… when you are at home with a health problem (probably any health problem) your world really shrinks, because your whole attention is on dealing with your health. There’s not much else to talk about, because there’s not a whole lot going on! I was invited to a party (for the first time in ages) last Saturday, but I didn’t go, because someone who can’t drink and falls asleep at 9.30pm isn’t much use at a houseparty!

  5. theWriteRach says:

    I’d love to say I’ve never heard any of this sort of thing and it must all be in your head 😉 but of course you know I can’t; I’ve heard the same things or similar more times than I count. Attitudes to mental illness have moved on but still further education and enlightenment is needed.

    Well done for illuminating this subject in what I think is a brilliantly written article that hits the nail right on the head!

    I hope many people will read it and learn from it.

    Great blog – more please!!


  6. sueperfluous says:

    And, of course, there’s the old favourite – Pull yourself together! If only…

    • Hi, Sue 🙂 Do you know what, I don’t think anyone’s ever said that to me in so many words…. But as a child, I definitely picked up on the idea that mental health problems weren’t “real” illnesses, and were more in the nature of a character flaw. It’s taken me a lot of years to try and ditch that belief.

  7. This rings all too true for me. I’ve only been diagnosed as having the Big D for a few weeks, but it appears I’ve been living with it for the best part of 25yrs, or in other words, since I was 7. The comments are precisely the reason I’ve gone anonymous and have told just my immediate family – without the stigma, I think I’d be more prepared to tell people, but I don’t feel I can take the risk. That’ll change as I get better, but until then I’m content to blog about it in a way that is anonymous. Must be said that the comment about being outgoing and extrovert applies to me – kind’ve a mask and a general desire to be liked to feel like I’m worth something. If only people knew, eh?

    • Hi, TL-F, nice to “meet” you. I’ve been suffering from depression/anxiety/bipolar since I was 12, diagnosed when I was in my early 20s, but still find “coming out” difficult. Unfortunately I got so unwell that it became obvious to a lot of people at work in spring of this year; I’ve been off work since April and am slightly dreading when I go back and people ask what exactly was wrong with me….. Ah, well.

  8. Nice to ‘find’ you too… 🙂 I’m still at work – I think my drive state has been in the ascendance for some time, and I do wonder if I lean towards bipolar as I find it remarkably easy to switch between home (lethargic, guilty, hopeless, depressive) and work (energy, success, drive, humour, enthusiasm). I reckon, though, that work is more of a mask and a mask that I’ve learnt to wear through School, Uni and employment. Anyway, I’ve now started on CBT – well, started on the recommended reading from the psychologist. Just got to be patient, I suppose, as it’ll be a long journey but one I’m convinced will be worth it.

    It sounds as if your journey has been long, with many stops along the way. I’m not surprised you are dreading going back to work, but I’m sure your colleagues will be pleased to see you.

    • I’m having to have a change of role (stepping down from management) and a change of office, the only really good thing is that there are some genuinely nice people at my new office, who have made it clear that they are looking forwar dto having me back…. whenever I make it!

  9. MishWeaver says:

    ah… I could go on…
    ‘I just don’t know what is the matter with you’ (family member)
    ‘I just don’t know what to do with you’ (Family member)
    ‘Oh God you are unbearable when you are like this’ (Friend)
    ‘If social services get word of this they can come down like a tonne of bricks’ (Psychiatrist)
    ‘Yeh, I know, I get a bit sad sometimes..’ (aargh!!!)

    But lets focus on the ones that helped!
    ‘Stay there I’ll bring some food round and hang out.’ (good friend)
    ‘You seem really depressed, do you want to talk about that?’ (Psychiatrist)

    Anyone else think of any? Trying to come up with stuff myself now to help a friend out, dread hearing myself come out with any of the above, but won’t be surprised if they slip out – it isn’t easy I guess talking to someone who is severely depressed. It takes courage.

    • Thanks for your comments – maybe I’ll do a flip-side post on the things people siad that really helped. Somehow, I doubt I’ll have quite as much material to work with….! Really appreciate you taking the time to read my post.

      • Lucia says:

        Yeah please do! That would be a really nice balance, and perhaps a good resource to link to e.g. on facebook etc, to do this educating and attitude changing we want 🙂

      • Then please see my new post! I’ve tried to be clear that’s not a “how to be supportive” guide, but it is examples of comments which have helped me.

  10. maturinuk says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us. One of the main issues facing many of my patients is the stigma associated with the trouble. Even when it is painfully obvious something is terribly wrong, people often want to have nothing to do with the diagnosis suggested. While I am not a drug pushing GP, some patients really do need to start medication to deal with the crisis. Many times the only way to persuade them is to disclose my own (mild) problem for which a regular antidepressant allows me to practise as a (good) GP. Breaking down barriers as you do here is part of the battle people with (not serious) mental illness must engage in to ensure adequate resources to manage such disabling conditions in our countries.

    • Nice to have some feedback from a medical person 🙂 One of my Twitter friends has sent it to her psychotherapist. I work frontline in adult social care, I never disclose to clients (you are braver in that respect than I am!) but I’ve been living with depression/anxiety/bipolar since I was 12 so have got to the point of being fairly comfortable being honest with friends and relatives. Colleagues can be difficult, I have some wonderful supportive ones, but I also know that some people see it as a weakness or use it to discredit my opinions (and my authority when I was in management). Thanks for taking the time to commen!

  11. I think this is a great post that I’d like to share with my students (I’m a GP and teach med students) The core of my teaching is about ‘how to listen’, not merely to make a ‘diagnosis’ but in order to develop a therapeutic relationship with patients. Doctors are taught how to ‘take a history’ which can conflict with our ability to hear what our patients are trying to say.
    I had a great experience for a few years answering letters from prisoners about their health, which has lead me on a couple of occasions to encourage patients to write a letter about their feelings. I think sometimes there is an element of stage fright where neither the patient nor the professional can find the right words.
    Thanks so much for a thought provoking post.

    • Hi Jonathon, I think I’ve tidied up the typos now, so I would be very pleased if you would use the article in this way. I have recently experienced both the good and the bad of history-taking. When my partner was recently in hospital with acute adbominal pain, the history was perfunctory; the Registrar didn’t seem like he was listening, and he didn’t seek to make any connections between a pre-existing condition and current presenting symptoms (which later turned out to be significant). It was clear he already had a diagnosis fixed in his mind, and he wasn’t too interested in gleaning info from the patient which might suggest anything different. In contrast, when I returned to management by CMHT a few months ago, rather than primary care, my new Consultant took an excellent and thorough history – it took a very long time, mind you, but that was because as well as asking questions which he thought pertinent, he wanted to hear from me about anything at all – no matter how small – I might feel relevant to the crisis I was in. He then asked me what sense I made of it all, so that the diagnosis felt less imposed, than arrived at. It also left me able to make sense of some experiences (partuclarly during hypomania) that I wouldn’t have bothered to mention, had he not encouraged me to get everything out there for discussion.

      • Lucia says:

        Wow that’s pretty cool huh, a professional asking you what you think might be contributing! It’s kinda ridiculous that that sounds revolutionary.. but it does.
        Thanks for sharing 🙂

  12. lafletcher says:

    I had some variation on all of these when I was suffering from depression, so I know how painful they are to hear. I think sometimes people say insensitive things like this, though, because they aren’t sure what else to say and are embarrassed by vulnerability and emotion. I used to get told things like “just do more exercise” or “eat less unhealthy things” or “can’t you just get over it?” by my then-boyfriend, who was very stoic and who had a serious dislike for emotional displays of any kind. I always knew that he was there for me, but when I was at my worst and very emotional, he could be so insensitive that it was easy to forget that he really care and support me.

    • Hey, you 🙂 I think you are right, a lot of them stem from discomfort – people don’t want to be drawn into, or sometimes even associated with, the pain and the misery, so they say something crass. I know people who’ve experienced bereavement sometimes say they experience similarly unhelpful attitudes/comments. And of course, we take them to heart more, because we are hurting. Which is why I so value online friends like you!

      • lafletcher says:

        One of the things that was most amazing to me when I was on the tail end of my period of depression was how truly people’s colours showed — my online friends (and my real world friends that I only get to talk to online any more) really rallied around me and gave me an incredible amount of support that the “real” people that I lived/worked/saw daily couldn’t or wouldn’t. I wish I had had this blog to read back then, but I’m glad I have it (and you!) now in case I ever need it again. For now, I send this internet hug since I can’t give you one in person: *hug* ❤

  13. I will never get over my annoyance that you had to leave the area just before I met you online! So frustrating! ❤ xxx

  14. Bob says:

    Thank you for this. Been suffering from bouts of depression accompanied with frequent migraines (not the severe kind though) for awhile now. I wasn’t sure if it was just a momentary thing or if it would go away. I mean I am just a student so I found myself thinking it is silly for me to worry when I don’t seem to have as much responsibilities such as a parent or a employee. But then I accepted that I was depressed and now I am trying to find a way to tell my parents without sounding “embarrassed”. I know the biggest problem I will have is no.4 but your really clear response to it hopefully will help me to face that issue.

    • Lucia says:

      Hey 🙂
      Definitely don’t feel like that – I find being a student the hardest job! With a job you get to go in to work, have it all laid out and structured for you, have social interaction, and be in an environment where you kind of can’t help but work for that time. So by the end of the day you usually feel some sense of achievement (even if you’re worn out). I find being a student torturous – having to motivate yourself, the mental effort of learning new things every day, and having no structure whatsoever! I don’t know about you, but that freaks me out big time. Yeah, one of the biggies about depression is feeling like you shouldn’t be depressed, because there are others out there with harder lives.. but I’ve come to realise life is as hard as you find it – it doesn’t correlate with the number of responsibilities, or friends, or opportunities you have.. it’s what’s in your head. So yeah, don’t go feeling bad about feeling bad! You’ve got the same ‘right’ to be depressed as anyone else. It sucks, but it hits people from every walk of life.

  15. natlily32 says:

    Have sat and nodded at each and every word you have written here. It is so frustrating and disheartening when people cannot or will not understand what it is really like to suffer from depression.

    • I don’t know whether to be pleased (I wrote the truth) or sorry (that you’ve had to go through the same experiences) that it struck such a chord with you. But thanks for the feedback – will be checking out your blog 🙂

  16. Sophie says:

    My god, I knew those who didn’t have a clue about mental illness could be like this, but from so-called professionals??? I find that really staggering, but perhaps not surprising. I actually had this gem of a comment from a family member regarding my mental health problems..”you’re not really ill though are you??”. No, I just like to pretend, skive off work and take mind altering chemicals for the hell of it”…..

    • Hi Sophie, it is depressing to think that health professionals could say this kind of thing… but they’re only human. I’ve worked in clinical roles myself, and sometimes it’s hard to be present and empathic when you’re near the end of busy 12-hour shift. But for the depressed person, that one unkind comment can stay with you for years 😦

  17. Lynne Francis says:

    I LOVE this!!! I love it so much it has nearly brought me to tears!! As all the previous comments state, I too have heard all this complete drivel from supposedly ‘well meaning’ people for years and years and it drives me BONKERS!!! For all that attitudes and understanding are meant to have changed, I have to say I’ve not seen much of it which is incredibly frustrating. I’m a student nurse just now, although I’m doing general nursing not mental health which is my passion, but there were no places left on the course so I’m doing this first and will convert later. But what you say about the comments though from medical staff is absolutely spot on, particularly from the general nurse. The attitudes towards mental health I find in that branch are often disgusting quite honestly and it makes me very angry. I wish I could write though with such eloquence about these experiences! Thank you so much for this post, it’s been an amazing comfort to read it 🙂

    • Thanks Lynne, I really appreciate your positive comments! This blog is quite new for me, and I’ve only recently started writing again after years of being preoccupied with things. If people like and realte to what I have written, that means a lot to me 🙂

  18. Liz says:

    The worst I had were:
    Locum GP: you would be better off dead than taking up so much of my time.
    Locum GP again: (as I walk through the door)- let me guess, depression again. Do you know that this is the 10th time this year you have come to me feeling suicidal. The average person your age attends the GP twice a year, and mostly concerning contraception. My field of expertise is sports injuries by the way.
    CPN( after suicide attempt which lands me in ITU): is this because I am going on holiday next week?

    • Oh, God, Liz, sorry to read those comments, they are awful! A GP who trains medical students asked me if he could use this article with trainees, I said by all means, because we really need to stop this kind of comment from happening. Hugs to you!

  19. I too have heard all the comments from the list in different forms over the years and yes my depression has different levels on a day to day basis. The deafness I feel when I listen to my own thoughts and cannot hear anyone else, the utter belly dragging lowness I feel when others seem to cope so well on a daily basis…yes I push myself from behind my wall and show a bubbly happy person to the world when all I want to do is pull the duvet over my head and cry buckets. Thankfully my medication holds me most days on a level playing field with an extra as back up. A time on a mental health ward has helped somewhat but still feel the need for some sort of therapy having moved from one end of the country to the other and now living by the beach which is wonderful to walk along and incredibly relaxing. Its still the pent up anger inside that needs to be released.

    • Nice to meet you, Angela 🙂 Funny how some people perceive those of us with depression as “weak”, when what I am hearing over and over in the comments to this post is the tremendous act of will and strength it is taking people to put on their public personae and get out there every day. Is there any chance of you getting a therapy referral in your new area? Have always thought it must be wonderfully restoring to live by the beach…. good luck with your recovery! x

  20. I’ve heard all those too!
    Other gems are “All you need is to get a job.”, “You need to start thinking less negatively & more positive”, “Hypnotism will cure you”, “You need more exercise”

    The one that REALLY p***ed me off the most was when I was on medication. EVERY single time I was upset, angry or just feeling like s**t, family/loved ones wouldn’t ask “Are you alright?”, “Has anything happened?”, “Is there anything I can do to help?”, just “Have you taken your meds?”
    & every time I would honestly say “Yes, I have taken my meds.” SO frustrating!!!

    • Some of the things people suggest would probably work for mild-moderate depression (e.g. exercise) but they often don’t understand that once someone is experiencing severe depression, they become impossible to do (see my new post which I just put up). Ditto, “thinking less negatively and more positive” – well, the essence of CBT is teaching yourself to do that, but while again that may be good for mild depression or relapse prevention, if you’re in the depths and the depressive thinking patterns have got a grip…. no chance!

  21. It’s even more disappointing when it’s from people who should know better. Or when it’s those closest to you who refuse to accept. Oh and turn up to house parties, even if you’re not drinking and you’re going home early. It makes people think a little more (keep on their radar!) and sometimes ‘accept’ better. 🙂

  22. This is really wonderful and has made my day frankly – nice to know I’m not alone!

    I think that the best/worst comment I received was from a teamleader at work who, when I challenged her, said “Do you think that this behaviour could be linked to your Bipolar Disorder?”

    Well, I didn’t, but now I do – cue humiliation, stress, paranoia and a pit of depression that it took the best part of six months to get out of!

    • I really had no idea when I wrote the post of how many people’s experiences would totally match what I have written. Don’t know whether to be pleased that it’s made people feel less alone, or sad that thoughtlessness and lack of empathy is so common!

  23. That Girl says:

    These are truly horrible. I’ve had some similar ones:

    “i know how you feel. my uncle was mildly depressed after christmas” from my housemate at the time. I wanted to shout that no, he actually had no idea how it felt to have a mental health breakdown.

    from the same group of housemates:
    “you’re so moody all the time. its really quite unreasonable”

    “but you’re on anti-depressants now so you should be fine.”

    and when i was going away for the night and they thought i couldnt hear “twos company threes a crowd. at least we dont have to pretend to tiptoe around her melodrama tonight.” (i wasn’t particularly vocal bout my problems and tried really hard to hide my mood swings. In fact to start with they just assumed i was moody because i hated them, not because i was ill. Thats how vocal i was…)

    from the doctor: “oh its probably only because your grandad died. you dont need anti depressants.” I had just told her i had been suffering for months and months which had been made worse by my grandad’s death.

    a conversation with the assessing clinician at the mental health centre, i said that i felt a bit silly describing what my latest panic attack had been about. she replied with “well at least you know you’re being ridiculous”.

    • Gah! It’s the ones from the mental health professionals that really get me. I know that there are lots of very good, very caring and sensitive people working in the mental health field, but one unkind comment can really sting and stay with you for years. Thanks for reading my blog!

  24. Shah Wharton says:

    It’s ‘depressing’ to realise that we’ve all at some point heard all these! Jeez! What is it with mental health and the acceptability of ignorance. There is shame in various prejudices now – finally and thankfully – but not yet in mental health! Why? I found a similar thing – a badge displaying many things people say to those of us who can’t have children – even those who try to say something comforting refuse to engage their brains before their mouths. Its most infuriating! But more importantly its very very sad. Great post – your on my blog roll!!

    PS: Dunno if you do such things, but I put up a linky for mental health bloggers every Monday – All you do is link up to your post (fill in a tiny form to put a link to your post on my blog for others to check out). LOVE it if you could join in. ;D

    Shah. X

    • Hi Shah, I would love to link up with other bloggers….! Really swamped by comments that need answering today, but have bookmarked your site and promise that I will give it a proper look later. I really should start a blogroll on here, there are some great people out there writing truthfully about their esperiences.

  25. Pingback: Bang on about depression and how people view it | Welcome to Spiderplant Land

    • Really glad you understood what I meant by this…. I think that number 4 has had the most positive, “yes – THAT!”, responses of all. I’m really glad I included it.

  26. TheSpidey says:

    Im a blog author and generally not a commenter because I don’t like the abject trolling that goes on often times when you raise an opinion but your blog post was spot on. It even compelled me to write my own post on the subject, and, I hope you dont mind, but i quoted your post in it.

  27. TheNeil says:

    Oh how many of these have I had to endure (although I still ‘enoy’ being able to tell idiots who suggest ‘renting a movie’ or ‘picking yourself up’ that ‘I’d never thought of that’) but it’s the feeling of being a complete waste of space in the eyes of the healthcare system (such that it is) that *really* hurts me every time. Do you think I *want* to be reaching the point where I’m attempting suicide? Do you think that treating me like a complete drain on resources is *really* a good way to help? Would you prefer it if I just went off and killed myself rather than *try* to ask for help?

    Depression isn’t ‘a bit sad’ or ‘having a bad day’, it’s something that, sadly, people don’t seem to fully appreciate until they’ve experienced =:(

    • I think that’s it…. it’s the gap between what you are actually experiencing, and what those with no experience/understanding *think* you are experiencing. Sometimes it can feel pointless even trying to explain to them. Thank God for the internet linking me in with people who’ve had similar experiences and will never tell me to rent a movie!

      • Mawgen says:

        You know what? I just might suggest you rent a movie 😉 For quite a while when nothing seemed to work to help me feel better and I just had a feeling like a stone in my stomach, I used to watch a few episodes of Peppa Pig from my dvd box set and it helped! Sometimes it’s the strangest things! 🙂 I confess at times when I’ve felt worse this would not have helped!

  28. Sue says:

    I hope that your return to work goes well and that you get all of the help and support that you need. As someone who has had several protracted periods of time off work, and left her last job due to depression and an unhelpful manager, I understand your apprehension at returning to the work place.

    Can also identify with the point, but you look so well/bright/bubbly etc how can you be depressed? I agree it’s an act that we put on to get through the day, and no one but us knows how difficult it is to sustain. It takes so much effort to appear normal and then you come home and flop! One colleague when I phoned in sick said to me, “And I was just thinking how well you looked.” I couldn’t believe it as I was falling apart at the seams at the time!

    • Hi Sue, I haven’t had this long a period of sick leave form ten years. It’s a bit of a shock to me, TBH, because I’d hoped I’d left the most serious episodes behind. I’m lucky that I’m getting to change offices and go somewhere a little quieter – when I popped in recently, everyone seemed pleased to see me, so that was very reassuring. Amazing how we can create a professional mask while falling to pieces inside… hopefully at my new office, I won’t need to do that so much.

  29. Hi purplepersuasion.
    I was brought to your blog post by a friend who had posted it to her Facebook page and said about how excellent it is. Your words made me both smile and shudder internally as I recalled the same experiences. I have a diagnosis of bipolar; at 31, I’m in the fortunate position of having a supportive family, wonderful husband, and fantastic friends. But when I’m at my lowest, I merely cripple myself with guilt over my inability to be well.
    This is only the second time I’ve commented on a blog about mental health; the first was on Friday (follow this link to find out why – health warning though – this may upset you, due to its ignorance and cruelty: http://www.sabotagetimes.com/life/psychiatric-wards-are-mental/). The kind of writing in the Sabotage Times piece exemplifies why people like you should be very proud of your truthful, honest and brave blogging. Congratulations and thanks.

    • Thanks, Ruth, really appreciate your positive feedback. There have been a lot of negatives to this current episode, so I’m aiming for two positives: 1) to hone my writing skills through practising on this blog, and 2) that maybe people reading it who struggle with the same issues derive some sense of not being alone with dealing with stigma, ignorance and downright insensitivity. Will check the link you’ve left once I’ve finished reading and responding to all the comments people have taken the time to leave for me 🙂

  30. Jen says:

    I suffered from a (by comparison) fairly mild bout of depression over the last three years, and I too sat nodding through your article, and I think that the embarrasment of dealing with ’emotions’ is a major factor for a lot of these reations.
    I had one doctor who, upon seeing me reduced to tears while talking about how I wasn’t coping at work, shoved a prescription for anti-depressants in my hand and shuffled me out of her office where, still unable to ‘pull myself together’ I spent 10 mins sobbing in the corridor until someone asked me if I was OK and gave me an empty room and some tissues. The next doctor I saw was utterly empathetic and very pro-active about helping me with medication in the short-term, working out longer term solutions and getting my workplace to behave responsibly. This was in the same practice and I have since made a complaint about the first doctor and a compliment about the second.
    Some people are so scared by someone being emotional that they seem to shut down, have no capacity for empathy and therefore make you feel ten times worse. It’s lovely to hear from the medical proffessionals above that there are some institutional changes being made and that we don’t have to just rely on the staff who are naturally god at not being a horses arse when confronted with a depressed person!

    • Hi Jen, Just like any other profession, there are good doctors/CPNs, and not to good ones …. unfortunately, it’s all a bit “luck of the draw”. I am very fortunate with both my GP and my Consultant (and have given them due credit in today’s post, about 10 comments which actually helped!) but I’ve had some shockers in the past. People really can be frightened by displays of emotion…. I would like to know whether this is worse in Britain than in other countries, no idea really… Anyway, as you refer to having “suffered” – in the past tense – I hope this means that you are on the mend and recovering from your depression. Don’t think that because it was milder than some it is less important, three years is a VERY long time to have to deal with feeling low all the time, so I really hope you’re coming out the other side now x

  31. Tom Oxley says:

    Wonderful writing, thank you for finding some wry but insightful humour in there too.

    “It’s just a blip,” was said to me by a very caring person who wanted me to rationalise what I was feeling.

    While not as outrageous as ‘pull yourself together,’ it destroyed me a little on the inside as for the months before I could articulate it, I thought it was and described it as ‘a blip.’ If by blip we mean ‘the world has changed in such a way that my existence in it scares the crap out of me and I’d rather be buried alive then get out of bed, oh, and by the way that’s on a good day (one where I can string a thought together) and by the way #2, it’s getting worse and I can’t see any way out,’ then, yes it’s a blip.

    The irony was that I was nearly compelled to prove it wasn’t a blip… but then the anger (this is werid) actually made me feel stronger – just for a second – and determined to beat it. It took several months, this blip, before I was back at work and functioning again. I still have the blip and always will. I keep it in my pocket. But sometimes it escapes.

    Cuddles to you all.

    • Hello Tom, thanks for your kind feedback 🙂 I think that when people say thing slike, “it’s just a blip” they are trying to give us hope that it’s temporary and we’ll soon be out the other side… what they don’t realise is how once depressive thinking takes over, it’s very, very hard to believe that. As soon as I get depressed again, I forget all the good/normal times, yes and the elated hypomanic times, ever happened. I mean, obviously I know they did on an intellectual level, but I don’t believe in them anymore. I was just talking a friend on Twitter earlier about the fact even one wobbly day can terrify us into thinking, “oh God, I’m relapsing, it’s happening again and it’s never going to be any better.” Really glad to hear that you are back at work and functioning well, I am starting my new meds this evening with that aim in mind for the autumn!

      • Tom Oxley says:

        The irony is, when I used to wobble, as I do sometimes, I genuinely found a challenging movie (in my case Donnie Darko) helped at least to take the mind elsewhere! No reply, please, I’d prefer it if you kept writing more blog!

  32. postblues says:

    1) “You don’t need to be depressed! Just rent a funny movie….
    Lol, that was me until I totally burned myself out finishing a big project at work and felt what medical stress and depression actually were. Whatever went wrong in my brain bounced back after a couple of months without resorting to pharmacy, but I’m a lot more understanding/helpful now to the people I know who have to deal with depression (or any other mental health issue).

    Telling a depressed person to cheer up is like telling an addict to quit, all you’re doing is exposing your ignorance and sealing yourself off as an avenue of support. Let them know you’re there if they need you and be ready to make the time for it.

    • Rethink recently ran a thread on Twitter along the lines of “Do you see your mental illness as a gift?” Lots of people responded saying they would not go so far as to say a GIFT, but that it had certainly developed their sense of empathy. I know that all the frontline work I’ve done in health and social care has been informed by my own experiences of mental ill-health, and it’s made me a better practitioner…. although, in another Catch-22, sometime I overidentify and get too upset about what clients are going through, especially when I’m starting to become a bit depressed. Have you read my post today on 10 HELPFUL things that people have said to me? Pretty much what you suggest about being there and giving time, really.

  33. Judith says:

    Heard all of these, and more…Have been made feel guilty about not being emotionally or physically available to me friends and family. I have seen many medical professionals, and have had several diagnosis, none of them the same, and have taken lots of meds, none of which did much to help. I have recently taken myself off all meds, and am in the process of trying nutropathic therapy. I have not felt more present or ready to particapate in life for years. Sometimes you need to swim against the current ( medical advice) to get to where you need to be in order to heal. Of course, get support from friends and family, it helps alot, and you might want to share your dropping meds to doctor, too, but I thought that was optional.

    • Hi Judith, I’m sticking with the neds route for now, although I have made significant changes to my diet (cut out sugar and alcohol) because that can only help, really. It is hard when you are not available to your family, I feel so guilty when I am not well enough to help the kids participate in their normal activities, but sometimes it can’t be helped. Glad to hear you are feeling so much better about life 😀

  34. fairy_wings says:

    Thats a fantastic blog post 🙂

  35. This is brilliant, and you make the points really politely and clearly. I can definitely identify and I know a lot of others that will too. I think 6 is the most painful, and 4 is also particularly sad because it makes you feel that the people around you maybe don’t know you at all, which can be lonely.

    Also 5 is an odd one. I think a lot of illnesses that we treat in Britain, mental and physical, don’t get treated properly or diagnosed properly in other countries. Sometimes it is true that certain mental health conditions pale in comparison to, say, famine or war, (although some can be exacerbated by them) but so would a lot of physical ailments like diabetes, skin cancer (to take the two you mention), and others. That doesn’t mean people who have diabetes are making it up or whatever and it certainly doesn’t mean we should ignore these conditions just because other countries have more immediate problems to deal with.

    • Hi there, I am pleased that you think I was polite…. yesterday I received some not-so-positive comments elsewhere on the internet, people interpreting what I wrote as snarky…. I think maybe it was a cultural humour thing. Anyway, I just tried to tell it as I see it, and clearly I am far from alone, judging by the huge numbers of people who have been kind enough to leave comments. Number four is the one that people have identified with the most strongly, by the looks of things. Number five IS an odd one, I was taken aback – but also offended! – when the person said it to me. Thanks again for your kind feedback!

  36. Steve Jack says:

    Remarkable – such brave, brilliant and invaluable blogging. Thank you 🙂

  37. Henry Dunn says:

    Some of those are just horrendous, particularly those from healthcare professionals/phoneline volunteers whose purpose is to make you feel better, not worse. I have suffered clinical depression since the age of 10, so have experienced many forms of idiocy in that time. As a Music Psychotherapist I help people cope with their mental illnesses, and, funnily, find it helps me too! The wounded healer archetype has great resonance for me. However, I’m not anti anti-depressants, and it annoys me when colleagues and the media keep saying that they are useless. Personally, Fluoxetine helps keep me functioning, though it was a big mistake for a Child Psychiatrist to give me amitryptyline aged 10. This led to about 6 months stuck in my bed with psychotic symptoms, such as a fear that there was a tape recorder under my bed, and that people on the radio were talking directly to me. We need a balanced, person centred approach – what works for me may not work for others.
    Thanks for your refreshing honesty, and doing your bit to reduce mental health stigma and ignorance.

    • Thnaks, Henry. Like you, I’ve suffered with these problems since childhood, so I’ve had plenty of time to collect examples for this “hall of shame”! I’m not anti-medication, either… in fact I start a new one tonighht which I hope might help me get back to work – wish me luck! If I can help reduce stigma, improve knowledge and give people a sense of being less alone, that I will have achieved a lot during this episode, even though I’m not working right now.

  38. Tau says:

    I found this blog via Mind, and I’m so glad I did. All of these resonate with me to some extent, but particularly number 4 – in fact, I just may bookmark this in case I need to explain it to someone in the future.

    As for my worst – or one of the worst – comments: I mentioned to a friend of mine that I might not make it to a mutual friend’s birthday meal as I was feeling really awful. The conversation then proceeded approximately like this:

    ‘You can’t do that,’ she said, ‘he’ll be disappointed.’

    [Other mutual friend] isn’t coming, I pointed out.

    ‘[Other mutual friend] is ill, though,’ she said.

    …yeah. Nearly four years ago, and I’m still pretty hurt that she apparently couldn’t understand that depression ‘counts’ as being ill!

    • Tau says:

      (Oh, and I forgot to mention: [other mutual friend]? He had a bad cold.)

    • Hi Tau, oh dear! So sorry your friend really didn’t get it. I find it very hard to be in social groups when I’m depressed (I’ve talked a little bit about that today in my new blog post on “Ten supportive things I’m glad people said.” Makes me happy to know you’ve found my post worthwhile – you are one of a number of people who particularly liked the way I put the response to number 4. Seems we are all struggling with keeping that mask together. Take care!

  39. Henry Dunn says:

    Liz – I’ve heard of a consultant psychiatrist telling a suicidal woman not to waste his time, as she’d be dead within a couple of years anyway. He was sacked from one NHS Trust, then employed by another!

  40. Henry Dunn says:

    hope the new medication helps – they often take a while to have an effect. Have you ever considered Music Therapy, or any of the other Arts Therapies? They have a good record in this area. Having recently got round to reading the Harry Potter books, I feel that depression for me is akin to a Dementors Kiss – it sucks the life out of you. Fortunately those episodes are temporary. I don’t have the extreme highs of bi-polar, though I have a tendency, when I think I’m feeling okay, to take on far more than I should! I then get exhausted, and along comes a Dementor…..

  41. skallymonkey says:

    Thanks so much for this blog. It’s so sad how right you are and how ignorant and small minded people are.

    I definitely agree with you regarding the people who have only experienced depression after watching a sad movie. It is the most frustrating thing ever when someone says “but everyone feels depressed sometimes”… it’s not really the same is it?!

  42. This and the following are excellent posts — thank you for writing them. I’ve reblogged a brief excerpt of each on Tumblr with a link back to the full post, and I hope many people will read them. It can be hard for people who’ve never experienced mental illness to know what to say to a person who’s in a depressive state, but that’s no excuse for the ignorant and insensitive things that often are said.

  43. Alex says:

    Reading through that, as a 19 yr old male struggling with depression and possible personality disorder I am interested. 10 is something I have heard from my parents. 6 is something I’ve heard too frequently from my otherwise fantastic best friend. 3 is something my friends (including two who have had depression themselves) say to me too frequently.

    Anyone who says number 1 evidently is fortunate enough to never have had depression.

    • Nice to meet you, Alex. I probably struggled more when I was your age than I do now, in some ways, For a start, I had less experience, and therefore fewer coping strategies for dealing with the depressions. Also, as I got older it became clearer that I had on-going problems and I became more assertive at asking for help (although it probably took me until my 30s to learn that – hope you are smarter than me). I think 6 comes from people’s discomfort with the fact that every can be “going right”, and yet the depressed person still isn’t happy, so they can’t “fix” things for you. Yes, happy the person who can say number one. Wishing you luck with your battles, C x

  44. Ron says:

    Re 8), it’s my fairly experience that far too many nurses have zero interest in caring for people who are ill, whether their illness is mental or physical (or both – many chronically sick people, including me, can be profoundly depressed, suicidally so at times).

    Nursing is no longer a vocation – a caring profession – it’s just another job and, like any other job, as well as the skilled it attracts the self-obsessed, the cynical, the bullies, and the simply uncaring, with way too few people who actually match the traditional perception of “nurse”regardless of gender.

    • Hi Ron, I try to be charitable – I’ve worked in a clinical role in an acute hospital, and I still work frontline in social care. I know how it can drag you down when you’re tired and busy and someone comes to you yet again saying they are depressed or suicidal – your heart sinks. But I really do try not to let that show – not sure how successful I am. The nurse ones really upset me, because I felt like – wow, if this is the help I was asking for, I’m doomed.

  45. Ron says:

    Sorry, that should read “my fairly recent experience”.


  46. Wendy E Rose says:

    And what did you reply to these people at the time?

  47. Joely says:

    A couple more I can add to this list:

    1. “Why don’t you just eat chocolate then?”

    Um, because emotional eating is really bad for you, never mind that it falls into the “watch a funny movie” category of stupid comments.

    2. “I don’t understand why you have depression. I mean X over there had CANCER so he had a real reason to have mental health problems.”

    Let’s just not go there.

    • Hi Joely, you’re right, there must be any number of “quick fixes” that people *wish* would work on us! Re: 2, how selfish of us to be depressed when our reasons aren’t good enough! Oh, dear, you’re right again, let’s not go there. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and leave a comment 🙂

  48. susan says:

    oh so true, can really relate to the cpn bit, got told i wasn’t having a panic attacks because i didn’t think i was dying, gona be really stuck if i have a heart attack cos i be thinking it s just me panicking what they failed to realise is that i had them for years and i haven’t died yet.
    most of those comments i can relate to, and sumtimes i can get so impatient with people and so make the odd unsupportive comment, but i don’t mean it in bad way, i just want to be here and here and i want it all last year. But there saying probs in the past are the course and may be they are. I can see myself in what you say but only had an assement from the gp. Thanks for the posting

    • Hi Susan, you’re very welcome, thanks for reading my blog. If you take a peek at the post I put up today, which is the flip side (looking at the things people have said to me which actually helped), I ended up drawing the conclusion that the best supporters who don’t try to negate my experience in any way. If people accept that we are experiencing what we say we are, and that it’s hard, that’s so much better than denying our reality. Hope you’re moving forward and that your GP is helpful x

  49. Charlene says:

    My absolute all time favourite:

    “We know you’ve been ill, but you need to pull yourself together.”

    Said by my housemate at university.

    Thank you for this post. x

    • Oh dear, Charlene, sorry to hear that. I don’t anyone would dare say, “you’ve spent enough time being ill, but now you need to stop it and get on with life” to someone with a chronic physical illness. Really glad you liked my post x

  50. Please may I be anonymous? says:

    This is fantastic and I will check back on it every so often for the sake of many people I know!

    Someone in my family has depression and it was very hard growing up with that around me. Everything was about her. I couldn’t have friends round because that would make her jealous and upset her. I couldn’t complain about the way she talked to me because my feelings didn’t matter in comparison to hers. Later whenever I tried to be supportive – and I don’t think I said any of the above – I got blamed for “ruining her life”. Even now, she does make a marked improvement when she gets out of the house, so I try to tactfully encourage her, inviting her along to things I know she’s interested in – she will say she wants to go to place X, I will get up early and make all the preparations (and spend all the money) and at the last minute she backs out without even an apology. According to this person, it’s everyone else’s job to support and feed and clothe her without even being thanked. This person can be a sweetie and I know she is genuinely suffering and it’s not her fault. But it’s so hard. So I know how the person saying No. 2 is feeling. Does anyone here have any advice?

    I myself have anxiety issues and have had a stomach disease. My two worst things said to me were: “Oh darling, how very modern” plus laughter (relative when I finally confessed to her after about 10 years of secret self-harming), and “You’re just taking the piss. You didn’t even bother to go and see a doctor the first day you were ill because you knew you were going to get an extension anyway” (from a housemate after I’d been really ill and she’d bullied me into confessing I’d handed in my dissertation late).

    Anyway, thank you for a fabulous post. I loved the 10 good things people have said as well. And I hope things get better for you. 🙂

    • Hello anonymous 🙂 I think there is a difference between trying to be sensitive to the feelings of someone with a mental health problem, and allowing the whole family to be run by that problem. I try very hard to keep my children’s life as normal as possible, for example, because it’s not fair on them if their activities or friendships suffer because I am ill. I can’t always manage that when things are really bad, but I certainly try. Sometimes people don’t accept the help that’s offered, don’t comply with their treatment plan, continue to make poor decisions against advice, and then they can’t expect people to continue to be supportive indefinitely. So sorry to hear about the horrible things that have been said to you. Actually, I had a secret fear that people would say something along the “How modern/fashionable” line to me when I was re-diagnosed with bipolar, because Catherine Zeta Jones’ disclosure that she has bipolar II was all over the newspapers! Really glad you liked my posts, and many thanks for the good wishes x

      • Please may I be anonymous? says:

        Thank you so much! I was about to write in and say don’t publish my post if it will upset anyone. It is really awful when someone says “oh, how fashionable” or something like that just because some celebrity has the same thing as you & hope nobody has said that rubbish to you.

        And I think it’s incredibly tough and commendable of you to be bringing up kids whilst coping with this. I likened anxiety and illness to walking a long way with a crowd of other people, but I had a very very very big bag on my back, that nobody else could see – and that if I dropped behind sometimes, or got worn out when others weren’t, it was my fault. I don’t know if depression is quite the same or not.

        Anyway what you say is very very informative and encouraging, and I hope writing helps you (it does me!) and I will keep my eye on this blog. And will stop being anonymous once I’ve finished worrying that family members in question will read my posts xxx

  51. ownedbyrats says:

    Have had quite a few of those, especially 1, 4 and 10. I learned early not to tell anyone how I felt (at about age 14) after getting a variation on 6 (“What have you got to be depressed about?”) and a side order of “How can you possibly know what it’s like to be depressed” (from someone who had had post-natal depression but couldn’t grasp that anyone else might have any other sort). As a result it took me another 15 years or so to get any help. Since then I’ve been luckier, though. But it does rile me a bit when people used ‘depressed’ to mean ‘a bit upset’.

    • Hi. I think a lot of people assume that children and teenagers are too emotionally immature to have “real” depression, but I know I started struggling at age 12 and a lot of people who have left me comments here were even younger when their depression set it. Like you, it took me over a decade to find the right help. I try not to dwell on how my twenties were blighted, some of it was my own fault for rejecting diagnoses when I didn’t like them. I also find it frustrating when people use the word “depressed” inappropriately, and also when people can’t distinguish between mild and severe depression. Stay lucky 🙂

  52. This is a phenomenal post. I don’t currently suffer from depression, but I have several friends who do. I always try to avoid the useless and offensive platitudes. Dealing with a severe illness myself that is often not recognized and treated appropriately (hyperemesis gravidarum) has made me very aware that things that may not sound vicious and mean on the surface can cut like a knife on the inside.

    It can be so hard to know what to say beyond, “I love you and I always will.” I’m so glad that you wrote this, and I’m just about to pop over and read what appears to be the companion post to this one on things that people have said that help you.

    • Hello, nice to meet you. I had a touch of hyperemesis in my second pregnancy, luckily I was just able to avoid hospitalisation but it was really, really grim. My life narrowed down in a similar way to depression, because all I could focus on was the sickness. You look pretty far on in your pregnancy from a quick peek at your blog, has it got any better at all? The other parallel is that people *think* they know what they are dealing with (“oh, yeah, I had morning sickness, too”) in the same way that people who really have no clue sometimes *think* they understand depression. Yep, today’s post is a companion piece, trying to look on the positive 🙂 All the best for the rest of your pregnancy.

  53. 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

  54. S. says:

    What would be more useful is advice on things you CAN say. “being supportive” is vague and doesn’t really mean anything tangible.

    I think the reason people get so many negative responses (and all those you list really are useless responses, I agree) when they’re depressed does in part come from the sense of complete helplessness you have when trying to support someone with depression.

    Other than offering company and conversation, I’m often at a loss at what to do when friend’s are seriously depressed. I find not *expecting* them to be happy helps me… but what helps them?

    People aren’t super-human and offering support to depressed people is emotionally challenging.

    What helps?

  55. Jacqui says:

    I have some that are burned into my brain:

    ” She’s not any worse, she just wants to be mentally ill”

    ” I can cure you with psychotherapy”

    “She is stuck in the sick role, it will be impossible to remove”

    “She has Munchausen’s Syndrome” ( I nearly fell of my chair when I read that one!) Fortunately my psychiatrist wrote a very clear and succinct letter saying that this doctor was talking a load of c**p

    • Ouch, Jacqui! I once had a “sick role” comment, it was very hurtful. So sorry to hear you have had so many experiences of people implying you are making your difficulties up. In my new post, which I published today, on ten helpful things that have been said to me, I came to the conclusion that any response that seeks to deny or negate my experience of my illness is going to be unhelpful. Take care 🙂

      • I relate to hearing the “sick role” phrase or, as I’ve heard it termed in my trauma therapy, the “victim role.” For many years now, I’ve carried massive burdens of guilt that I’ve not been able to get myself out of these roles. Lately, I’ve been rethinking this, and comments I’ve been reading here are reaffirming my thought process: Is this really HELPING, to carry this guilt around? What if the worst is the truth, and I am stuck in some sort of role that makes it harder for me to get well? Aren’t there all sorts of reasons in the world, all types of barriers people throw in the way of their wellness? Maybe these trauma professionals making the victim role sound like such an awful thing is what’s getting in the way of me feeling better about myself, what about that?

  56. Hi! It’s a little sad how unaware some people can be of their effect on others. Sounds like a good thing he’s an ex 🙂 I completely understand what you mean about difficulties with socialising…. I don’t know if you saw my companion piece that I posted today, “Ten supportive things I’m glad somebody said to me”? I talk a bit in that about the social withdrawal I experienced in spring of this year, and my terror of the telephone (and shopkeepers). Thanks for taking the time to post your comment.

  57. Debbie Shaw says:

    After having my daughter, I got what the nurses called “baby blues”. It didn’t go away after a couple of days as I was told, so I went to my doctor with my husband. The doctor told me, quite angrily, that I would feel better if I brushed my hair and if my husband got a job. Yeah sure – my hair is the cause of my misery, and loosing my husband to a workplace would have been perfect. Turns out I probably had post-natal depression. It went undiagnosed and our daughter was about 3 before I even started to come out of it. I found it really hard to feel anything other than responsibility towards her for several months after she was born, and I believe we both missed out on an important part of her development because my doctor believed I was wasting his time.

    • Hi Debbie, how horrible 😦 People are really not very clued up about postnatal issues. I remember saying to my midwife after baby #1, “I think I might have postnatal depression” and her saying, “oh…. I don’t know what to do… you’d better see your GP, I suppose.” Despite my long history of mental health problems, no-one suggested I should have any management plan for pregnancy/baby number two, and I got very ill. I also feel that I missed out on a period of my son’s toddlerhood and my daughter”s babyhood when I was very unwell. So sorry that people didn’t listen to you x

      • Debbie Shaw says:

        Luckily for me when I suffered another bout of depression years later (after changing practices some years earlier) I got a very sympathetic doctor who gave me flash cards and asked me to put them in piles based upon how true they were. They were phrases such as “I feel worthless”, I feel suicidal” and similar. He said he used them because a lot of people feel unable to articulate how they are feeling when they are depressed. At the end of piling them up I felt like a weight had been lifted from me already , just because he’d actually accepted that there may be something wrong, and was willing to help me. When my daughter told me she thought she was depressed, I’m not proud to say, that I pretty much frog-marched her to the same doctor who has helped her too. As I write this she has decided it’s time to come off the meds, so even though I’ve had some bad experiences, I’ve also had some good ones too.

        I hope you’re return to work goes as well as you’d like it to. 🙂

  58. Mawgen says:

    I have experienced issues with anxiety and depresseion for years. I’m pretty much ‘in remission’ at the moment and I am lucky in that I don’t suffer badly and feel suicidal much, if at all (well, the odd random thought which bothers me, but I know I am unlikely to act on).

    I’ve had number 4 and 9 and 10.

    4 was a university lecturer who was also a Nurse Practitioner and later head of my course. I was trying to explain what I might have problems with over the coming 3 years.

    9 was when I was sent for a meeting with some people by a new GP when I said that my old GP had mentioned counselling/help from psychology. I felt awful. Clearly I was sent for the wrong kind of assesment, but I didn’t know what to ask for and the GP had been so useless I didn’t bother again. Walking into a room with 2 other people who were to review me, send me out of the room, make a decision and then call me back in. My self esteem was really low and that made it much worse.

    10 I do experience depression with my hormones, but when I was younger I had the distinct impression that being a teenager was being implicated rather than my background which in all probability contributed significantly.

    Thank you for sharing!

  59. girlatroomM401a says:

    I am so appalled at the things that have been said to you especially from those in the ‘caring’ professions. The irrationality of depression is one of the most frustrating things about it – if only a quick bit of ‘positive thinking’ would make everything alright. It is a great post – helpful I’m sure to many. Strength to you as you battle on…

    • Thank you…. things are better right now, as I’m in a mild bipolar upswing, but I’m certainly not “fixed” despite all my current positive thinking! Appreciate your comments x

  60. r@d@r says:

    i think the worst thing really is people thinking that what would really help is for them to give me advice – as if my letting them know i suffer from lifelong major depression off the charts means that i really want to hear about their (usually uninformed) opinions about mental illness and how to treat it. i’m an adult, i can do my own research thanks. plus, i’ve been doing field work in it for about forty years! LOL i’m aggravated by the trivialization of depression by pop psychology and the media, and the still-existing stigma attached to mental illness that people carry around while believing they’re above it (like us white folks going around insisting how non-racist we are). the stigma insists that i contort myself to accommodate their anxieties about mental illness, rather than them educating themselves about it.

    conversely, i like it when people just ask questions. what’s it like? how does it feel? what do you do when it gets really bad? just normal curiosity shows that they care a lot more than offering some bogus panacea (“i find it really helps to pray”, etc. – hey, how about praying next time you’ve got a broken leg or a burst gall bladder?) okay, rant over. thanks for this. it’s one of the major themes of my blog, and i appreciate your exceptionally lucid and candid contribution.

    • So glad you liked it. People really do have a lot of theories as to what you should do, don’t they? I think it’s out of the “fixing” mentality… they want there to be an easy answer because they feel uncomfortable with your depression! Did you see my companion piece on,”ten supportive things I.m glad someone said to me?” In it, I draw the conclusion that the people who accept my version of how I’m feeling, rather than negating/denying it, are the most helpful.

  61. David in AZ says:

    I got a few like these, back when I had problems (mine was hormonal imbalance – way low testosterone – pushed down harder by some family matters, including being out of work). However, I have also had a more bizarre, and much longer-lasting one. A friend that I rediscovered online during that time still acts like I’m suffering from the depression – won’t talk about certain things, treats me like I’m fragile, and more. I understand how I was when we got reacquainted – but come ON, it has been nearly TEN YEARS since the depression and my recovery – I’m just NOT THAT MAN anymore. Sometimes it is extremely grating.

    Lovely article. I hope it helps someone.

  62. I’m back again after discussing your post with my husband who suffers from what’s been described here as the Big D. He’s got another one to add to your list: ‘cheer up, it might never happen’. Um?! Responses are a) how do you know it hasn’t?, b) wanting to thump them or c) both of the above. Looking forward to reading the next list! 🙂

  63. Sumeria says:

    Hormones do make things worse for some people and I felt okay about a doctor, in particular, pointing out that this a root problem or a factor. In fact I think a doctor is obligated to make that observation or to ask a patient to compare their symptoms against their monthly cycle. Cuz that’s something a doctor can help with. It is a statistical fact that some bipolar disorders are exacerbated by menstruation hormone changes.

    Also, for me, “your depression is hard for me to understand” is completely okay because it does not imply lack of caring, just of causal comprehension. To me, it’s way preferable to “oh yes I understand completely” when, by every other indication, the person is totally clueless and does not know existential anguish from a bad hair day. Though perhaps I am wrong in judging people to be so shallow, and am failing to understand their depression. Should we really blame one another for incomprehension?

    I am sorry you have had so many responses that hurt you. I hope those people have learned better by now. The world is full of well intentioned blundering as much as it is of malice, I believe.

  64. Been there: A.D.D. (undiagnosed until I was 45 — diagnosed it myself), bipolar (diagnosed it myself age 50, took until 55 to find a doc who would admit it and add a stabilizer to my meds), raised by an abusive parent who was severely bipolar, and have a high I.Q. which invites rebukes from every quarter because I Haven’t Lived Up To My Potential. Personally I think that the mental health professions are a huge hustle and racket. The drugs have made it possible to live with less difficulty, but it’s hell trying to get docs to admit that they’re seriously addictive. I hope that chemists come up with better ones soon. As far as speaking to people who are depressed and don’t understand why and feel that they’re weaklings: I tell them that it’s the biochemistry of the brain that’s off, which is not something that you can wish away, any more than you can wish away diabetes.

  65. Zoe says:

    Fantastic blog- thankyou for writing it 🙂 Having suffered from depression since the age of about thirteen, I have heard most of these at some point or another.
    The most difficult thing I have found is the inevitable comparisons family members make between my sibling and I. My sister has a chronic physical illness, is in constant pain, and thus gets a lot of concessions made for her by family/friends. I have no problem with this whatsoever, as her illness is horrible. What upsets me is my own condition being ignored, because it has no ‘real symptoms’ (I say that lethargy counts, my family think I’m just lazy).
    My most recent course of medication doesn’t seem to be working very well, and I told a close family member this the other day. The reply? “Well, you don’t help yourself, do you? Staying in bed all the time, not having a job, leaving your room in such a mess…” This family member has been a nurse for thirty years. Had my sibling said that her medication wasn’t working very well, everyone would’ve been falling over themselves to take her straight to the doctor’s!
    I don’t want to moan about myself; I just think this goes with all your points, showing a really sad lack of understanding concerning mental illness. Really glad that some health professionals want to use your post for teaching purposes etc!
    Sometimes I wish that depression manifested itself in a big purple rash or something…maybe then people would believe it was real!

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  69. Holly P-N says:

    I suffer from bipolar and I get these sorts of comments sometimes if I’m depressed, although my doctors haven’t really been rude to me.

    I am sick of certain friends who have never experienced mental illness trying to give me “tips” on managing my moods after reading some Wikipedia article on the subject.

    “Oh, have you tried cognitive behavioural therapy?” Well, yeah, anyone who has ever been diagnosed with anything has probably been forced to try CBT and it obviously didn’t work for me.

    Or, “I think perhaps you should be on such and such a medication instead.” Oh, really? When did you get your doctorate? I must have missed that.

    Or, “I met someone the other day who is bipolar. They are JUST like you!” as if that defines me, or any person, for that matter. I hate being compared to other people in general, let alone when my mental illness comes into play, I think that’s incredibly crass.

    However, the worst comments I get are the comments when I’m just, you know, in a normal “mood”. If I’m in a good mood, someone will turn around and say (usually in a very cautious tone), “you seem manic today…” or, the worst, “have you been taking your medication?”

    People need to talk about mental illness more but they also need to realise that they need to show some proper decorum when approaching the subject. It’s just painfully obvious that the majority of people are still completely ignorant.

    However, saying that, I have some fantastic people in my life that can be very understanding. Unfortunately, 90% of the people in my life are idiots.

    • Didn’t you know we bipolar people are all the same? 😉 My big issue is that hypomania is relatively new for me (only one major episode before this year, and that was 11 years ago), whereas I have been dealing with depression for decades. Right now, I’m finding it hard to judge when I’m just in a good/productive mood, and when I’m becoming hypomanic – my own inner critic is saying the things you list! This is my big area for learning right now.

  70. Lindsay says:

    Thanks for this post. I came across it from another website, and it was such perfect timing. I, too, have bipolar disorder, and I’ve been especially terrified of slipping into an extreme low today. It’s so nice to know other people live with this and think about it and talk about it.

    My worst comment came from a children’s mental health nurse, while I was in the psychiatric ward of a hospital after attempting suicide at 15. She asked me to write a list of things I want to live for. I couldn’t think of any. Hell, I’d just attempted suicide. She yelled that I was lazy and said I didn’t deserve treatment if I couldn’t put any effort into it.

    • Lovely to meet you, Lindsay. I was (re)diagnosed bipolar in the spring, one of the first things I did was look at some blogs, and they helped me realise my experiences were quite common for someone with bipolar. That was such a help and a comfort, really glad if you have had a similar reaction to my writing. So sorry that you have been carrying around the hurt of that horrible experience all this time. I was just saying to someone else that I think the poor support from healthcare providers is almost the worst, because they are who you go to expecting help…. if they say something which shows they do not understand you at all, where do you from there? It leaves you feeling very alone. Do you use Twitter? You can always contact me on there as @BipolarBlogger. Hope you stay OK today x

  71. Kikila says:

    Another one is the blame game.
    Allow me to explain. When I was a teenager, my first boyfriend raped me, and I stayed with him for close to three years. I was 13 at the time, confused and entering that time of life where social life was the end all be all. During that time, until I was 16, I was emotionally and physically abused and wanted nothing more than to just end it all. I finally managed to break up with him and immediately sought help due to my increased suicidal thoughts and one attempt. My psychiatrist sat there and said it was my fault I was raped. My fault I was abused. My fault I didn’t get out f the relationship. Thus, it was my fault I was suicidal and depressed and no, she did not suggest me medication or any other form of help.
    I dealt with it on my own after seeing her two more times. I was never fully stable until my last exboyfriend (who I still hold very dear to my heart) showed me what a true relationship was and helped me. Yes, we broke up, and it hurt, but he never stopped being my friend and even helped me through a few relapses.
    I’m now happily married to another great supporter and have less and less suicidal thoughts as the years go by. If you can get one thing to help you through a rough time, it is good support.
    But I will never trust a psychiatrist ever again.

    • Hello Kikila. I had some very bad experiences with a psychiatrist when I was about 20. I didn’t even write about it my post, because there were so many things he said and the whole situation made me feel at the time like I was losing my mind. It did me a lot of damage, was part of the reason I didn’t comply with treatment for years, and still upsets me to think of it today. Later on I had a very lazy one who just read what the GP had written about me, and what the GP had prescribed, and made no attempt to undertake a more thorough assessment or consider other treatment options. BUT I just wanted you to know that I now have a really good psychiatrist, and the last one I say 6 or 7 years ago was also very nice and very supportive. The piece I posted yesterday, on “ten supportive things I’m glad someone said to me”, has a description of how my current psychiatrist works, and how it helps me. I really hope things will continue to go well for you, so that you won’t need to see a psychiatrist again, but I just wanted you to know that I have found some good ones out there! Look after yourself x

  72. Eleanor says:

    I’ve been told many times that I “just don’t understand what it’s like to actually be depressed.” Usually it’s from someone who doesn’t know me well enough to know how long I’ve been in therapy/medicated, or has never seen me in the middle of an episode. It’s just something that really rankles when I’m told by someone who is complaining about how sad they are that their favorite show got cancelled or they have to move house (not leave the area, just change houses).

    I’ve also been told I’d feel better if I just dressed better, both by a psychiatrist and a high school teacher.

    I’ve also been told that needing therapy and medication makes me weak and that I should be ashamed. I’m not. I could barely force myself out of bed and I couldn’t get through one day without going fetal and sobbing. But then I got help. I made it so I could face life. Thanks to going to therapy and taking anti-depressants, I got through junior high, high school, college, various jobs, and I’m making it through everyday life. Doing all that doesn’t make me weak–it makes me just the opposite. And I’m proud that I’m still alive and that I have a decent life.

    • So you should be, Eleanor! I too am proud of what I’ve achieved – OK, my career has taken a little step backwards this year with this acute episode, but by sticking with treatment and self-help methods I too am making it through life, despite my “issues”. You have to be a strong person, not a weak one, to keep going through all the pain and the self-doubt that depression brings 🙂

  73. bbbedwell says:

    This was such a great post…so true hits very close to home. I have been fighting myself for about a year now and have finally pulled together the strength to see a counsler. I have been on several different rx…and nothing is helping. I have two beautiful children and a husband that loves them and claims to love me very much……no one can see or seem to understand why i am so miserable. including me…..trying to talk to my husband is pointless, all i get out of him is “whats wrong, or why are you sad”…..it is so past the point of SAD….i cant explain to you why i just feel the way i feel and i hate it. And the worst part of it is that at night when i try to lie down and try to go to sleep, things just get worse……the anxiety and paranoia really creep in then and before i know it its 4am and im grinding my teeth, cursing myself, scratching my head uncontrollebly, and my pillow feels like im laying on a center block. It would just be nice to understand why i was cursed with this……i cant spend the rest of my life like this …locking myself in the bathroom to cry. My children and myself deserve better

    • Hi, I get very guilty about the effect of my illness on my children… this is one of the reasons I comply so much with treatment plans, I want to be the best I can for them, as well as me. So glad you are seeing a counsellor. I know that I tried a variety of different antidepressants before I found one that worked for me for years, although I’ve had to switch now. I also used to have a lot of insomnia before I was on the current meds, it’s very debilitating because you have no energy to deal with feeling awful. Really pleased if anything at all I have said helped you.

  74. starrzone says:

    Ooh, this post struck a chord with me! I remember when, before I was diagnosed with depression/anxiety (and knew what the heck was going on inside my body), I felt like no one understood me. I would get SO incredibly frustrated when I would reach out to my mother, tell her that I was nervous or anxious, and she’d say “What on earth do you have to be anxious about?” Ummm, it’s called LIFE! I am a LOT more sensitive to others now, and my goal is to make others more aware of MIs and how people with them can be helped. Thank you so much for this post 🙂

  75. Mogan says:

    Elderly Person:
    In my day we didn’t have all these crazy mental illnesses! When you were sad, you were just feeling blue. Now they have to diagnose the problem.
    BS people you knew didn’t have the problems.

  76. nightmare says:

    “You just don’t know how good you have it” – mom
    “You just want attention” – everyone in my family
    “You’re being so over dramatic” – mom

    Yeah, it had nothing to do with the ridiculous amount of pills y’all had me on with no psychiatric health. or the fact that I had to being nice & smiling to the aunt who abused me as a child because everyone just ignored me & my injuries. Or when I was diagnosed with depression & locked up in a mental facility my mom left the state & went on vacation & disallowed anyone from visiting me.

  77. sarah says:

    “i havent got time to get depressed” that made me want to punch the speaker!!

    when they change the subject, ignore it, and just wont speak about it AT all, when you know if you said you had the flu or had broken your leg they would be full of kindness and support

    “i get depressed to, but ive got kids so i just have to get on with it” (if you had real depression love then that wouldnt make any difference)

    “lets have a night out, you will soon feel ok” (may come from kindness but again, Not going to help, you can feel ten times more depressed in a crowd of people that really dont want to know)

  78. Louise cardwell says:

    This is so true and I also find it v frustrating when people don’t understand at all about mental illness. I love ur blogxx

  79. Susan says:

    I heard so many variations of several of those and many just made things worse, especially when I wasn’t aware that I had a medical problem. I bought into the idea that it was my own fault that I was depressed and if I could just pull myself together I’d be okay. But I couldn’t and I wasn’t.
    After many wasted years I went to a great doctor who listened and respected me and the medication he prescribed made all the difference. However, I have since moved and when I went to a new doctor and tried to discuss two of the side effects that concerned me (significant weight gain and loss of libido) he completely dismissed both. He told me to exercise (but ignored my point that not only did I exercise several times a week but I had a personal trainer) and that the loss of libido was a symptom of my depression (he ignored my point that libido was one of the things that worked fine before I started the medication). Honestly, if a man had rocked up to that doctor with a sexual dysfunction issue I am sure that he wouldn’t have been dismissed. Depression is still seen by too many health professionals as being a ‘hysterical’ female condition. Anyway, I’m trying life without a prescription and I’m doing okay.
    Thanks for your post – it clearly tapped into frustrations many of us have and I’m going to bookmark this page for my Heath Studies students.

  80. Lily says:

    “How can you be depressed? I’ve given you everything in the world!” -my father

    • Hi Lily, That’s similar to my “lovely husband and kids” comment…sometimes it can look to others as if we should have everythng we need to be happy, and they feel puzzled and maybe even resentful if we’re not. If only it were that simple…

  81. Really well expressed! x

  82. ZerostarZ says:

    Ok. I have an interesting question. I’m not bipolar but I definitely fit the :”I really am confident/bubbly/jolly/self-assured/whatever – in fact, sometimes a bit too much so, and that’s a feature of my illness in itself. Most of the time, though, I’m not – I’m self-doubting, self-hating, anxious, and convinced I am a terrible person and that I am awful at my job.” I’ve probably got other markers for depression, yet as I find so many people turning to the internet to speak of their treatments ect, what of those of us who don’t want treatment? How can I put this more clearly… I will, no matter what the personal cost, never agree to prescription drug treatment. It is a deeply held principle. That is off the table from the start. At nearly 30 years old, when I was forced into treatment as a teenager, even then I was well aware that what the psychologist/psychiatrist was telling me were things I had already thought of myself. I have yet to find a proffessional who has given me more insight than could be found asking a most trusted friend to give an objective evaluation, or in my own lenghthy research over the years. I do not want the label “depressed person”.
    I accept clearly that for some teetering on the brink, (and I’ve been out there myself, nearly unable to function) this acceptance of the suffering from a disease is immensely relieving and helpful – it can save lives. Yet every triumph I earn on my own against bad periods in my emotional rollercoaster reinforces the belief in my own strength. But in the community of those who “accept” their mental illness, I risk being pitied as someone in denial. If the there ever was a time when I was approaching last resort I would turn to some form of councilling again perhaps, but it would be under the most extreme duress. And should they recommend a medication, I will turn round and be on my way. In my admission that I share many of the feelings and experiences of those that identify as suffering from depression, yet strive to find within myself the correct changes in thinking and methods that work for me and rely on my self-awareness to continue fighting against the worst parts of my psychology – I wonder if there are others like me? (Besides the holistic health crowd – I’m not a member of their ranks either) Where are they? And what of us? Do you see people like me as those hopelessly in denial, or do you respect my choices in the same way I respect yours? I find often that this is not the case.
    What are your thoughts?

    • Hello ZerostarZ, I don’t think there is anything much to be gained by somebody embarking on a treatment plan that feels as if it is against their values or beliefs…. that would seem likely to undermine any positive benefit because of the negative feelings caused. I suppose that for each individual, there is a a trade-off between how they see their condition, how much they feel it limits them, and what treatment(s) they are prepared to use. I am pretty sure that without the drugs I have taken over the years, I would probably have killed myself by now. I have a partner and kids and that’s not an option. There are indeed people who never take drugs and manage things other ways. The writer and journalist Stephanie Merritt has published articles about how she deals with her mood disorder through diet alone, for example. There are other people who refuse to see their condition as an “illness” or “disabling” – for example Tom Wootton writes on “The Bipolar Advantage” and how he sees bipolar not as disabling, but as giving us an edge. I just know that for me, when I am ill I can’t work, I can’t socialise, I can’t take care of my kids, and I have to accept whatever help is offered to me. Don’t know if any of that helps?

    • Hi ZerostarZ,
      I hope you don’t mind me replying too!

      I spent years refusing to accept the label of depression. The one time I got close, a doctor told me I was being silly and to take a hot bath before bed (not sure he’d heard a word of my 5 minute outburst – doctors ey? Ho hum!). Even when I finally took the label on, I vowed never to take medication. Unfortunately, for me, it has turned out to be my best option. And as much as I hate being reliant on manufactured chemicals, I prefer living,

      It sounds as if you cope well regardless. I have a great respect for that. And I can completely understand where you’re coming from with the counselling. My first experience of it was beyond a joke. As was my second. And third! I’m lucky in that I finally found a counsellor I felt comfortable with, who I didn’t think was pitying me or looking down on me. Unfortunately I had to leave her behind when I moved, but c’est la vie!

      Long rambly reply to basically just say; I respect you and your choices. I especially respect that you are strong enough to do all of this without the drugs!

  83. K says:

    Although I’ve been absolutely shocked reading one on the commenters situations, with the locum GP making her feel like her troubles aren’t worth his time, I can imagine this happen so easily. It reminded me about my postnatal depression, when after plucking just enough courage to talk about it, my regular GP cut me short by saying that it’s only one problem per visit. I still feel bitter about it although it happened years ago. Remember walking home with the baby and crying on the street, feeling crap and I never even questioned my GP. It just makes you feel really small and guilty for bothering anyone with your depression.

    • I think the nasty/thoughtless things by health professionals sometimes stay with you the most, because it takes courage to go to one and ask for help, and when you get that sort of response it’s easy to feel that there is no help, and you are all alone with your difficulties 😦

  84. evenstarwen says:

    As someone with type 2 bipolar disorder, I can especially relate with numbers 4 and 6. I also disappear, so no one really sees me when I’m at the low points. And there’s no big trauma in my life, which makes me feel terribly guilty and self-indulgent about being sick in the first place. Thank you for writing this and helping me understand my own frustrations better.

    • Thank you for responding! Did you read the post I put up yesterday, “Ten supportive things I’m glad somebody said to me”? In that one I talk a bit about how earlier this year I was feeling guilty and “bad” for getting depressed again for “no reason”… I totally relate to what you say about worrying to are being self-indulgent. I came back from my first visit to the psychiatrist earlier this year and said, “Oh, I have been really ill!” and my partner laughed at me because to him it was so obvious, while a part of me still felt like I should be able to just snap out of it. C

  85. Anonymous says:

    A different style of thing not to say, but a friend reacted badly to me saying “I’m worried that you might do something stupid” as a way of talking about suicide, if you are looking out for a friend then consider another wording, “something stupid” was a mistake.

    • I just read non-fiction book in which the author was talking to a student who was struggling with homicidal thoughts, and she said, “Do I need to be concerned?” I thought that was a pretty decent way to phrase things. As I’ve been suicidal myself, I think I would respond well to this phrasing.

      • Harriet R says:

        Ooh yes, I will remember that. Especially because it can be helpful to distinguish between suicidal feelings and suicidal intentions.

    • Robert says:

      Anonymous – that is so unfortunate.

      When I have been at my own extremes I have used precisely that periphrastic form of words – thinking and saying I’m worried I might do something very silly indeed.

      We have, I feel sure, a collection of words we would be happy to use to describe ourselves but object strongly when used by others to us.

      Your worry was real and as likely was justified.

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  87. Not wishing to profit from distress, but my way out of depression/anxiety was to write, collate and publish this booklet : http://dymvue.blogspot.com/p/publications.html. Hope it may help others.

  88. Nichola says:

    Hi, thanks for this list and the follow up of helpful comments list.

    I showed the first list to my husband ( just emailed him the new one) and he said it was as if I had written them!!!

    thank you xx

  89. alejandra says:

    “medical aid”!!! Tell me about it! My favourite from an emergency hotline (for depression!) last month:

    “Oh, that sounds really complicated with you! It seams that every step you could take to help you is blocked right now. I really don’t know what to say to you!”
    Thank you!! Sorry I am not calling an emergency hotline with some easy light story so that you could tell me to have a massage and keep smiling! Oh my god felt I better after being reassured by trained staff that there was nothing I could do!

    Next one, family support center: “You should try to do one small step after another. Promise me you’ll go home now and make yourself a cup of tea – will you?!”
    Hooray! I was cured after this tea, magic! I can’t hear this “small step”-thing anymore, everyone is just trying to get you back into somewhat “suitable-for-society”-contition so that it’s not so obvious anymore that you’re really not ok. Hey look, you managed to clean the kitchen today, don’t be so harsh on yourself!

    I am not denying that when it’s really bad and I am very low it can be a challenge to clean the kitchen, but the simple fact that I “get along” with the daily tasks does not mean that the inside is feeling any better. But that’s all that seams to count these days! I went to three therapeutes and they all told me that they could offer me “support for my daily life”, but no real therapy.
    I quit that bullshit completely and am now slowly working through my inner demons by myself and the help of my wonderful, adamant, and sometimes cruel boyfriend who does not accept any lies to myself anymore, always tells me what he thinks without covering it up to “protect” me and has some awsome analytic scills. I am feeling better and better and have the impression that I am finally reaching the real reasons hidden inside me that darken my soul and freeze me.

    If the intentions of someone trying to help would be to make a long-term-effect, he should have these inner obstacles in mind, without that and with all these “watch a movie and relax”-comments you are not only not solving anything, but also proving that you are not interested in the other person really getting better for the rest of her life! You are just proving that you want this problem out of your sight – and we keep struggling on and on!

    Thank you for your article and keep up the work on yourself – it’s worth it! You’re worth it!

  90. Felicity says:

    Number 4 really hits home with me! People say this to me ALL of the time! Again, I can be very happy and bubbly but I’m also clearly a great actress because I can also deceive people into this when I’m feeling rubbish. But who wants to be friends with a depressive? So hiding it can be easier than letting rip!

    • Number four has been the one that I have had the most “yes, THAT!” responses about. I thinking I overdid it keeping the mask up when I should have taken some time out, and that’s part of what has led to my current episode – it’s a strain being bubbly/jolly etc!

      • Robert says:

        Would one of the reasons number 4 is so hurtful be that it is akin to being told something like “ah…well…but you should have said”? That always gets my hackles up especially if said with that particular sing-songy sarcastic ring to it.

        Basically it’s a put-down.

        They are never really implying “if you had talked to me about it I would have been the caring sharing listening….” – because that’s what they WOULD have said if that’s what they meant – not “ah…well…but you should have said”.

  91. Monty says:

    I think the worst thing anyone said to me on the subject of my (quite debilitating) depression was “I think you’re just too used to beautiful things”, by a nurse, at the psych ward, just after I had been SECTIONED for multiple suicide attempts (it turns out it’s pretty hard to drown yourself, fyi).
    Never mind that I was feeling so depressed because I was tired of being hit on constantly, hated by other women, disrespected on the street, raped, one night stand-ed and eventually dumped by my boyfriend of a year after I told him I was depressed for the above reasons and the fact that my parents were divorcing and were physically fighting each other, while all my ‘friends’ were too busy partying and getting high to notice.
    But because I’m pretty and my parents are well-off I can just help myself?

  92. Harriet R says:

    I haven’t read all the comments so this may have come up, but I had quite a specialised one. I was at a top university, well known for its high-pressure environment, for a postgraduate taught Masters. I was falling apart at the seams but was told “Everyone feels like this here for the first six months, you’ll be fine soon” – by the time that “first six months was over” it was too late and I dropped out because I hadn’t got the right support early enough. That, incidentally, was from a psychiatrist who had been to the same university and treated many students and academics from that university. Also there’s something seriously wrong with a place if that many people are feeling suicidal and unable to function!

    Another gem from that time came from my departmental advisor – when I told him I wasn’t coping he asked me what help I wanted – in theory an ok question, except I really wasn’t in the position to know what I needed or what was available to me, and it just made me go “oh I’m sure I’ll be fine”.

    Ho hum. After getting out things are tons better.

    • I haven’t quite had that, but I have had people say “everyone feels like that for the first six months, it’ll get better” about a) having a new baby, b) my first six months’ practice after qualifying in my chosen profession, and c) my first six months in management. I’m not denying that everyone struggles with those things, but I was definitely struggling MORE than many people do, and having a longterm mental health problem means that struggling is more dangerous for me, as it could trigger a major episode. So sorry that you weren’t helped to enjoy the experience and complete your Masters, but very glad to hear that things are so much better since you left 🙂

  93. Pixie says:

    Brilliant blog. I’ve also shared your “10 supportive things” on my facebook. The worst one I’ve ever had? From a psychiatrist who told me “I think it’s all in your head” and made me feel I was wasting his time. Of course it’s in my head, you idiot, it’s a mental illness. Some people, eh?

  94. My wife and I lost our first child a few weeks ago. He was born without functioning lungs or kidneys and we had to let him go when he was just three days old. It was heartbreaking. The hardest and most painful thing we’ve ever been through, or are likely to go through again.

    I do worry that we’ll fall into depression, or that we already have.

    What’s been getting us through this is the support of or friends. Even something as simple as someone offering to come over and cook us dinner, or just let us know we can call them if we need someone to talk to has been such a great help.

    I’m very happy to be able to say that no-one has reacted in the ways you’ve described. I’m not sure how I would respond if they did.

    I’m so sorry that you’ve had to go through this. I hope you can find the support you need.

    • Hello Paul, so sorry to hear about your terrible loss. I am so glad to hear that you haven’t had any negative responses, because I know that sometimes people can react insensitively to bereavement, again I think out of not knowing what to say, or feeling awkward. I don’t know if you read my companion piece on ten supportive things people can say, but it sounds like your friends are spot on already, thank goodness. I also speak in the companion piece about some of the excellent support I am getting from my healthcare team; if you do feel that you or your wife is moving from the grief you will need to go through into something more like depression, there is good help out there, although sometimes you have to persevere a little to find it. Take care of yourselves x

      • Thank you, for the advice in your other post and for your kind words. We’re lucky in that any friends who have felt awkward have admitted as much, allowing my wife and I to understand if they don’t seem to have much to say, or at least starting the ball rolling on discussing the issue.

        I’ll be sure to link to your companion piece from my Facebook account too.

      • Thanks, Paul! And I’m sure your friends appreciate your honesty as much you do theirs 🙂

  95. Kim says:

    Thank you so much for your posts (this and the following, which I found through Mind).

    The “pull yourself together” attitude is certainly very difficult to deal with – especially mid-depression. I remember vividly spending 2 days trying to find the courage to leave my bedroom – when I did, one flatmate simply smiled and asked if I’d like to watch a film, the other was very impatient and wanted to know why I didn’t just “put in more effort at ‘beating’ it”. Needless to say it was the negative I focussed on, and back to my room I went. However, we’ve since spoken about it, and it was just “tough love” gone wrong. I think people just aren’t aware of the impact their words can have at such a vunerable time…

    Anyway, I’m rambling! Thank you again for taking the time to write these posts. I will follow your blog with interest 🙂

    Much love,

  96. roofette says:

    As one who has been blessed to not have a chronic depression or anxiety issue, I have also been surrounded with people who do. My bff from childhood was misdiagnosed a couple times til she finally was diagnosed with manic depression. She has been struggling with that for over 30 years. My stepsister was misdiagnosed at first with adolescent idiopathic schizophrenia, and later with manic depression. It proved fatal for her. And my mom died recently and had suffered with severe chronic depression for decades. Add in a nice mix of severe anxiety, Obsessive compulsive disorder, and some post traumatic stress (untreated) and you can imagine the hell her life was.

    But unlike some posters above, I am not amazed at the callousness, stupidity and sometimes flat cruelty of so called medical professionals. It gets worse.

    In fact, if you have a long history of depression, your care is likely to get worse. Because depression and many of it’s meds have a host of symptoms or side effects that cover such a broad range, often doctors–even good doctors–attribute a change in those symptoms to the meds and the ailments and only do a cursory exam to check other possibilities.

    For my mom, other than sadness, fatigue has been the overriding overwhelming symptom of her depression. And so when she complained for weeks that her fatigue was worse than ever, and that it frightened her, they checked her heart–with a stethoscope–and lungs, and sent her on her way. And three weeks later she went to the er with abdominal pain, and they said it was an horrific case of pneumonia, and right after they brought her for a cat scan she had an aortic rupture and died. Could this have been prevented if she wasn’t seen as a depressive first? I don’t know. But I think maybe is at least a fair answer.

    I can’t stress enough how important it is to have Dr’s that don’t look only at the depression, but also at the whole body. And when possible, to have a friend, a partner, a spouse to go with you when you feel something more or different is going on. Because an advocate in the room sometimes helps the doctor pay more attention. Sometimes they can say –Yes, yes, I know she has always had fatigue, but now it is far worse. Or whatever the symptoms are.

    My mom had good doctor’s for the most part, and even then they missed that her heart was failing for weeks.

    Well this certainly won’t cheer anyone up, but because it is so fresh to me, and because I have watched all my loved ones with depression or manicdepression go through all of the things on your list, I thought I should share. It’s especially important for older people with depression etc., because they often have other age related ailments that also complicate diagnosis.

    Thanks for your article.

    • Hi, I am glad to be able to tell you that I do have a long history of depression/bipolar (25 years so far) but I have only found my care has got *better* over time. My current psychistrist is very keen on making sure that my diet and exercise etc are a help not a hinderance, it’s not all about the meds. However, UK mental health charities have stressed that many people with mental health problems have their physical symptoms overlooked as I am sorry to hear happened with your mom. You have been through a lot yourself watching those around you suffering, and now losing your mom, please look after yourself and thanks so much for taking the time to comment on my article.

  97. Juan Manuel says:

    I think what’s important is to cut the feedback that leads to depression. Listening, being supportive, tolerant is very important. But being sympathetic, agreeing is dangerous. Depression is caused by many reasons, and sometimes its just what that person’s mind has learned works for getting attention and solution to their problems; when these don’t get solved, they get deeper and deeper into depression, and deeper and deeper into avoidance.

    • Hi Juan, did you happen to read the companion piece I posted yesterday (Ten supportive things I’m glad someone said to me)? In that article I talk about how valuable my friends and family can be in giving me a reality check when my thinking is very depressed and distorted.

  98. Misheard says:

    I’d like to thank you for your insight into what seems to be a far too common scenario.

    I suffer from schizoaffective bi-polar type, and the depressive episodes can last for weeks if not months. While my husband is incredibly supportive (alibet a little overwhelmed at times), my “social worker/therapist” exhibits many of the traits you mentioned. I’m in the process of trying to get a new therapist seeing as how my current on only cares to compare my life to her personal worldview without regards to the facts and circumstances surrounding my own.

    Your words have done more for me today than the last six months of therapy with her.
    Thank you again.

    • Hi Misheard, it is making me so happy how many people have related to my post and that it’s articulated what they feel inside. I hope you manage to get a new therapist, sounds like that would be a really positive step, good luck!

  99. Butterfly says:

    This blog is so accurate! I have cyclic depression, and I’ve heard quite a few of the things in here – not the motherhood ones, though. I’m not a mum yet.

    Trouble is, I try going to the doctor’s now, and the conversation goes…
    Doctor: What’s your job?
    Me: I’m a student.
    Doctor: Studying what?
    Me: Psychology.
    Doctor: Oh.

    …then they refuse to take me seriously because they think I’m making it up!!

    • Henry Dunn says:

      I’m a Music Psychotherapist working for the NHS and also suffer depression, so there is a danger of getting “physician heal thyself” comments. The response is to say that a wounded healer is always more understanding and more effective!

  100. Meredith says:

    Having read this entire page, I could write pages and pages of responses! The comment that I get all the time is “You just need to get out more,” or “You just need to put yourself out there more” which drives me nuts because everybody’s said it, and if it were that easy, I’d already be doing it.

    I try to have patience with people who are trying (and failing) to help. Like explaining that I would almost rather sky dive than go on a blind date (followed up by a, “no, really. I would rather jump out of a plane”), or by making sure that people understand that it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s that I can’t. I find that being specific like that with people often helps them understand better the magnitude of what I feel.

    I also wanted to say that if you’ve had a bad experience with a doctor, nurse, therapist/counselor, or any other kind of professional, don’t give up! It’s difficult finding somebody who’s a good fit, and it’s okay to say, “I don’t think things are working here, could you refer me to someone else?” I had to say that to the doctor I had seen since I was 12, after over a decade with her. It was difficult to tell her that I didn’t think we were making progress, because I had become very attached, but I’m very glad I did. Getting someone else’s perspective or using a different approach can make all the difference.

  101. Ann Wroth says:

    thank you, thank you, thank you. the “you’re so bubbly” and “you have such a lovely family” ones were so applicable to me (especially the bubbly one) that tears came to my eyes. thank you for being there, for speaking for me and thank you to my friend who shared this on facebook.

    • Hi Ann, so many people have said that number 4 is the one they most relate to …. think I might have to look at this issue in more detail in a future post. I really appreciate you leaving me your comment, and I am honoured that you feel I have managed to put into words what you feel inside 🙂

  102. Ann says:

    thank you thank you thank you!! thank you for being here, for saying this, for understanding the “bubbly” comment which makes me so crazy too. someone understands. i have tears in my eyes. and thank you to my friend who posted this link on facebook.

  103. Nora says:

    I just started this recently, but in case anyone cares, here is a link to a blog I started with regards to being a young 20-something with bipolar disorder…


    I could have SO many things to say in this comment, a friend just posted this article on Facebook and it was so wonderful to read.

    I’ll just say one thing thing for now… After being admitted to the closest hospital to my apartment in Chicago (which let’s just say is probably a 180-turn in quality from the lovely Northwest Memorial…), they kept me in telemetry for approximately a day in a half to “monitor my heart” (?) because of the sedatives, etc. I took as an attempted suicide. They didn’t admit me to psych because they DIDN’T HAVE A PSYCHIATRIST ON-CALL ON THE WEEKENDS. As my mom (who would/has done anything in the world for me) put it “What…people don’t get sick on weekends? People don’t need psychiatric help on weekends?” When we asked over and over again if he could come in and A) admit me or B) discharge me, we were told they couldn’t get ahold of him. The last thing I wanted was to be admitted, I went through that about a year and a half ago and I didn’t think it could do anything for me that my own doctors couldn’t do better. I was in such an awful state of fogginess, all I wanted was to go sleep in my bed at my parents’ house. We explained that I already have a psychiatrist, I was no longer a danger to myself, that I would be in the care of my parents and I would see my own doctor. After hours of drama (including personnel who admitted me from the emergency room coming to deliver their personal opinion that it didn’t seem like my mother was taking the situation very seriously by wanting to get me out of that hellhole), I was lucky enough to be discharged. Probably lucky because my own psychiatrist is a rockstar and talked to them.

    Anyway, what reminded me of this scenario was the lovely, younger nurse who, from the moment I was under her care told me “I’m too young and smart and beautiful” to “do anything like this” and “no man is worth it.” [This was based on the wrong but continuously misunderstood point that my boyfriend at the time directly had something to do with the impetus for the suicide attempt. He didn’t. That brings me to another point-I can’t speak for everyone, but nothing that has ever driven me to attempt suicide is the *direct* result of a circumstance. Some circumstances set off a cascade of events, but I’ve attempted suicide because I’ve been sick, not been managing myself, been misdiagnosed, etc, etc, etc… I think some people flatter themselves if they think a suicide attempt “their fault” and in my opinion that’s a juvenile understanding of a complex problem.] I guess my point was that as well-intentioned as that nurse was, she was NOT a nurse from the psych ward and had no place to tell me I was apparently too privileged to want to kill myself. This disease does not discriminate, and part of my guilt and depression comes from *knowing* that I come from a loving, supportive family who provide a lot for me and that I am lucky to have a good education and hopefully a good future. Thanks for rubbing it in that I’m not “appreciating” it or however it is you’re interpreting it. I also creepily got a text message from an EMT who apparently got my number from a friend who rode in an ambulance with me (not sure if it’s standard procedure or not-I’ve heard sometimes EMT message/call people and send hopes that they’re well? Struck me as unprofessional but I was told it happens sometimes). The messages had the same gist-“you’re young and beautiful, I hope you know that and want to live, blah blah blah.” I understand it’s well-intentioned, but it actually makes me feel like shit.

    Wow this was much longer than I intended, but hopefully someone will appreciate.

    I appreciate your brave writing and will be following your blog now.


  104. Truth is Beauty says:

    Thanks for the excellent post. The dumbest thing anyone has said to me has to be ‘people who commit suicide are so selfish!’, from a co-worker whose family member had committed suicide on her birthday when she was a child. Apparently it had ruined her day because no one paid her any attention.

    When I first tried to tell my mother I was depressed in high school, she said ‘we’re all depressed, we would all like help, but we can’t afford to do anything about it now.’ When I plucked up the courage to talk to my GP, all he said was that it definitely wasn’t the Pill (which I was taking for my chronic acne), so I should keep taking it. Not a word about antidepressants. Incidentally, my depression was definitely exacerbated by the Pill.

    One I get quite often from men is ‘you just don’t want to be happy’ when they can’t help me. Because of this a lot of the time I’ll fake being happy to either stop people from pestering me to cheer up, or to make them feel good because they’ve found the magic platitude that has ‘fixed’ me.

  105. b. says:

    My best friend has struggled with depression for all the 10 years I’ve known her- through high school, college, and now professional and married life. When I hear the kinds of things people say to her- things like your list- it makes me so sad for those people. If they really knew her, they’d never make such ridiculous assumptions. I feel blessed to have been her friend, both in the “good” and “bad” times, because I know I’m a better person for seeing how strong she really is. Thank you for sharing this!

  106. Amanda Veach-Cook says:

    Some of my favorites from my mother:

    “I don’t see what you have to be depressed about; you’ve never wanted for anything in your life.”

    “Why can’t you just be happy?!?”

    “Now, there’s no reason for you to get depressed over this.”

    She’s made some progress in the past 15 years, but she still says stuff that proves how much she doesn’t understand this disease.

  107. Kristie says:

    “Depression can be managed with diet and exercise”. Um, I’m a size 6 marathon runner who eats organic, balanced foods, and finished culinary school last year. Seratonin is a chemical. Sometimes my body stops making it. That doesn’t mean I sit on my ass and eat Cheetos all day. Fuck.

  108. Anon says:

    Great article! Should be compulsory reading for everyone!

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  111. Annie M says:

    I didn’t realize what was going on as a teenager until a teacher pulled a #4 on me. I remember looking at her and thinking “ARE YOU KIDDING? HOW COULD YOU NOT SEE THIS?” After that point I realized that it might not just be normal teenage angst. The worst part for me is that I KNOW that everything’s ok, or at least not as bad as my emotional reaction is making it out to be, but I still feel awful. And no amount of funny movies or massages or nice words can turn it off. You just have to wait it out. But then, it isn’t quite so bad, because I know that it IS going to pass, eventually.

  112. Sadgrub says:

    Spot on… my (ex) mother in law regularly gave me, “When I feel down, I have a long bath and read a good book.”
    I had just been released from a mental hospital… now, WHY hadn’t the psychiatrists there thought of that??!
    My ex husband was also told by a GP he’d rushed me to in desperation whilst I was suicidal (in front of me) that I was emotionally blackmailing the people around me and that if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it(!!)
    Finally, it was always so helpless during my darkest times to be told how negative and selfish I was, as self-hate pushed me very close to the edge many times.
    On a positive note though (see, I AM capable of this), whilst I’m not a poster-child of perfect mental health, I’m a lot better nowadays. There can be a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel 🙂 x

  113. Amen! A couple of things said to me that weren’t on the list: “What do you have to be depressed about? You’re young/employed/attractive.” None of those (sometimes very subjective) things mattered to or registered in my depressed brain, and those people had no idea of my history. Youth doesn’t preclude someone from experiencing negativity – even though the implication that depression needs an external cause shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the illness itself. Plus, all that did was make me feel ungrateful because people DO have it worse, and that fed the self-hatred and depressive cycle…

    Also: “You just need a hobby!” No, I need to work on my crippling self-esteem and social anxiety issues that prevent me from leaving the house without experiencing multiple panic attacks. Then I’ll take up needlepoint.

    “Of course your doctor prescribed something – EVERYONE gets put on pills these days.” Yeah, over-prescribing is a big deal. But I didn’t choose to take meds until I’d done the research myself. Don’t trivialise my (very difficult) decision by implying that I’m not REALLY sick.

    “You seem fine. You were laughing the other day.” Sweet, next time I’ll burst into tears and talk about my self-harm issues so you know I’m not talking up this wacky “mental illness” thing.

    • Oh also: “Feeling a bit sad?” -The doctor I went to after self-harming when I was 15, to get a referral to a shrink. Cool, cheers, thanks for patronising me and trivialising my problem in one quick sentence.

  114. Rick Bagnall says:

    I went through a battle with depression in college, but when I went to see the campus doctor, his message boiled down to “get some study skills, you lazy bum.” You see, my blood work all came out normal, and the three (!) questions that he asked to determine if depression was applicable were:
    1) Is there a family history of depression? (I don’t know, it’s not something that comes up in casual conversation.)
    2) Have you had any crying spells? (Well, no. I’m not exactly macho, but I still don’t cry all that often. Maybe once every other year, barring dust or other irritants in my eye. And even then, it’s not usually the “bawl your eyes out until you can’t catch your breath” type of crying spell he was looking for. That’s happened precisely once since I graduated from high school in 1991.)
    3) Have you had any thoughts of suicide? (Hell, no! My family means too much to me for me to do that to them.)

    Never mind that I told him point blank “there is something wrong with me. I don’t have any energy or motivation, even to do things that I normally enjoy doing. I am failing just about every class I am taking, which has never happened to me before, and yet I still can’t muster up the effort to attend classes most days. Help me!” Fortunately, my family doctor was a little more reasonable with his diagnosis when he saw me two months later.

    So, yeah…I don’t remember the precise words, but being told that I was essentially just being lazy has to rank as my number one.

  115. Essael Bosch says:

    I’ve heard my fair share of these too. I think people assume they can get away with this kind of thing because depressed people are less likely to fight back or complain. I was in a session with my ex-psychiatrist and he said “Well, you don’t look depressed and in my experience, people who don’t look depressed can’t be that depressed…” It was on that day I walked out of his office and started making plans to move city to somewhere that had a better mental health team. Four years later, I’m living with my fiance, back in work and loving life. It pains me to think how much sooner I could have gotten to this place without ignorant idiots holding me back with their prejudices.

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  118. Morrigan says:

    There are so many valid and interesting replies here and I don’t normally comment on blogs, but there’s one thing I feel I must mention:
    It hurts me most when friends/significant others and acquaintances feign understanding and sympathy, and then if something nasty or quarrelsome happens to the relationship, suddenly my depression is entirely at fault, and it’s a valid case and argument against me… that somehow since I have a mental illness, I’m automatically the guilty party.
    It makes me so upset and angry. I’ve had more than one long term partner pull this on me before. I’m not the kind of depressive to turn my pain on others at all; if anything, I turn it all in upon myself, silent daggers slowly bleeding me out every day… One of my worst stress symptoms is self harm, scratching and picking myself to scars and shreds. (I could never wear a skirt without heavy stockings again, my scarred arms and shins make me look like a shrapnel victim.)
    So to have insecurities that were shared in trust turned and used against me, to be told when someone is being emotionally cruel “you just need help, you’re insane”… wow. It’s a deathly feeling, crushing.
    That’s it. The fact that for a lot of people, mental illness equals insanity and IRRATIONALITY, and that means they can use it as a last resort against me. It makes my heart ill.

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  121. GP: “well as long as you are crying, you are all right” . It had taken me two months to pluck up the courage to go and ask for help. Two years later i had another GP who gave me a proper diagnosis.

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  123. Ann says:

    My mother, with every good will in the world, would always ask, “What are you depressed about?”
    “No no no, it’s not about anything!”
    “Oh,” she would reply doubtfully.
    She never quite got it, but we switched on whatever repeat of Law and Order was on at the moment, and she would rub my head. Then we’d swap places at the 30-minute mark. So it worked out okay.

  124. James says:

    I think a theme that runs through the responses depressed people get from other, ‘normal’, people is that some how you, and everyone else, are under an obligation to be happy and want to engage with life.
    They cannot understand why you have little or no interest in things; why you dislike human nature – like being an unwilling player in the game of life.
    It almost seems to me as though we are programmed differently to non depressed people.

  125. Sue says:

    Spot on post, made me laugh. Had all/variations of of those comments over the years. Can add, “you would feel better if you cleaned the rabbit out”. “You would feel better if you went to church”. After attempted overdose, from Dr. “I need to go and see someone who is really ill”. “you should have children”, from councillor I was paying, which made it worse. “you are not engaging” when CBT just didnt work. Have tried CBT 3 times but, it wont help and have been made to feel as if its me being awkward.
    Im “lucky”, recent medication, tho it makes my brain feel mushy, does help. Have finally accepted that all the exercise/sensible food/positive thinking dosnt bring the sense of peace that mediation does.
    Most people friends/colleagues, may suspect but dont know I have mental health issues. Just starting to be a bit more open rather than hide it all, but difficult.

  126. Thank you for this. ❤

  127. WhoGirl says:

    A lot of these really hit home for me, but a couple others that I’ve gotten (mostly from my mom, who tries to be supportive but really *doesn’t get it*) over the years that really bug me are:

    “You seem so much happier, what do you mean you’re depressed again/still?” I can seem happy, I can have good days, and I can still be depressed. Depression and sadness aren’t the same. I can even be *less* depressed, perhaps interpreted as happier, and still *be* depressed.

    “Hmm, maybe it’s just situational. That’s how it was for me. Maybe you’ll feel better when things settle down.” Having lived with depression for most of the last 10-15 years, since pretty much my earliest memories, I feel pretty safe in saying it’s not just situational. You got depressed for a few months after your marriage; yes it was extreme and you needed help, but that’s still pretty normal. Trust me that this is something different.

    “Why are you depressed? Maybe it’s something we can work on.” Therapy can help. Talking or writing about things can help. Superior attitudes and an assumption that there’s one specific thing wrong causing my depression and a belief that it can be “fixed” and I’ll magically be better cannot help.

    “Well, it’s not like you have a mental illness.” Actually, I do. I may not be bipolar or schizophrenic, and I may have never been seriously suicidal, but I do have diagnosed mental health problems. I have been depressed the majority of my life, and I was medicated for depression for several years. I’m lucky that it’s nothing more extreme than that, lucky that I’m able to function without medication now, but I’m still not “well”. That doesn’t mean something’s wrong with me, it just means my brain is different. Even if my symptoms have been better the last few years, that doesn’t mean my struggles have gone away. Chances are they never will. Please do not assume that my problems are trivial, when I’m the one living with them everyday.

    One of the worst situations I’ve encountered occurred a couple of weeks ago between my best friend and her sister. My friend, who was formally diagnosed as bipolar about a year ago but had been informally diagnosed a couple years previously and has been medicated for a few months now and is doing wonderfully, had an exhausting few days and cancelled some plans with her sister rather last minute, because she was tired and just wanted to spend the evening at home. The next day, my friend was trying to reschedule, and her sister’s response was “I’m pissed, but I guess I have to make allowances for your mental illness.” Everyone has bad days, mental health problems are not the cause of all our behaviors. Stop being an insensitive jerk. She wasn’t ‘being bipolar,’ she was being tired; don’t through illness, mental or otherwise, in someone’s face.

    Perhaps the worst of all was when a relative of mine started having her first psychotic break, prior to diagnosis, and her father insisted, to her and to others, “She’s just cutting herself for attention.” Even if that *were* the case, don’t you think there’s something WRONG if someone is willing to cause themselves extreme harm just to get attention?? That’s not “normal”, and it’s not okay. Someone who is acting that way and inflicting harm upon herself needs help. Ignoring the problem does not make it go away; when it comes to mental illness, I think that is the thing most people have the greatest need to understand.

    ((Sorry for all the ranting. This is a very sensitive topic for me, and this post reminded me of a lot of not-so-pleasant conversations.)

  128. Diana says:

    Thank you for listing your experiences at the hands of the “caring” professions and those who should know better. There is no explanation for feeling so low and none should be needed, yet somehow, despite all the “mental health education” of recent years, attitudes and prejudices persist. Articles like yours go a long to reassure those of us who have, at one time or another, felt hopelessness or despair that we are not alone in our experiences.
    When I felt at my worst, I was told by friends, family and various medics to “pull myself together” even though my world had fallen apart as the result of a traumatic experience. It took me years to recover but I am fortunate that I have and know that some people spend a sizeable chunk of their lives feeling depressed. Take care and know you are not alone.

  129. Great piece, some people just don’t think about the effect they have on others and are insensitive.
    I had #9 recently – when you’re depressed you often don’t know what you want and have difficulty making decisions, you just need some support. They’re the professionals, they should be able to figure out what kind of support is needed! CMHTs are useless, they don’t want to take anyone and if they do deign to they want to discharge us as soon as possible. I can’t believe a CPN actually said depression & bipolar aren’t serious!

  130. coyote INFJ says:

    Surprised by the response to this were you? Well that will teach you to write an intelligent article. You’ll think twice before you do that again. Seriously, well done. Be proud.

    • Haha! Let’s see if I’m capable of writing another intelligent article before we start to worry 😉

      • coyote INFJ says:

        Didn’t mention my favorite (is that the right word?). Someone sees the look on my face (apparently expressive) of a coming onset and says “Oh no don’t.”. As if it is is voluntary as a choice of what breakfast cereal to have.

  131. lightened heart says:

    Just had to comment after reading this; it was so touching. I’m a newly-married college grad with anixety-panic disorder and ADHD (though not formally diagnosed on the latter), and a history of self-injury. I’ve heard several of these responses in some shape or form, sadly from people I looked to for help. But the the worst by far had to come from my mother, while I was on break from school after a bad reaction to my first psych drug…”I’ve seen you go through this procrastination-then-freak-out routine for years, and you’re doing it to yourself. YOUR SISTER HAS BREAK-FROM-REALITY PANIC ATTACKS, YOU’RE NOT THAT BAD OFF.” She also ranted about how I was only putting a bandaid on it by running to meds and the like, and how I wasn’t this way when I was little. Now, I can happily say that since then we’ve come to more of an understanding–she even admitted to potential inherited depression herself–but what she said was entirely uncalled for. I mean, how does comparing one sibling to another help anything?! Oh, my sister has a real problem, but I can’t compare, so I must not have one…too bad she didn’t see me during school. That was the summer I started cutting…

    I hope this post opens people’s eyes to the inadvertent–and sometimes not so inadvertent–damage these simple statements make…thanks for sharing! And just for a happy ending, I’m almost two years clean from self-injury, and the right meds have helped me bring myself to a manageable level (not just ‘making everything better’). My husband gladly joined me in counseling sessions to learn how to healthily approach my problems, adding to my support system. My sister is also getting the help she needs ^-^ Thanks again.

    • Thank you so much for commenting on my blog, I am really pleased to hear that you liked the post and even more pleased to hear that life is now going well for you and things are more uncontrol! Long may it continue, take care 🙂

  132. Ooh! Ooh! I have a good one!
    After telling the school councillor that I had tried to kill myself over the summer holidays, and I was now seeing a psychiatrist, she said to me “Well that was stupid, you weren’t even at school. Why would you try to kill yourself in the holidays?”
    At a later date, on walking past me grinning at something someone had said, she snapped “Stop smiling! You’re supposed to be depressed!”

    I wish I could say that was in a joking tone, but it really wasn’t. The woman ought to have been reported. But yes, your list does bring back the memories of the many many phrases I’ve heard over the years as well. I’m 23, with depression/anxiety/inattentive ADHD. The depression and anxiety was diagnosed at 14, medicated at 16. The ADHD was only diagnosed two years ago. I also happen to suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome and hypoglycemia. Sometimes when you list all those things to people (or even medical professionls) and see their expressions, you can’t help feeling like perhaps it IS all in your head. The one I like best is “No person needs all those drugs/supplements” or the “You should really get off those chemicals. I know someone who took _____ which really worked. Try that.” …Thank you, but I’ve been on this dose for quite a while now, and I have been tried without my medication and it turns out that doesn’t work so well for me. Not only do I want to kill myself, but my entire family want to collectively shoot me in the head. So ta for that, but bugger on off.
    *Sigh* Like putting up with depression/anxiety/_insert here_ isn’t enough! 🙂

    • Ah. people so like to offer advice, don’t they?! Went for a blood test to monitor my lithium levels this week, the nurse taking the blood wanted to tell me all about her friend who apparently has biopolar but has made some sort of miraculous recovery and doesn’t need any treatment. Just like you, I was thinking, “thanks, but I’ll stick with my OWN TREATMENT PLAN, just take the blood, love.” 😀

      • lightened heart says:

        wow…that’s all i have to say about the so-called counselor…
        no, it’s not fun to be on all sorts of meds (we’re the ones taking them! so pointing it out doesn’t make it any different), but the reality is, everyone’s body chemistry is different, and not everyone can do without them. would i like to eventually not need mine? heck yeah! more money in my pocket and one less thing to remember to buy; not to mention the awkwardness of going up to the counter and saying, ‘just a routine refill, thanks’ for psych drugs. plus, i’d have to have kids someday, which means finding some kind of alternative treatment for at least those nine months–scary shit. unfortunately, my life is a lot of hard work even with meds, and i’ve had to come to grips with possibly being dependent on them indefinitely (i hate that word, dependent). at least it helps me be ‘normal’….

  133. Fabulous post, thank you very much for it 🙂 Recognise all of them and more (“Life’s too short to be depressed!”)

    Wrote a similar post about people’s responses to me being in psychotherapy over at my blog if you ever have time to check it out: http://trichquestions.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/the-4-types-of-people-when-i-talk-about-therapy/

    Keep up the good work!

    • Hi, your post is indeed similar – and I recognise the responses only too well. Sometimes I feel like people are OK with you have a mental health condition, but once you start doing something about it – like getting into therapy, or starting meds – they are all full of advice about people they know who managed without them, or who had bad experiences with them. Why is that??

  134. Lola says:

    One of the hardest things i find is having people so close to you not having the faintest idea of how low you can become. My sister is my best friend, she is the one i go to when i feel at my worst but at times i hate that i burden her or she gets frustrated that she cant do anything to help me. Though i would never wish the continuous feelings of despair on anybody i just wish they could experience it for a couple of minutes just to know how it feels, and then they might have a little more tact and understanding when coming into contact with somebody depressed.

  135. Claire K says:

    I have been told Number 4 many many times and my mother used to love to use Number 6 on many occasions. She still hasn’t fully grasped the concept of my bipolar (even after my desperation and subsequent overdose) and seems to believe that a healthy dinner and an early night will ‘sort it all out’. She also thinks that there is no need to tell my boys (11 and 8) anything about my disorder. There’s no need to involve them, apparently. I’m very very tempted to print off your ‘Ten supportive things I’m glad someone said to me’ so she has a script to work from!

  136. Anon says:

    I don’t know if it comes under one of the ten, but the thing that drives me apoplectic is when people say ‘what have you got to be depressed about?’. It’s the ignorance that makes me mad. It’s just so indicative that people see depressive episodes as self-indulgent pity-parties that we can choose not to have if we like.

    A specific example of being made to feel about an inch tall by an NHS GP was running over my 5 minute slot by a couple of minutes whilst I explained that I had been self-harming again. She told me my time was up and that I should have booked a double slot. I said ‘I’m sorry, people like me must be such a drain on the National Health’, half-apologetically and half-sarcastically and I was astonished that she replied with ‘yes, you are’.

    But they aren’t all bad. I’ve had dozens and dozens of kind, supportive people on my side over the twenty years since my illness was diagnosed. During a particularly bad period of self-loathing and guilt about what I think is commonly perceived to be hypochondria, attention-seeking or just self-pity (and therefore I spend a lot of time feeling like a burden or a failure) I decided to ask my doctor to help me stop my meds. She wisely told me this wasn’t a good idea. She had (very unusual for this to happen in my experience) spent the whole of the previous evening reading my vast notes and told me not unkindly that I was likely to always need medication. I said I couldn’t live with it, that there are people with real illnesses that need help. She said to me ‘would you think the same thing if you had diabetes? Well it’s just the same. Genetics or childhood or a combination have meant that you don’t produce enough of a chemical that your brain needs to keep your mood normal. You need to take pills to make up for that. It’s just as much an illness as diabetes’. Since then, I’ve never thought of myself as a whinger or a time-waster and I make sure I get the care I’m entitled to. That simple bit of wisdom did more than a year of therapy.

    Keep up the good work. Thank you for this.x

  137. chris says:

    Well done on a great post. Depression is only something you can understand if you’ve experienced it. I’ve been shocked on several occasions by responses to my depression, from family and acquaintances. A favourite was, “I just don’t get depressed, I don’t have time for it”. How lucky you are my friend!

    But yeah, finding someone who just sits and listens without judgement is incredibly helpful. And knowing how helpful it is to me has increased my empathy to others as well.

    My one piece of advice – if you can manage to get yourself up and moving, do it, get out of the house and stretch your legs. It has worked for me, I hope it can help some others.

  138. Squiggles says:

    Thank you so much! It is so inspiring and reassuring to read the words of someone who actually knows what they are talking about. I’ve been suffering with depression/stress/anxiety recently and was diagnosed with ‘acute’ schizophrenia a few years ago. I’ve had little/no support from those around me mainly because they just can’t understand why or what you have to be so depressed about. I too get told about all the wonderful things I have in life, and I do appreciate them, but I worked for them, they weren’t given to me and there’s still negative influences in my life that bring me down. I am trying to work through my problems and build a better and stronger me, but it’s not going to be easy. I need people to have the time to listen and help me through things but at the moment it feels like no-one cares or has the time for me. I’m terrified of people judging me, or seeing me as weak, so I hide most of my issues away.
    I wish you strength, to be able to live your life to the full. Thank you for making my struggle a little easier to bear.

    • Thanks so much, Squiggles! Your words really mean a lot to me. Hope you’ll keep following my blog or maybe follow me on Twitter (@BipolarBloggar)? Online support is great, especially if you don’t always get support at home. Wishing you all the best!

  139. I have been through so many versions of diagnoses, heard so many of the above at various points (apart from the parenting one), that at times I never used to know which way was up! The mental-health facilities in the UK were absoluting appaling for me that it took me moving to Belgium and suffering another breakdown to actually get a diagnosis. An absolutely ridiculous situation, that had me being told by one doctor to essentially “buck up and stop being lazy”, then a 1 hour psychiatric session that had me diagnosed as being “moderately depressed”. Add to that colleagues, family, non-understanding friends… At one stage I ended up shutting myself away and it took me getting so bad that I actually started self-harming before a doctor would listen (and that was when I got the “moderately depressed” diagnosis after a short psychiatric assessment). It’s almost like they don’t really have time for you. If you can’t trust medical professionals, then who can you trust with your health?
    Luckily I now have a proper diagnosis, a more stable life as a result of a more stable approach to my illness, but it took me moving countries to achieve it.
    I wish the UK goverment would learn from its mistakes instead of making more cutbacks to already poorly-equipped services and leaving many people stranded, getting worse, without anyone but the sufferer themselves having a clue what’s going on!

    • Hi Susie, so happy to see you here 🙂 I have another post in mind about the importance of diagnosis… some people seem to view it as “labelling”, others like you (and me!) find it a positive step which helps start on appropriate treatment. That’s the post I as writing in my head last night when I couldn’t sleep, anyway! 😉 Thanks for reading my stuff and leaving a comment. C x

  140. Richard Wakefield says:

    I recognize all of the points made. I have been a carer for my wife for 7 years, she originally had acute psychotic depression and has been in hospital for the whole of the last two years, we don’t have a diagnosis yet! I have been through mild clinical depression twice in the last few years, and feel I have at least some understanding, certainly supporting my wife over the last 7 years has given me tremendous insights into this illness, and has totally changed my life.
    She is isolated in hospital, I am isolated because she is my life, my reason to carry on… I had withdrawn from life more or less until I started working voluntarily for a mental health carer group, which has started to put back some self esteem, trouble is it makes me feel even worse about my wife’s plight.
    I see a few references to Post Natal depression, she had that nearly 30 years ago, we are still paying off the debt that that led us to build up… it twas the guilt that we were not proper parents in the beginning, leading to lavishing every possible thing on both children to make up.
    Nobody explains that to you, the is no guidance.
    The one phrase that really leads me to fury is along the lines of “dont be so melodramatic, pull yourself together”, which I, and my wife, have been told many times.
    Trouble is, how can we expect the public at large to start tio understand the light when the medical services don’t… if they did we wouldn’t have a consultant telling me at a ward round that… “whatever happens this will break your marriage up” we wouldn’t have a CPN telling aperson with low self estemm/depression “I haven’t got time for you today” (by way of cancelling an appointment) or a Social Worker saying “well if she’s that bad i wont come today, you’re seeing the doctor in 6 days”
    Yes, it iss fair to say that depression, indeed all mental illnesses are seriously misunderstood, swept under the carpet, ignored, anything but spoken about, so the lucky ones who haven’t been there will never understand, so will never be able to help in any constructive way
    So pleased someone pointed out this blog to me… I really am not alone, however much it feels that way at times.

  141. godofidea says:

    My mom was abused and has had bipolar disorder for years. Despite this, she takes my own depression as though I don’t know what I’m talking about. She tells me to just pull myself up and stay busy enough where I don’t have time to think about it. My dad however, just thinks therapists are there to take your money and don’t help at all, despite seeing the real world problems depression pose. My dad would actually use medication and therapy as a threat when I was little. It wasn’t until I was admitted to a hospital as a suicide risk that it really sunk in for him. I’m still ashamed to say that I’m on medication, or that I have a therapist and a psychologist. I’m still suicidal at times, and my mom doesn’t understand. “But you’re doing so much better! You’ve got friends and you’re focusing in school!” “Just think about good times and try to stay focused on what you need to do.” I still believe that I’m going to kill myself sooner or later, and no one can seem to grasp why. I’m thankful however, that my family and friends haven’t dealt with the horrors of imagining your own death in countless fashions. I hope they never have to go through that.

    • Henry Dunn says:

      Sometimes people with mental health problems can be the worst at recognizing it in others, particularly those close to them. I know I can be like that sometimes, and I think it’s partly fear that a person you love could suffer in the same way that you have, but there is perhaps an element of vanity in it – “You couldn’t possibly suffer like I do”. I’m a Music Therapist working with people who have mental illness and sometimes a learning disability too. I have also suffered depression since the age of 10 (that’s about 30 years of mental illness) I take fluoxetine, because it helps, and I have had my own psychotherapy in various forms. I’m not ashamed of any of these, any more, though it’s taken a while to accept it. Why should we be more ashamed of a psychological condition and its treatment than a physical one? I really hope you can become less ashamed, though it’s hard if thjose close to you are reinforcing the message that you should be ashamed.
      Hang on in there!

  142. me says:

    I have said some of the above things to my depressed teenager. So what??? should I say?? Can you do a list of what I SHOULD say when she says stuff like:

    I hate my life, college is too hard, I hate guys I just FKN hate my life?

    or I get to a point where I say everything positive and everything she wants to hear or needs to hear or that all the books tell me to say….BUT I JUST cant help her! I end up telling her…what do you want from me? What am I supposed to say?

    I dont know mom. Support?

    I just really dont know what to say anymore! Please please tell me what to say cuz I am drained.

  143. Henry Dunn says:

    My reply was meant to be to godofidea who was ashamed, not to you! Sorry for any confusion.

  144. flaminkati says:

    Number 9 has happened to me this time last year! i refused to ever go back so the unit has basically said as i dont ‘engage’ they will only review my meds not offer me psych help as ‘i dont want to get better’ since that revelation i have got better as i have found a gp who listens and have a community support worker who encourages me to leave my flat! that negativity from one CPN slowed my progress but i did/do want to get better and i am but i will never forget being told i wasnt ‘ILL’ enough to be helped without my own willpower i probably would have been plenty ill enough to warrant their help!

  145. Hen says:

    How can people say these things? Have been on the receiving end of such remarks. It hurts and makes one feel even worse. The worse was over hearing an SHO in A&E to the staff in A&E staff talking about me saying that “I was a waste of time as I was attention seeking and being childish!” I some how managed to get out of bed open the curtain and tell them that I maybe ill but I was not deaf or stupid! They had not come back!

  146. mewlaw says:

    Your posts inspire me to battle on, its almost like you’ve read my mind and put pen to paper, thank you. To add to your list a colleague once said to me ” there is no such thing as depression, it’s just people attention seeking. I was gobsmacked, on reflection though I think she is suffering from a mental health problem too but is too scared to admit it!

  147. Michal says:

    I am sooooooo number 4, so much so that I’ve started to cry. Fantastic article by a superbly empathetic and articulate soul sister. Thanks again

    • My pleasure! Of all the (amazing number of) comments I received on this piece, number four was the one to which most people related strongly. There appear to be many, many, people out there putting on some kind of armour every day, going out their and fighting their personal fight, then coming home and collapsing as their soft, vulnerable self is revealed again 😦

  148. AlexaFaie says:

    Oh some of these run so true to me. I’ve relatively recently had my psychologist admit that I probably was right in my original thought that what I have is bipolar disorder of some kind. I still have no formal diagnosis as to type or whatever, but its a step in the right direction. My first assessment was terrible. The woman made me cry and didn’t even bother to offer me a tissue from the big box on her desk, she just let me wipe tears and snot all over my hands whilst trying not to get it all over my glasses so I could at least see who I was trying to talk to. She would go from rushing me when I was trying to answer a question which was actually relevant to repeatedly asking the same question when it wasn’t or I didn’t know the answer.

    She said wonderful things like “you don’t have a credit card? well you probably haven’t been experiencing manic phases, bipolar people often suffer with debt” After I’d told he about being in the bottom of my student overdraft because when high I kept spending the money I should have been saving to pay it off. And “No, that’s not relevant (when describing manic phases), tell me more about your depression”. I couldn’t get it through to her that it was actually some of my manic phases which were causing me the most strife. She just kept saying stupid things like “you don’t have sex with random strangers so are unlikely to have ever been manic”. Even though I’d told her that I’d been with my boyfriend of 3 years 9 months until he said he no longer loved me. When I manic I’d be more physical with him, but since he left me, I’d been in a major depressive stage. He’d been my support and best friend through everything and I’d lost the crutch which was helping me to function. I hadn’t had a manic episode since then, but had one which had lasted an entire month before he left. And once I’d said that she latched onto that and tried to blame all my problems on him leaving me. Even though I told her that I’d had feelings from as young as about 6 that I should never have been born and everyone would be better off without me.

    Blah. She said such stupid stuff for someone who was meant to be my psychiatrist! I’m so glad that she was leaving anyway so I got a new psychiatrist, but I never got a new “initial assessment” everything started from the bollocks she’d written down. When the new doc was reading through the notes with me, I had to tell him several times that she’d written stuff I’d never said and left out the most important bits (to me) about my condition. Its taken a year to get him to consider that maybe he should have listened a bit more instead of just pushing drugs which aren’t suitable for people who suffer from mania! (It says on MIND that SSRIs shouldn’t be used by people with manic symptoms as it makes them worse).

    Other wonderful things I’ve had said to me over the years.
    “Stop feeling sorry for yourself”
    “You’re a teenager, its your hormones, everyone gets like that”
    “You’re so lucky, think about all the bad stuff in the world”

    • Aileen says:

      I’ve also had psyciatrists ask me at meetings about things I have never said and quite blatantly put words in my mouth such as ‘your thoughts are racing’ when in fact I felt sedated. In this case the junior doctor read from the notes my diagnosis was bipolar and was reading from ‘bipolar for dummies’ and not listening to me at all. Another doctor asked me if I wanted to talk to someone about my drinking when my drinking had been never been discussed by any of the doctors in the service I’d seen at all and so couldn’t have even been in the notes. In this case I believe the doctor (actually a consultant not a junior doctor who I find just question me and then write repeat prescriptions of what the consultant has prescribed) was actually mixing me up with another patient altogether.

  149. Aileen says:

    I have heard a few of these though luckily or unluckily most of my family are very mental health aware as we have a lot of depressives and a few BPs in our clan though one cousin did suggest I use my will power and meditate to cure myself (no, he’s not any kind of scientologist or in the antipsychiatry movement, just a well meaning but misinformed hippy). I must say I have lost friends due to this and it can be surprising who does and who doesn’t stand by you. Though you would think I would be glad to be rid of fair weather friends it can really hurt as I did love these people. Maybe they’re just too busy to return my texts right now and haven’t dropped by in a while for their own reasons but it’s hard and I find with being ill and isolated that it’s hard to make new friends. Increasingly I am relying on online forums like this for support. Having said that I have had positive and even eye opening experiences with friends and even acquaintances whose open mindedness has surprised me. While one or two of those I considered my best friends have faded away others who I would have thought would have had easier excuses to drop me have stood firm. People are full of surprises.

  150. Reblogged this on purplepersuasion and commented:

    One year on – the post that gave me the blogging bug

  151. Pete Walmsley says:

    Hi sweetie
    I read this article the first time around and its as good now as it was then. The main difference is that I am wiser and more tolerant and maybe (slightly) better educated about how people suffering these things really feel.
    I am shamed to admit that in the past I might have passed remarks like in the 1, 2 and 3 paragraphs as people who have not suffered cannot begin to understand the feelings and mindset of a sufferer. I am learning slowly and mostly through your open honest and poignant blog which frequently stops me in my tracks and makes me reassess all that I hold dear.
    God bless you and keep you.

    Pete xx

  152. Inez says:

    Every single one of these has been said by my mother at one point or another about one person or another. Hence why she still doesn’t know that I suffer from bouts of depression. My favourite (in it’s awfulness) being – about a friend who had cut her wrists in an attempted suicide – “such a silly girl, it’s all for attention.”
    And a friend who, on finding out I self-harmed, told me that “when I grew up (her exact words) I’d get over it.” That one was a slap in the face!
    I’m very lucky that I have had any support at all from anyone and know people suffer with far worse than me, all they have is comments 1 through 10 to deal with. The ignorance in this world is terrifying and saddening in equal measure.

  153. I have been trying to morph and change and move and lose weight and cry and pretend that everything is going to be okay if I just fuckin smile.

    That is not supposed to be me–not the,”Sad girl”.

    Denial plays such pivotal role in my life these days. Mostly just avoiding the obvious. Some days I find myself happiest thinking only of being held closely and loved by a man who I feel like I cannot have. I have come too far to run away into a fantasy of my own creation.

    Reality is – I have responsibilities and cannot afford emotionally or financially anymore upheaval in my house. My family needs me; even if I am living in a condo upstairs; hiding my fears of failure and abandonment in front of a big screen tv. I really enjoy watching the tv and the freedom of my own space, I just can’t shake the loser feeling. The spinster who took over her sister’s spot. I am sure none of this makes very much sense.

    Some of that is my point today. My mind is off and something is different, a new stage of sad, or maybe some acceptance.

    This is me. To my readers. Now to your readers. To myself. No words. Too many words. http://eggssmokesex.wordpress.com

  154. Terri B says:

    I was told by a crisis team nurse the voices I hear was the super natural, even though the voices were telling me to commit suicide.

  155. AlexaFaie says:

    Back here after nearly a year and it interesting to read back and see how things have changed for me. I’m now *touch wood* doing much much better as it seems I’m on a medication which actually helps. That doesn’t just make me gain weight. I’d never gained much weight ever, stayed the same however much I ate. Then BOOM, 2 months taking the meds and I’d increased 2.5 cup sizes and gone from a UK 6-8 to a UK 10-12, went up 3 stone in weight. Clothes no longer fitted right. It was traumatic really and it took a little while to convince the doctors that it just wasn’t helping making me fat. I used to have body issues (my brain tells me I should look totally different, then look in the mirror and get disappointed or feel like I’m in the wrong body) so making me fat didn’t help. He finally switched my meds when I told him that Tony had had to stop me cutting the skin folds off and hide all the knifes.
    So now, I’m on some meds which work. The weight is finally going, my mood seems better than it was. More stable. I’ve been able to function. I spent nearly an entire year in bed. Now I’m able to do at the very least one thing per day. And I do get out of the bed.

    The comments have stopped somewhat because I’ve been open and honest with everyone. If I meet someone new I tell them. If they then treat me poorly I have no relationship with them. If they can accept that, then we might get to know each other properly. I don’t care if it means that I get labelled as “you know, the one with bipolar” because those who care will ask questions to find out more so they can understand, and those who don’t care won’t bother me. So makes things tons simpler.

    Also, my Mum had a nervous breakdown in January 2012 due to “work related stress”. In reality she was being bullied by her boss and got no support from anyone higher up in the company. Not even when she told them of the things which happened. Since she has now experienced poor mental health herself, her comments haven’t been as extreme. At first they were, but she turned them in on herself saying by not being at work she was being lazy, but she wasn’t crying, she was wailing. It was painful to hear because you know you really can’t do anything to stop it. You just have to stay there saying soothing things, holding hands and waiting. She’s slowly getting better but they still haven’t found the right antidepressant for her. They have all given her terrible side effects. The latest one gave her hallucinations. The one she is back on now doesn’t help her physically – she ends up with really bad stomach upsets from them, but its helping her mood. She now can do things again and has realised that it really was not on what was happening to her. She’d convinced herself it was her fault. But she no longer makes the snide comments about feeling sorry for yourself. She now realises what it feels like. And so I’m at last getting real support from her. And she’s getting support from me.

    Other good news is that Tony, my boyfriend (who shock horror is 5yrs younger than me and still a university student) has been helping me so much. We’re now renting a 2 bed flat together which is a step further than Nick ever went (he kept saying we would, then never followed through). So I am finally, 3 years on from that break-up, getting over him. I have realised that what he said was just empty promises. I’ve been with Tony 2 years in October and he has already taken so many steps and really does follow through with his promises. He also knew of my condition prior to us going out and he has supported me every step of the way. He genuinely seems to care about my mental well-being and though he has never been through it himself, he totally understands. He’s been able to put into words, feelings I was trying to describe but failing at. So I’m just really glad and honoured and grateful to have someone who really truly wants to help me and be with me every step of the way. It can only have made my “recovery” easier. 🙂

    I wish you all the same good fortune! And know that I’m thinking of you all and sending super-happy brainwaves of awesomeness your way to help you get “better” (because are we ever really better?). Because you all deserve to be happy. Let me know if it works. If it does I’ll set up shop as a faith healer 😉

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  157. Jerseygirl says:

    I think solidarity on a blog like this at least makes us all feel that we are not alone. One of the effects of depression is to push away from a situation that makes us feel uncomfortable, even though we probably want the exact opposite, We just want a bit of compassion, a hug, a close and trustworthy relationship, someone who won’t hurt us and the fairytale life of books and films – where loves and friendships come naturally and last. Depressives tend to be nice people who don’t get why other people aren’t of the same mindset. I have trouble with life moving on, in a direction I have no control over. Whilst I recognise all the things that drag me down and accept them as experiences that have made me more aware of life, more able to understand situations, I can’t get passed them. I have lost trust and I don’t visualise myself as happy in my older age. However I always hope that my dream life will turn up. My depression is about not trusting the future, not believing that I can create and maintain a happy existence and that I have trusted in my own hope too much, in other words I don’t trust myself to mend myself. This world is a pressure cooker and we are all exploding. My demons are from coming from a broken home (when I was eleven); parents who favour my older brother (they are of the age where men are thought of as better than women); being molested by a relative and also my Godfather; being attacked in the street and being raped in my hiome. I have been bullied out of two jobs (my colleagues powerless to help me) by cowardly but influencial bosses. My exercise routines stopped when I had my gorgeous kids and I ballooned in size, so now my husband doesn’t go near me, he doesn’t like what he sees anymore. I know I could change my body if I had the mindset to but I feel that I would fail and that any further failure would send me rock bottom. And yet despite knowing all this and knowing that the solution is in my own head I cannot trust myself to fix myself. Has anyone else out there lost trust in themselves or am I just ‘a whingeing woman who should just get over it’?

    • AlexaFaie says:

      I have not been through the situations you have described luckily, but I read the first half of your post and thought “yep, that sums it up well for me”.
      A lot of people don’t seem to understand just how much of a struggle every day can be when you feel like this. A lot of people couldn’t even comprehend having that feeling in the first place. They can’t “fix” you because they don’t really know or understand what is going on in your head. Unfortunately it has to be yourself that takes the first steps in “fixing” yourself. It has to be for YOU not for anyone else. You deserve to feel better and you deserve to let yourself try. And if you try something and it doesn’t work, its not a failure. Its just that that thing doesn’t help you. Try something else instead.

      You’ve had a tough life from the sounds of it and the fact that you are still here means you are very very strong. Very resilient. Just look at everything you’ve gone through, every set back. And you are still here, still fighting as it sounds like you still have some hope that someday things will be better. You mustn’t let yourself give up. You can do it. Its not going to be an easy thing to do, but you can get there.

      I don’t know your husband, but there might be more to him not wanting to go near you. He could be being a typical man and not wanting to admit that it upsets him to see you like you are – that the depression has made you give up things you once did. It might not just be a physical thing. Then again it might be, but all that matters ultimately is are YOU happy when you look at yourself in the mirror? Are you happy at this new weight? And if not, is there any small step you could take to help you feel better about how you look? Just pick one minor thing and work on that. One step at a time. Try making a list of things to do. Maybe simple things like go for a 5min walk every day for a week. If you manage that, try for two weeks. Or up it to a 10min walk. Pick something that will change what you do on a day to day basis, but not be too difficult to accomplish. When I was doing really badly, one of the things on my list was to make sure I brushed my teeth every day for a week. That sounds silly to me now, but at the time I couldn’t even get myself out of my bed, couldn’t make myself shower or anything like that. So making myself manage to do that, though a tiny thing to most people, was to me a huge huge step forward. If you were able to have an exercise regime before having your children, you can have one again. But start small. Just one little thing, then slowly add another.
      Just put one foot in front of the other:

    • babs says:

      I can relate.

      I am frightened of the future, cannot trust myself to deal with life.

  158. john oxley says:

    Heh heh. So eloquently put. I understand you totally. I’m lucky, I have one good friend who totally gets it and also my ex-wife (who was the one to tell me she thought I was severely depressed). Bless you. John

  159. Elisa says:

    Today my overly “helpful” friend referred me to an agency that specialises in placing disabled people back at work. All I’d done was express some nervousness at returning to the workforce (I’ve been off for a year). I didn’t ask for her help / advice.

    I am not disabled. I have bipolar. And a master’s degree. I’m not too proud to ask for help, and will take what’s offered to me – but let’s leave the recruitment options up to the professionals. And me. I’m pretty capable when I’m well. Grrrr.

    • I’m interested that you see being disabled and being capable as mutually exclusive. I have had bipolar since childhood, but I got the best A level score in my 6th form, was offered a place at Oxbridge, have two first class degrees and before the current episode was running a team of 14 people. So I’m capable. But I’m also disabled. I’ve just lost my second career due to sickness. There have been many times have been incapable of caring for myself, ley alone my children. Even when well, I have to do things most people don’t, in order to try and prevent relapse – avoid stress, get sleep, take strong medications that give me other, physical problems. And that is the model of disability under the Equality Act – if you have a condition that prevents you from doing certain things *or would, if you did not take steps including medication that a non-disabled person would not have to take.* I am disabled by my bipolar, and disabled by my meds. I grateful accept Disability Living Allowance. I gratefully accept my Freedom Pass. When I am in remission once more, I’ll be resourceful and capable. But I’ll still be disabled.

      • Elisa says:

        Yeah. I hear what you’re saying. I actually read something really similar on FB today, about a woman who was offended like me.

        Maybe we’re just arguing semantics, or maybe I’m just in denial, not sure. I don’t see being disabled as being incapable (probably more the opposite due to things like the Paralympics). Maybe it’s just the word. I suppose most of all I resent being labelled by someone I considered a close friend.

        I’m very grateful for the services I receive too. I would rather leave the recruitment advice to the professionals though! The ones who “get it”.

        Thanks for your response : )

      • Elisa says:

        Might be a UK / Aus thing too. I’m not eligible for a disabil

      • Elisa says:

        *disability pension, even though I’ve not worked for a year. I am a jobseeker with a medical certificate (that’s about to expire).

  160. nepenthe says:

    this was very refreshing to hear. For as long as i can remember i have been depressive. Whether it is because i’m a chronically self-critical, ruminating, over-retrospecting shyte artist, or the fact that i care TOO much, i don’t know, but i do know that i despertely need the company of people who actually understand, not people who are going to tell me something i already know. They fail to observe the fact that i do get hypomaniacal, and that is just a part of it. I KNOW how to be “happy” i consider myself “balanced” and “joyful”. It’s not about “things”. It’s about “disease” or seemingly predetermined/predisposed afflictioon of the persona or mind.

    And yet, when i do express my surges of overjoyedness or glee, it is ignored as me being childish. But all of a sudden i have an issue because that stage has passed and i’ve become self-disgusted, unmotivated and inexplicably dolorous, with no intention of “curing” it simply because i already know that it’s just what’s going to happen all the time? I have never gone to a psychiatrist/psychologist. In fact, i refuse to admit i have depression nd refuse to take anything simply because i hate drugs and relish my hypo-elated phases because of their sheer comparative intensity to my depressive states. Usually after a severe bout of melanchoolia, i become hypercreative for a few days. Few days i leech everything out of. For a while now i have been feeling more alone than i have ever felt. Feeling like everyone around me lives in a stupid little bubble, yet, so do i….inner conflict then arises: i am moronically selfish for dwelling on my asinine and superfluous thoughts. I am a useless fool because i supposedly choose not to pursue my dreams because i feel so incapable. I am a turdbag because i “let my feelings get the best of me”. The list becomes a volatile spiral with no apparent epicenter. I cant write this novel because i’m too stupid. I cant cant cant. And then i lose sight of the points of everything. I had to get that out. Vent without hearing that annoying protest about my ways of handling things that always makes me feel worse.

  161. AlexaFaie says:

    I’ve found that the recruitment “professionals” really don’t “get it” where I am. I got shifted from just getting Employment Support Allowance and seeing a disability advisor there to check how I was doing, to being with A4E which is a company run on behalf of the jobcentre/government to help people who have been off for a while get back into work. The “professional” I was dealing with said it was all voluntary and that it would be perfect for someone with bipolar as they were used to dealing with that sort of thing and had various things to help. So I go along, find I’m now signed up to be with them exclusively and the only help they can give me is if I need help using a computer or applying for jobs or in brushing up on my maths and English. I too have graduated from university, so that kind of help is not relevant. When I mentioned that the help and support I’d need was in how to cope with how my bipolar effects me and my ability to work consistently, they said they didn’t have anything to help with that. I was “written off” by the ESA people as being mentally unfit for work for at least the next two years due to my fluctuating moods. And yet I was placed with this A4E group by the disability advisor. A group which keeps trying to get me back into work by getting me to rewrite my CV as if that’s what is stopping me. Going to the meetings was causing me so much upset and stress because they kept demanding I try to look for work when I’m just not ready. I kept saying again and again that I can’t even get myself to do day to day tasks consistently, so how could I cope with being reliable enough to hold down a job? It also took me a lot of goes to get it into their heads that I don’t WANT to work somewhere. What I want to do is work for myself making custom made corsets for people. They are meant to be able to offer help financially to further your career prospects, sending people off on courses e.g. management or finance etc. But when I requested a bit of help towards attending a course for what I want to do as a job (I could have done with a little money to go towards transport/accommodation – being on ESA got me a grant for the course so it was free) they said they couldn’t do that. I was asking for maybe £30 towards the tickets. They said no. Yet they’ll happily stump up £200 to send someone on some other course. And when I said I’d like to meet with their self employment advisor so I could discuss various things to work out whether it would be a viable option for me, they wouldn’t give me the advice unless I was immediately interested in starting up. They said they’d only help me if I had a business plan. But I was told they were there to give guidance as to if that would be a good thing to consider or not. Why waste time writing a business plan if it then turned out that it wouldn’t be financially viable. Why get my hopes up when I’m already on edge and suffering from low self esteem?

    So I’ve kinda given up listening to anyone who isn’t me. My body tells me when I’m ready or not ready. Forcing me to try to get a job only stressed me out and made me feel inadequate because I just couldn’t do it. They couldn’t see past my previous achievements (my 2.1 degree) to see the very real disability stopping me being able to do anything. Having them say things like “most of the people here are out of work because they don’t have the skills or have been disabled at work and made redundant; you’ve got a degree, there’s no reason you can’t work” doesn’t help.

    The sad thing is that most people can’t see past the word “disabled” as referring to physical disability. If someone has dyslexia, its not a disability, its a “learning disorder” (so people think its just that they haven’t learnt well as opposed to them having a disability which prevents them from being able to process letters and text). If someone has depression or bipolar, they are seen as “mentally ill” or mad/crazy and so perhaps not fit for work, often for the safety/benefit of other employees. But very few then think that that is a disability. Many think that because it is a mood disorder that it is just something you can shut off if you concentrate hard enough. That because its in your mind it shouldn’t affect how you cope at work. And in turn it rubs off on those who are suffering from the condition. I think it is actually more freeing to be able to say that you are disabled by the condition, than to think that you’re not disabled and are somehow at fault for being how you are. The chemical imbalance with bipolar isn’t something you can control (i.e. by just thinking about it) its something which can disable you. Like disabling an alarm. It doesn’t mean its broken and can never work again, it just means its been turned off. A bad episode simply turns off your functioning. Just like someone who is missing a leg isn’t disabled in that they can’t ever walk or run – just look at the paralympics. There are people there who can do things which I can’t even do with all four limbs intact. But its still a disability because the limb itself is “turned off” or not functioning. There is just too much stigma around the word and its used far too negatively by some people. When in reality there is a big difference between having ability and being capable.
    Ability –
    1. power or capacity to do or act physically, mentally, legally, morally, financially, etc.
    2. competence in an activity or occupation because of one’s skill, training, or other qualification e.g the ability to sing well.
    3. abilities, talents; special skills or aptitudes e.g. Composing music is beyond his abilities.

    Capable –
    as an adjective
    1. having power and ability; efficient; competent: e.g. a capable instructor.
    as an idiom
    2. capable of,
    a. having the ability or capacity for: e.g. a man capable of judging art.
    b. open to the influence or effect of; susceptible of: e.g. a situation capable of improvement.
    c. predisposed to; inclined to: e.g. capable of murder.

    So you can be capable, but not able to carry out or act on that capability. You are capable of working at at least a degree level, but can’t at that point in time.
    Hence disability –
    1. lack of adequate power, strength, or physical or mental ability; incapacity.
    2. a physical or mental handicap, especially one that prevents a person from living a full, normal life or from holding a gainful job.
    3. anything that disables or puts one at a disadvantage: e.g. His mere six-foot height will be a disability in professional basketball.
    4. the state or condition of being disabled.
    5. legal incapacity; legal disqualification.

    My Mum is currently very close to being written off as being disabled because its been nearly a year since she had the nervous breakdown due to work related stress and bullying by her superior. She is currently suffering from anxiety and depression and what seems to be a bit like post traumatic stress disorder. She was depressed and in denial about it whilst still at work, before the breakdown. She doesn’t like the thought of being disabled, but when I broke down the meaning of the word like this she realised that she ticks the boxes. She’s perfectly capable – she was a dental nurse for over 30 years and has been the practice manager there for many years too, with a practice doing the best of the lot in the company yet having more staff to manage and control (and arguably harder staff to have to manage since they were used to the old ways prior to the take over). But because of her condition now, she’s not able to do it. So she’s disabled.

    Blah blah blah. I’ve gone on too much. But this isn’t a rant or getting at anyone. Its just me doing my usual stating facts and going over the top with it all. I’ve always been unable and incapable of writing succinctly!! 😉

  162. Nikola says:

    Great article, thank you!

    I’d love to read its counterpart, one about ‘ 10 things to say to a depressed person’.

    My partner is depressed and I have no idea what to do, say. How to deal with it at all. Support and love, or tough love, I just don’t know the right way to approach a depressed person and get through to them, make them feel understood and loved and supported, and get them to seek help.

    Please please please write about this!
    Or at least drop me a few lines… would be much appreciated, feeling so helpless!


  163. Sue David says:

    My latest one is: “You’re very difficult to be around when you’re like this, it’s not easy for me.” My reply was: “And you think it’s easy for me?”

    • I know I am often difficult to be around – probably even more so when I am truly manic that when I am depressed – but yes, these mood states are NOT FUN. We would never choose to experience them. So, sorry for the inconvenience if it makes us hard work, but the mood states are harder work than you will ever know! x

    • Alex Dale says:

      I get that one all the time – I think it fundamentally misses the point at insult … Yes, it is difficult for families to witness suffering, but they’re not enduring the suffering, they’re watching it. Someone being turned inside out by a crippling low mood does not need a loved ones upset attributed to them. It’s an incredibly insensitive thing to do. Yes, it’s difficult watching it – fully acknowledged, but it’s a million times harder for the person who has to fight to stay alive every day, and who actually has to endure the pure suffering, not just be inconvenienced by it’s reverberations.

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  165. I had someone tell me “well I had a week where I was so depressed, I couldn’t get out of bed but then I finally decided enough was enough and I got myself up and blah blah blah.” I had to remind this person that clinical depression is a life sentence and something I’d been dealing with since as long as I can remember. That whole “you just have to decide to be happy” response makes me beyond furious. And I also had a psychiatrist ask me “don’t you want to be happy?” I couldn’t believe that someone in the mental health industry would be that clueless and ask such an incredibly stupid question (I stopped seeing him shortly after for a number of reasons). I always tell people, “Would you tell a person with diabetes to just get over it?”

    • Hi Amanda, I do the same – my view is I wouldn’t be ashamed to say I have, for example, a heart condition I have to take medication for. And that’s how others should assume that it’s treatable, but serious, and if they respond differently, I set them straight!

    • Mel Annie says:

      I am so lucky to have a friend who doesn’t judge me, just offers ‘tea and sympathy’ when I need it, but she is a rarity, even my own mother turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to my problem, hoping that it would go away in time. There is someone I work with who also suffers. This person took a few weeks off work last year, work were supportive, but the comments behind the person’s back were sad and the gesture of spinning a pointed finger near their temples made me realize that it is easier in many ways to keep my problems to myself. The other person has lost the respect of fellow workers purely due to the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. I think the problem is making me my own worst enemy. I don’t want the stigma to be attached to me and I am afraid to have it in my doctor’s notes in case they ever become public knowledge. Unlike so many people’s stories here, he has noticed my mental state and has offered me pills, but I have refused so there is no record. I am making myself isolated, I know I am doing it, I am an intelligent girl, but my self-defence mechanism is taking over. It is nice to hear other people’s views. I know I will take this burden to the grave with me, I am working so hard not to let my inner feelings show, so that my kids feel comfortable at home. They are more important to me than anything in the world. On a positive note though. I feel that my experience and awareness does enable me to talk to people who are expressing depression. I know that they don’t want to hear the clichés comments that you raise in this blog and I look them in the eye rather than turn away. Everyone who has posted here is in a position to listen to someone else and hopefully say the right thing. We should work together to help each other, after all, if someone has never experienced the depth of depression, be they a friend or a professional, they really cannot properly understand how to help.

  166. natasha says:

    my x’s favourite saying: “stop being manipulative”

    • Gah! I hate that one. I hate the idea that people (especially, perhaps women?) with mental health issues are manipulative, or attention-seeking. Who *wouldn’t* seek attention if they had a painful, life-threatening illness? x

  167. Heather says:

    I am honestly so glad I found your blog. Truly. Thank you for speaking up about what it’s like to deal with a mental illness. I always feel like I’m making excuses with my depression and it helps just a little knowing that other people experience this.

  168. Kerry says:

    Thank you for your blog. My prayers for your recovery/treatment success. My favorite comment about depression in young people is – “Well there must be a problem with the parents – they don’t care or haven’t done everything they can.” My 16 year old daughter is clinically depressed/suicidal. She is drug free, no boys/sex, a straight ‘A’ student from a 2 parent home, and brilliantly smart. Her goal in life is to become a doctor and work with relief agencies around the world helping the poor. Her therapist thinks that her thought processes are so advanced she has disconnected with her peer group and has told us that as parents we are true “hippies” in the non-counter culture sense. My daughter is depressed because the people around her lack depth – she wants to discuss art in the Stalinist USSR and people stare at her and laugh. Please don’t tell me I don’t care or could have done something different or that she needs to “get over herself.”

  169. Harold says:

    I’ve struggled with depression most of my youth and adult life, but I never had the support of my family. I think the worst thing was when my mother, big brother and my grandmother ganged up on me at the same time and accused me of lying and “acting” depressed just to get their sympathy. There was not an ounce of support to have, all they did was turn their backs on me, in the end I started turning suicidal. Even then there was no support, and I ended up hospitalized and went through a long period of recovery. However… Now, many years later I actually think they started to get a clue, well, at least my brother seems to have snapped out of it and is actually treating me like a human being and not believeing I faked my illness. But it’s incredible that it takes almost losing a family member for people to get real.

  170. chatte noire says:

    My mom constantly tells people (including me) to “grab the bull by the horns.” I hate it, and recently we’ve had a few blow ups when I’ve told her she’s making it worse for people not as lucky as she. Maybe someday she’ll get it, maybe not. Either way, I’m not going to stop trying… especially since my father is bipolar and my mother’s own family has a severe history of depression, with most of my relatives medicated for it.

    Thanks for writing this… I guess it makes me feel less alone to find it, somehow. And good luck! 🙂

  171. Katie Kaute says:

    You read my mind! I’m sick of hearing these stupid comments and suggestions. I have borderline personality disorder and have been in hospital for suicide attempts more times than I can count, starting from the age of ten.

    The one that frustrates me the most is the people who “don’t believe in mental health conditions. I’ve just this minute been told to go for a nice walk. Argghh.

    I’d like to contribute to the list. My Community Psychiatric Nurse has recently relieved me from his case load and that of the mental health services for my area because “You are not improving”. He had nothing more to add to this so I asked him if he was just going to leave me to eventually succeed in my suicide like my older sister did. Silence followed, so I walked out.

    I’ve been trying to ask desperately for help ever since as I would actually like to live, I just need help.

    Has anybody else experienced this?

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  173. 154 says:

    I wish I could send this to my best friend who thinks I don’t want to be friends anymore. But really they’re just doing all the wrong things.

  174. norfolkgirl says:

    Reblogged this on A Norfolk Girl's Ramblings about life & M.E. and commented:
    I have personal experience of depression. This blog ticks all the boxes of how people can react to depression.

  175. sarahmo3w says:

    Oh my goodness! I am completely shocked that people in the caring professions would say such things. I can understand the well-meaning, uninformed acquaintance saying ‘pull yourself together’ (not saying I agree, because I don’t, but I know this happens), but really shocked that people in health service would say such things.

  176. butterflywgs says:

    Reblogged this on Life Is A Question and commented:
    Excellent post by the lovely Charlotte.

  177. MICO says:

    the one I got today was “Why are you still here if you are depressed”

  178. chele66 says:

    Reblogged this on chele66 and commented:

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  181. Vicky says:

    Wow, I’ve only read about a 3rd of this post and already feel compelled to comment. I had a very irritated GP ask me something very similar that you’ve listed here: ‘What exactly do you think this GP Practice should do for you?’ Another words: take your little white pills, suck it up matey, eff off and stop wasting our time. Now I’ve been referred by a slightly more intelligent and imaginative colleague of hers, and that’s the only reason I’ve stayed with said Practice. I too should have complained, but like you, really couldn’t be arsed. The total ignorance out there is truly amazing, even among health ‘professionals’.

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  183. Sarah says:

    I never talk about my depression to anyone. It will come up in conversations sometimes with my best friend but I will never go in depth. I am a very independent person I don’t like talking to people about my feelings or anything. I still haven’t spoken to my parents about my depression, mainly because out of their four daughters I am the only one who basically hasn’t screwed up in some way. So because I never talk about the fact that I have been depressed for the past two years the people around me talk about it so openly, sharing their comments without really knowing what they are talking about. They wouldn’t talk about it if they knew that I was depressed and that’s the really messed up thing.

    My friends say “Oh well if someone’s depressed they should just go to therapy. That will fix it.” or “They make pills for that.” when I hear this I just want to scream “IT’S NOT THAT SIMPLE!” But I just keep my mouth shut. However the thing that gets me the most fired up is when I hear people talk about a person who is depressed and they say ” I don’t know why they’re depressed. What do they have to be upset about? There are people who have serious reasons to be depressed but they can keep it together. What dose this person has to be depressed for? The fact that they broke up with their boyfriend, They failed a test, Their parents yelled at them! These aren’t reasons to be depressed!” These people obviously don’t know what they are talking about. We never really know why we are depressed! there is never a logical explanation. We know there are much worse things that can happen but we are depressed for the unknown reason anyway, and we feel guilty about it. AND THEN these people start on “oh well why are people suicidal! what’s a good reason for anyone to commit suicide?” oh I don’t know maybe its because they feel as if no one understands because of people like this who just throw around their comments on depression with out really knowing what they are talking about.

    Really I am just tired of people not thinking before they speak.

  184. Cheryl says:

    Wow. What a great post. I just found your blog as I was searching for ways to respond to people who just don’t get mental illness. Can’t wait to read more of your blog. My depression is one of a few severe symptoms stemming from PTSD.

    I definitely can relate to #2 but in the opposite way. People have compared me to other people they know with real clinical depression who manage to carry on with their normal activities in spite of it. THEY aren’t sitting at home, so why am I? Gee, I don’t know. Why is your cancer not in remission when Susie-Q had chemo too and she’s just fine!

    The biggest struggle for me is that if I force myself to be around people by putting on the mask then they question the reality of my disease. I’m tired of feeling like I have to defend the fact that I have a serious illness simply because other people can’t ‘see’ it.

    The one I get most often is #4. If I show up to a function, have a conversation on the phone or can make a joke, suddenly they think I’m all better. What they don’t know is that as soon as I leave or hang up I burst into tears or have an anxiety attack. It’s hard for them to believe there’s really something wrong if I act ‘normal’ one day (or heaven forbid use an exclamation point in a text) but then isolate or cancel something the next day. (“Well, she was just fine yesterday.”) This of course only exacerbates the isolation. Now I’m mentally ill AND a liar. Thanks for the support! Can’t wait to get together again soon!

    Trying to meet other people’s expectations has taken it’s toll to the point where I’ve just recently (and finally) stopped all together. The accompanying guilt and anxiety from not being able to meet those expectations is actually less stressful than the energy I was putting forth to do so. They’ll just have to “get over it.” 🙂

    • Feeling Pressured And Alone says:

      This is how I feel too Cheryl. I feel we can find our centre by trusting and believing in ourselves. These days I see these attitudes as giving me an opportunity to love and believe in myself more, to trust the reality of my illness, to challenge the notion that I am lying or malingering, and to knock an extra brick or two off the wall of mental illness stigma if I get the chance to speak to the person with the attitude. Basically I take the inner attitude myself of ‘Hey, this is where I’m at, and I can no more help it than you can help what the woman down the street had for breakfast this morning – like it or lump it’. 🙂 Still upsetting when you meet with it though, hence why I’m posting here!

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  186. Hi, I have only just come across your blog via the Black Dog Tribe. I love this post especially No9! I was told recently by the crisis team that I was “too well” for their service. This was because I was managing to go to work. It’s a shame that their lack of interest/care led to a hospital admission!

  187. ninetiles says:

    Hi, I wanted to comment on this post as someone from the other side. I have been one to express some of these comment in the past, and never did so in malice. I am currently in a tough situation, where someone in my network tried to commit suicide (not a cry for help). As someone close to this person, it pains me to hear constant rejections when suggesting all sorts of therapies, help and generally trying to do something to get the person out of this horrible mindset. The person is not interested in opening up about their problems to friends or therapists, anyone else for that matter. When I do ask, what I can do to help, because I do genuinely wish I could, I get “I don’t know”. And as bad as it sounds, it does tempt to just abandon a person like that, because there seems to be no will of improvement whatsoever. So hence I ask, how not to lose patience with depressed people? How to act and what to do to get through? I understand depression is a bizarre state and the people with it have a hard time, but it is hard to see someone suffer through it as well, and it surely is frustrating like nothing else.

    • Hmm, I do feel from your comment that you don’t really understand depression. You *cannot* think logically. There is no point “suggesting all kinds of things”, that’s just not how it works. If someone made a load of suggestions to me when I was very depressed I would have just felt overwhelmed and retreat further. That is not what I’d be looking for in a friend when I am extremely depressed. I would be wanting to be listened to, offered unconditional affection but what I hear from the above is all about YOU – YOUR frustration, YOUR temptation to abandon, YOUR belief that depression is bizarre, YOUR patience. I don’t hear any genuine care and concern for the person, only how their depression affects you. People who are severely depressed have more than “a hard time” – they are fighting for their survival on a daily basis.

      • ninetiles says:

        You are right, I do not understand depression, probably as most “healthy” people, because however hard life has been for me, I have never gotten to the stage of not seeing any ways out. But that does not have to be a bad thing? What I was hoping that you would understand, is that as someone who is close to a person with depression I feel a sense of responsibility to help, do something to fix things, because that is usually what you do when something is broken – you don’t just leave it to fix itself in its own time or slowly decay? It hurts to see someone not being able to enjoy life. And the reason for why you are hearing about MY feelings of frustration, is that the person him/herself is only focusing on their problems, and has been for a very long time now. This is why I am asking, why people expect others to have infinite amounts of patience and as you said unconditional affection, and enthusiasm enough for two individuals when they feel constant opposition? We are after all human, and everyone can reach a point where they just feel like the effort put is not giving any positive outcomes.

      • For goodness’ sake! Of course they are only focusing on their problems! I have already said, their problems are such THEY ARE TRYING TO STAY ALIVE. They almost didn’t manage that. If someone had life-threatening cancer, would you complain they “only think about their cancer”? Have you absorbed nothing at all about the gravity of your friend’s condition? Thank god my friends are more understanding than you. The last thing I would need would be someone who made it clear they were impatient, frustrated. People in deep depression feel CONSTANT guilt and self-loathing. How do you think getting irritated with them is going to help? Seriously, if you want to help your friend, educate yourself. The way you come across, ATM you will be making things worse, not better. Like I say: every time you think the word “depression” in the context of your friend, try substituting “cancer.” See how great you look with your frustration and your irritation then. And learn from that.

      • In fact, I haven’t done one of the these for a while, but: I am going to give you a Blunt Pencil Award for totally missing the point. Congratulations! Now read up, get your head out of your bum, and THINK about your friend and what they are though. Otherwise you’re no use to them and will probably make things worse. Get to it.

      • ninetiles says:

        There is no need to get so defensive. I am purely after a discussion, as I don’t think there is enough focus on what people around depressed individuals should do not only what they shouldn’t, because it does affect people around. Clearly, I won’t get any constructive answers to my question, hence I won’t ask any more. Good luck with your blog, and I hope people in a similar situation to yours will find it helpful.

      • I’m sorry??? You come here reading about 10 people whose attitudes to depression stink, express an attitude that is in many ways WORSE, then act hurt that I don’t want to validate your awful responses to your poor, desperate friend who has already attempted suicide? You might want to know I’ve shared your parts of comments on Twitter. Take a little peek at the mentions to @BipolarBlogger if you want to see just how horrified so many people have been by your attitude. Like I say – thank God you’re not in *my* friendship circle. Almost better to have no friends than judgemental, selfish friends sighing and tutting at my despair. Even more sad, at no point have my responses made you think – “Ouch – she really might have a point”. It’s still all about you. I still hold out hope, for your friend’s sake, that eventually you’ll get it. But given how very unwilling you are to question your own attitudes and behaviour, it’s a slender one 😦

    • Cheryl says:

      I have to say something about this. I’m one of those people suffering (see comment above) from thoughtless comments, judgements and ‘well-meaning’ suggestions from people who don’t understand depression, but my problem with them is that they don’t WANT to understand it, or worse, they refuse to believe it really exists! To invalidate someone with depression can do them in once and for all. It really can.

      However, what I’m hearing in your comment is frustration because you feel helpless to help someone you care about who is suffering greatly. Nobody wants to see their loved ones suffer and it does cause distress to the caregiver. That’s a natural human reaction. The fact that you even came here to ask others what you could do to help tells me you are sincere. Most people wouldn’t even do that much.

      Since you came here to find a solution I will answer from my personal perspective. One thing you can do is educate yourself as best you can on what goes on inside the brain of a clinically depressed person. You can also come here as you did or go to depression forums and read personal stories and experiences. Get input from those who suffer. From reading this blog post, you know what NOT to do and there is just as much information out there as to what you CAN do.

      Just listen IF they want to talk (don’t push) and let them know you will always support them, no matter what (even if your feeling frustrated at the time). Remember that when you offer suggestions that are not received well it’s NOT because the person doesn’t want to get better – of course they do! It’s because there is nothing you can suggest that will help this kind of disease and any attempt to do so will backfire and make the person (and you) feel worse, even though that wasn’t your intention. Don’t judge and never walk away. They still need to know you’re there even if you just give them a hug and say nothing.

      A friend of mine recently spent a lot of time on the computer researching mental illness. He didn’t even have to tell me he did because now every time he responds to something I say, it’s exactly what I want and/or need to hear. His simple responses are SO validating, even though he has no clue what depression feels like.

      There is the sweetest illustration I found recently that pretty much sums all of this up in one picture. It’s at (robot-hugs.com/nest). I hope that helps you in some way.

      • ninetiles says:

        Thank you so much for this reply. Gathering information from people with similar problems is what I thought would be the best. I do get sad and helpless when all I hear is either “there is nothing you can do” or when speaking about therapy “the person in question has to want it themselves for it to help”. Sometimes I get thoughts and wonder whether me being around this person makes any difference to if I wasn’t, because I don’t feel like I am doing anything to help. The person in question is an introvert (very opposite of me) and does not express any gratitude or lack of it, hence it does make it quite hard at times to “read” their needs.

    • Ally says:

      I hope it’s not too late to reply to this comment. It did come off a little rude, but I understand that you don’t understand what it is like because you haven’t gone through it. Thank you, though, for being interested in finding more information and ways to help.
      From my personal experience, I would say that a way to help is to make sure the person feels important. Make them feel like you want to be around them. Make them feel like you truly care and that you don’t think their problems are silly.
      I understand how you feel because my best friend is depressed, and it is extremely painful for me to watch her suffer and being unable to do anything. It’s even worse, though, because I am also depressed so it’s hard to take care of her and also take care of myself (and I am sure it must be the same way for her).
      We – depressed people – don’t know what you can do to help us. That is actually part of our problem. We just don’t know how to get out of it. But when a person tells you that they don’t know what you can do to help, it doesn’t mean that you can’t. And especially, it doesn’t mean that it won’t mean anything if you just walk away. That will just make things much worse.
      I find that little things can be very helpful. Surprise your friend with a gift (doesn’t have to be big, maybe even just some chocolate or something they like). Invite them for dinner sometime. Call them. Tell them something (nice) you saw that day that reminded you of them. Tell them you’re sorry they’re going through such a hard time. Spend time with them; even just sometimes being there with the person without even talking can help, just the feeling of having someone there can be soothing. Tell them that you are going to always be there for them for whatever they need. And keep your promise.
      Often we don’t have the courage to ask people to do these things because we feel needy and burdening. Also, these things won’t make the depression go away, but they will probably help, even if just a little bit; maybe that will keep the person from killing themselves that day. Because that is how we live, day by day, trying to survive.

      • Feeling Pressured And Alone says:

        Ninetiles, why do you need ‘gratitude’? You’re making it about you, and it’s not. Remain detached but present. Do not judge, do not get emotionally overwraught about what they’re doing, do not make their illness and resultant behaviour about you and how it makes you feel. Let them be. Respect where they are at. Seriously. You don’t need to do anything other than not judge. If they ask for help with something practical, do it if you can. But expecting gratitude? I would ask that you question your motivation for helping in that situation. I have seen this very same attitude so many times in those around me and I find it very odd. Why do you need so much personal validation in order to show a mentally unwell person some basic humanity? Why do you need to make my condition all about you when I don’t respond the way you want or expect me to in order to feel personally validated/like your ‘effort’ has been ‘worth it’? Your effort? Stay emotionally detached, in that it is not about you. Ever. This is the best way – just let us be. I mean those of us who are living normal lives but living with illness at the same time. If we are disclosing suicidal thoughts or are in need of sectioning, that is different obviously and does require intervention. But please don’t take it personally and assume it is an overall character flaw if we don’t make your social event, or need to briefly delay doing something for you, or are a little bit late because our symptoms were sky high that day. .
        When I worked in mental health I saw this a lot as well – staff would really get emotionally involved in the patients symptoms. They would take it really personally if a patient missed an appointment with them or didn’t seem to be engaging, and this eventually led to really dangerous resentments and personal opinions of the patients’ characters. They tried to entice me to be the same but I never reacted that way because I remained detached and understood that it was about the patients’ illness, where they were at and was, most importantly NOT about me or the patients’ personal opinion of me 😉 As I say, I’m witnessing it in those around me now with my own symptoms. Please don’t take lack of engagement personally and just be there without judgement. I hope this post helps and you understand why I have been so candid in parts – the personal emotionally overinvolved reaction is a really problematic reaction that has a detrimental effect on us, and it is frighteningly prevalent even in professional circles.

  188. Bex says:

    I recognise pretty much all of these lol especially number 10 my depression started when I was 17 and I was constantly told it was probably just my hormones or my period! I think a lot of the time people just don’t know what to say and so they end up saying these things without realising how frustrating they’re being. So it’s good that you have highlighted them to let people know 🙂 fantastic blog Charlotte, you’re so inspirational 😀 xxx

  189. Nyxynyx says:

    I’m bipolar and read your brilliantly written blog nodding my head. Out of the listed ten awful things to say to the depressed, number nine is the only one I haven’t experienced. The understanding of mental illness, even amongst health ‘professionals’, often feels stuck in the in the 1950’s.

    • Hi Nyx! Nice to see you here. Yes, so far behind most specialities, it’s awful x

      • Feeling Pressured And Alone says:

        Oh yes I used to work in mental health myself and honestly the staff (lower ranks like RMNs, we’re not talking consultants here) used to discuss how much patients got in benefits, behind their backs! They were basically jealous and critical of ‘all’ the apparent money they got, as in DLA etc. – it was ridiculous. These professional people with relatively normal, stable lives seemed willing to trade that in for a life of schizophrenia, bipolar, depression, anxiety or whatever else ‘Tinkered Bell’ ( 😉 ) the mental illness fairy would like to throw at them for these DWP gravy train purposes, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

  190. Winnie says:

    Great article! I stumbled to it from twitter and so glad I did! May print it off for family members!

    • Hi! Glad you found it helpful! It’s my second most popular article, after its companion piece, “Ten supportive things I’m glad somebody said to me” so you may like that one too 🙂

  191. Hi,
    i stumbled across this and was so shocked about how i felt after reading it. it said everything that i had been feeling for so long. i am 25 years old. been on and off anti depressants for a few years now. my mum had an accident when iw as 12 and was left handicapped and with no memory of anything. i felt like i had lost my whole world. i left school at 17 to try and help with looking after her. we had live in caregivers but it wasn’t enough in my mind. i never told my older siblings or my dad how i felt, how much despair, and hopelessness i felt everyday. then one day the carer made me speak to the doctor and he put me on medication. i still hid it all from my family convinced that there must be something wrong with me, because they all seemed fine (although they didnt live what i did. both my siblings had gone to uni by the time my mum was able to be cared for at home and my dad had to work away from home and i only saw him once a month). i love my family so much. but after my mum passed this summer (something that i had to stand in her room and watch happen, and then call my siblings and father to tell them that she had died), i mentioned to my sister that i was going to see the doctor about going on anti depressants… the response i got was : there is a difference between feeling sad and feeling depressed.

    i was so hurt and disappointed, and suddenly the reasons that i had kept my depression from them became validated. they wouldn’t understand. its so hard to hear people say things like that to you, or to suggest a movie or a comedy show or a board game, that somehow you wont feel so crippled by mental pain. how dare you feel this way? how dare you share it? i see home movies of when i was little and i was the happiest little kid, i see photos and in all of them i have such a big smile on my face, but i don’t recognise that person. i wish that i did but i don’t. and reading this post was so nice, because i suddenly felt less alone in the world. as though its not my fault that i feel this way. because other people do too. so thank you so much. 🙂

    • Wow, you have really been through such a lot – so much on your plate that you never asked for and which left you unable to pursue your own life really. It’s important to remember that we all have different levels of vulnerability or resilience to stress. Many people who are very resilient don’t realise they are just fortunate, that if they can cope with stuff and you can’t that isn’t because you’re weak, or lack moral fibre or something. For something like that to happen with your mum at what was for you a very young age would definitely affect your resilience. Yes, it really hurts when people who don’t go through the pain we do suggest something so flippant as many of these comments. You are *definitely* not alone. I don’t know if you like Twitter, but I get so much support and strength from other people with mental health conditions on there. There’s always someone on there who gets it, day or night. If you do use it at all, look me up at @BipolarBlogger 🙂

  192. Ally says:

    Nothing like: “Oh but you are so lucky! You have such a wonderful life! I wish my life were like yours and I had everything you have! You don’t know what true suffering is.”
    and: “There are people who have gone through much worse. Your problems are not serious enough to think about suicide. You can choose to be happy if you want to.”

  193. Sal mastas says:

    I hear this more than once a week “you’re doing this to yourself” and
    “There’s days when I feel depressed and don’t want to get out of bed but I still get up”

    • Somebody who allegedly has clinical depression told me a few weeks ago, “I get depression too, I just don’t give into it like you.” Nice. Way to be supportive!

      • tinatspoon says:

        I was recently told by a friend that everyone feels like I do, everyone thinks like I do the only difference is that I’m just vocal about it. I told my psychologist this today, and the look on her face was priceless.

        I’ve also been told I’m not ill, there’s nothing wrong with me, everyone’s a nutter.
        Does everyone have a suicide plan? Do they self-harm? Has everyone been raped as a child? sexually assaulted as an adult? attacked at work? Been in an abusive relationship? None of these things should have any effect on me apparently! HA!

      • I’ve been told that “bipolar people don’t feel any different emotions than everyone else, they just don’t know how to handle them.” What on earth do you say to someone so clueless? Maybe I should have printed out a Mind or Royal College of Psychiatrists leaflet or something but actually I just didn’t want to revisit the topic after that :-/

      • Feeling Pressured And Alone says:

        This! Lol! x

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  195. tinatspoon says:

    I can relate to quite a few of these, from friends, family, nurses in psych ward and indeed my psychiatrist. Thankfully i have a great GP and Psychologist. One time, years back, after binge-drinking and self-harming I called nhs24 to ask how much diazepam I could safely take to knock myself out for a few hours until my suicidal impulses lessened. The doctor said “it’s not like you can take a magic pill and everything will be ok in the morning”. I didn’t expect it would be, I just needed to get through the night. He criticised me for drinking when i was suicidal (i know it doesn’t help but my fiancee had recently killed himself and i was all out to join him, I’d had previous attempts before he tried and succeeded) and spoke to me with disdain and extreme impatience. I called back, spoke to another doctor, was told one or two tablets should do it and to seek further help if needed. I was seeing my gp the next day anyway and she was not a happy bunny at the first Doctor’s attitude. It’s not a recommended solution but it’s better than ending up in a box.

  196. Annomis says:

    Why do you feel only Women can get depressed? I would love to know.

  197. Hello there. Thank you for this article. But I would like to know something, is your depression characterized by complete anhedonia (lack of pleasure and emotions)?

  198. brandy says:

    I had a nurse tell me i was being my own worst enemy while i was in the middle of an anxiety attack.

  199. Isabella says:

    What are 10 right things to say? (Thank you for sharing, very will articulated.)

  200. Letty says:

    I’m so glad I came across this blog. I definitely have gotten quite a few of these. As a matter of fact I’ve been feeling really down lately and can’t seem to shake it and I made the mistake in confiding in a supposed friend of mine and her response was “you need to get over this depression thing and stop letting it take over your life. I’ve been depressed too and I got over it.” That really had me beating myself up for being so weak until I saw this. Oddly enough I don’t feel so bad now that I’ve seen this. Thanks.

    • Well, it’s one of those things…obviously I don’t want anyone else to have those kind of experiences, or indeed to be so depressed. BUT it’s good to know that we don’t suffer alone! Wishing you the very best for recovery from this episode.

    • Feeling Pressured And Alone says:

      A friend of mine said something very similar to me this week which is how I found this blog! In my opinion nobody who had genuinely experienced depression would ever say that to us. It made me feel very isolated and judged, and I’m not looking forward to seeing that friend again now.

  201. Lavinia Charlotte Hartley says:

    I have suffered two bouts of depression one some years ago and one about ten years ago. I can relate to many of the comments on this site. People can be very cavalier in their attitude towards the illness. My problem was my sister-in-law her reply was oh you can only do it yourself. If only it was that easy. What I found hurtful she stopped her two teenage sons from visiting us and the second bout she made nasty remarks about the doctor who had treated me saying was she having a nervous breakdown as well. She also knew another person who had depression and was taken into hospital quite a few times as she attempted to take her own live which was very sad. My sister-in-law said she was a nutter and why didn’t she do the job properly and finish herself off. which I was so annoyed that she said that very nasty remark. My sister-in-law got her come just deserts she got panic attacks because her son became a criminal and got sent to prison. I felt oh hum now you know what it is like maybe you will have some sympathy with others. I did not help her much as I thought of the time she dismissed my problems it stuck in my throat so to speak.

  202. Gertrude says:

    My top ten are
    1) (from my partner) the world doesn’t stop because of you after I’ve said it isn’t a good idea when I’m low to tease me ( we tease eachother something awful as,we have a black sense of humour) so I’m not allowed to feel like I do and unenjoy your joking as my perceptions are off key ? How about I’m going to appreciate it when I’m feeling better , and just need tlc not stupidity ?

    2) when your like this it reminds me of …. ( mentions ex wife who has chronic mood disorder ) as if I need a comparison like this , it only makes me feel even worse

    3) it’s like your a different person ( I get that , but yes your not yourself when your low der brains )

    4) don’t start this now ( my mother used to say that when I was back chatting because she’d got on my nerves and I was defending myself, as a teenager do I really need to be treated like I’m one now ? Seriously do I need to apply for a mood permit so when the person who says this is ready to deal withbit I can show it can I ?

    5) it will get better ( sure it will and it’ll get back to being hell again, there is no cure lovey !

    6) I need stability ( so do I and moral support , not a guilt trip !)

    7) the silent treatment when I’ve had an an anxiety attack or keeping the tears back by being quiet ( I really can’t bear this , I know I’m being given space , but it’s uncomfortable and all I need is to be held one form or other and it’s forgotten sometimes , and the initiative isn’t dished out from the other person, which leads to the next one )

    8) all you need to do is open your mouth and speak ( as if one can articulate when ones down, and state what I need ! Yes I can do, but why should I have to even ask for crying out loud, are people that thick , that they can’t use initiative , is the buck bring passed so they don’t get it wrong ????? I’ve stated what I need when well, and it’s sometimes gone in one ear…

    9) I’ve had a bad experience with my ex’s regarding depression ( so have I regarding an ex flat mate, but I don’t base bad experiences on to the other person, it’s not fair is it ?

    10) if I’m honest ….(goes onto state how it’s effecting them ) it effects both or all who know me and it’s hard, but I don’t need to know this as its like saying I can’t cope with you anymore , and I don’t need to feel any more pain than I do already ) needless to say I’ve arranged for them to talk to someone for both our sakes

    • Feeling Pressured And Alone says:

      Your Number 9 there demonstrates perfectly that mental health issues affect different people in different ways, because the triggers and perpetuating circumstances can be so different as well. Some of the greatest critics I mention in my own response below are those who claim to have experienced depression. For me it’s a sure sign they likely haven’t, or have learnt nothing from it which is even worse and potentially less forgivable than someone who hasn’t. You can at least understand those who haven’t experienced it, but hearing pull yourself together from someone who says they have just makes me think WTH?! And feel rubbish about myself at the same time.

  203. Feeling Pressured And Alone says:

    Excellent post, so well written and what I needed! I’ve experienced anxiety and depression for years, pretty much controlled, held down jobs etc. but I recently went through a period of severe trauma which I’m taking longer than I expected, to recover from. I also run a business, but I am taking things gradually at the moment, getting back into the swing. People don’t understand though, and seem to think I should just ‘pull myself together’ and be back at full throttle. I feel judged, criticised, pressured and unsupported, and feel like my competence is being questioned even though I’m keeping on top of things I have to do, just not at full speed ahead.
    What we need is for people to accept where we’re at right now (without taking it personally – which I suspect many of them do, and is part of the problem…!) accept our version of how we’re feeling as you’ve said above, and just let us be. Why do people have this need for us to be level pegging with them in everything, and take it very personally when we take a step back for our health. If I had a broken leg would they be dragging me off to run a marathon?. There is no respect. We must be pulling a fast one, lying, manipulating, making excuses, playing the sick role, – surely we can’t be confident, capable adults who know our own minds and bodies, and have the right to set personal and professional boundaries where necessary in order to protect our health and wellbeing. Surely we can’t be…..just like them?!
    Thank you for a great site, please keep up the good work! x

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  205. zoe says:

    Oh my I am so sorry that You had so much nasty comments from “professionals” that’s atrocious.

    Mine’s a combination of 5 and 6 – “try to find a bit of joy and levity in things.You have two parents and a brother who love you; you have at least one friend who really loves you; you have animals to love and care for and who depend on you; you’re not starving; you don;t live in a war zone; you’re not under threat of rape or torture or theft; you’re getting to go to university and sepnd your time reading and writing instead of working in a factory yet you’re not happy until you’ve turned a flame-thrower on all of that and turned it to ashes. ” (from the only friend I have)

  206. Thisisnotourfarewell says:

    Most of the article sounded very good. But what was that about the emo kid?! I don’t think it’s great to say that one, but good luck on your journey anyway. Yes, when talking about people, I agree that ”
    If you don’t have something nice or useful to say, don’t say it”

  207. Feeling damned says:


    I never really thought at that depth about an individual’s feelings. Most often, I appear to be a cold-hearted person. But after reading your article on questions that shouldn’t be asked to a person who is depressed, I think I have ruined and further deteriorated my girlfriend’s depression. I have hurt her so much that I just can’t seem to forgive myself thinking about it. She say’s she’s fine when I know she isn’t, and it hurts to realize that I fail to keep her comforting, and happy when she’s with me. Quite frankly, my actions portray me to be a self-obssessed person but I know I’m not. It’s just that I’m beginning to lose hope in self, and I have relapsed into smoking and drugs. Unable to get out off it. I love her a lot and at the same time I can’t come in terms that I have failed her as a partner, a boyfriend. It’s really hard for me to express this pain to anyone, and typing another comment to another article on the countless articles on the worldwide web I’ve read on depression, not knowing if it’ll be read is very lonely. I know killing oneself doesn’t solve anything, but is the shortcut I see at most times and I try to avoid it. I know she needs me, but I want to be there for her at all times which I’m unable to do. I keep my mind sane at other times, by running my startup, non-profit organization, reading books, meditation. But it just doesn’t stick. I want to challenge the world but I see no one by my side, even the ones whom I love are beginning to hate me. I know I’m not perfect, hope atleast I can help my girlfriend of all that’s remaining sane of me. I want to make more memories with her since I don’t know if either of us will live to see the next day.

    • You are read 🙂 This sounds like a really complex situation, I know you say your girlfriend is depressed but from what you have said here, it doesn’t sound like you are in a good place yourself. There’s a lot in your comment about feeling alone, using smoking and drugs to deal with the situation and even thinking about suicide. Those are the kind of things somebody says unless they’re really not very happy. Relationships can be hard anyway, but if both of you are suffering depression, that makes things so much harder. Sometimes it’s very difficult to help someone else when you don’t have the resources because you need help yourself. You know how on aeroplanes when they give the safety talk and they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others? It’s a bit like that, you may need to be well enough to really be the kind of support to your girlfriend that you want to be. Are you getting any help/support? Even if it’s painful, the fact that have recognised you might sometimes have been insensitive towards your girlfriend is a good thing in that with recognition, change is possible. Don’t be too hard on yourself, *tons* of people say this stuff without thinking, all the time, which is kind of why I wrote the article. Generally speaking if we want to support people who are depressed, we need to engage our ears more, and out mouths less! I really hope you can find some support for yourself so you’ll be stronger and better able to help your girlfriend with her issues.

  208. Maria says:

    Thank you for posting this. As many had stated before me, I’ve heard some kind of variation of these comments – all of them from my parents and older sister.

    I know they love me and care about me, but hearing them say, “there’s something wrong with you” or “just snap out of it” generally hurts; deep into the pit of my soul. I’ve had multiple episodes of clinical depression since I was 12, all on varying levels from making a suicide plan to just being anxious, lethargic, and deeply sad.

    I’m in college now, and I’ve been good enough to fool everyone – including my family until my Dad saw the signs and took me to a shrink when I had finally broken through another bout of depression.

    My Dad understands now & recognizes when I experience it again, but my Mom has no idea while my sister is frustrated and anxious beyond belief as (I think) she sees it as me being a lazy bum who won’t ever leave her bed. She gets angry and states things with a snippy tone, as if it’s the most logical thing in the world.

    As of right now, I’m slowly crawling out of my pit of darkness & isolation. It’s very slow going, but I’m getting better; yet not quite O.K yet. I’m going back to school and trying to find a job – though I’m still nervous. I know if I can start doing things that my mood will feel lighter, but when my sister comments about how I never leave my bed; I break down again. I talk to her about how I want to do all these things, but I hold myself back because I’m nervous and afraid of getting back out into the world.

    I know my sister cares about me, and her comments prove just how anxious she is for me as she’s seen what I’ve done when I’m at my best, but… well… I just don’t know. I actually feel like leaving her a note to explain myself in an indirect confrontational way, but… I just don’t know.

    Your post made me cry, but only because I feel that someone recognized just what are the worst things to say about people who experience clinical depression. So, THANK YOU so much for being here; I really want to give you a hug.

    My post may sound like a rant (and I’m sorry if it does), but I’ve never really found anyone who I could talk to this about. Usually I act as the person who gives out advice or lends someone emotional/physical support, so the few times I do try to splurge out all my feelings, it’s usually cut short before I had even began as I sense their discomfort of seeing me so hurt & sad.

    So truly, TRULY, THANK YOU from the depths of my heart. I wish you love & happiness in the years to come (cheesy, yes; but I do mean it).

  209. nikki says:

    I had most of those but then also got told by psychiatrists that there is nothing wrog . with me and im just a bit anxious. After ten years of this I decided enough was enough and kept going until they did a proper assessment and low and behold I have borderline personality disorder and mild schizophrenia! Certainly more than. A bit anxious I would say. They’re pretty good to me now as they know ive been messed around and wont take it anymore.
    I still get asked by people if im gonna go psycho on them though. It needs less stigma, we’re just . like any other sick person,some short time and some long term and there’s nothing we can do to stop it happening

  210. Alex Dale says:

    Thought I’d leave a comment on your classic post 🙂

    Well, firstly, can I congratulate you on the brilliance of it 😀 secondly, yep, heard them all before!

    My personal gems are,

    1) “doing sit ups is especially helpful, and vegetables too” (from a consultant psychiatrist would you believe it.

    2) “You really shouldn’t self harm, think about the poor bin men if you are putting razor blades in the bin”. – From a CPN (I wasn’t actually putting razor blades in the bin either)

    3) When I am justifiably angry or severely distressed “Are you on a negative roundabout? (Also from a CPN)

    4) “You’re going to have to stop being ill at some point, nobody is ill forever” – CPN again.

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  213. Alex Dale says:

    Hi Charlotte, I’ve written my own version of what you’be written here, entitled “5 things you definitely shouldn’t say to a depressed person”, if you have time, I’d be grateful if you or anyone else would take a look and see what you think. Thank you for inspiring the thought though, and I got a lot of comfort of of reading this post and the ensuing responses to it. My wordpress blog is sombrayelalma.wordpress.com and I also shared it on Twitter I’m @Alex_Dale01. Thanks 🙂

  214. annon says:

    I was the person who would say “just cheer up” or “pull yourself together”, just had no clue. Yes depression is not understood to be anything more than a passing mood by most people. Now I’ve been horribly depressed for 3 years, and all I hear is “your not depressed” or “you changed, pull yourself together” anxiety got a hold on me atm. I’m selfemployed and struggle to get out of bed or go to work, but I have to make excuses up because 1. People do not understand depression is real, and 2. It has a bad stigma, especially for people that try to surround themselves with people based on positivity. As it is true that you become the average of the people you surround yourself with, which was never a problem for me but now I feel when I’m in the company of people who don’t understand depresson(not through talking about it, but my anxiety and observation) i feel isolated and in my own secret socail reclusion. Its not something you can talk about without getting the feeling the reciprocator just thinks your being down for no good reason other than “woe is me” which is a million miles from the truth. The only way one seems to understand is if they experienced it, and i wouldn’t wish that on anyone. So I find the all-round stigma and misunderstanding doesn’t help with my anxiety which causes me to spiral for a week or two now and again. Also when I do work I struggle to get through 8hours usually just doing half days. Getting up late and finishing early. I thought I experienced enlightenment 2years ago, but I feel it may have been a burnout. I Was experiencing overwhelming bad feelings then I had a what can only be described as an inrush of a million numbers for 3seconds in my brain then felt at peace, clear, allunderstanding for 2days ever since then suffered terribly with anxiety and energy.

    • It’s so hard. You’re right, of course we don’t want others to suffer as we have done but we really want them to at least try to get it. I know I’m not the only one wishing the pain and the distress of someone just for an hour, to see what it is like to live in the head of someone who is severely depression, or manic, or acutely anxious, or experiencing psychosis. I go around talking about my mental health issues for a living now. I work on the principle that if even *one* person leaves with a greater understanding, it’s worth doing. Wishing you well, C x

  215. Digit says:

    good list. i recently wrote (possibly) the best thing to say on my wall. “evermore, this too shall pass.”

  216. Anon says:

    I’ve been depressed since I was in second grade (other medical condition kicked things off).

    Most painful thing someone has said to me (we were both 10 though):

    In fourth grade I said to my (former) friend something along the lines of, “I think I’m depressed, not normal depressed, like, medically depressed” (the best my 10 year old self could put it). He responded by telling me that there was no way I could be depressed since my life wasn’t nearly as bad as his, then proceeded to talk about how much harder his life was than mine.

    That was by far the worst thing, having someone tell you that you have no right to be depressed then tell you how much worse they have it… That was the point of a major turn for the worse.

    I’m not friends with him anymore, that guy was/is in a lot of pain too but he was/is absolutely toxic. I’ve bumped into him a couple times and I think he’s doing a bit better now (I think we made each other worse), though I know how hard it can be to tell.

    I never think that the things people say will have much if any bearing on my depression but they do no matter how determined I am to not care.

    • We can’t always choose who we have around us but in the case of friends who are uncaring, critical or playing “mental health oneupmanship” we’re best off without. Event if we have fewer friends. Quality, not quantity maybe? BW, Charlotte

  217. Dorax says:

    Well, those were all said to me by my husband who I have two kids with and then some XD I feel slightly insane these days

  218. Gadis says:

    I’m glad I found this blog. My husband just told me that he is suicidal after almost a year without a job and when he’s away I was searching on way on how I can fully support him. I know I might need to get some professional help but I also want to support him. Although I work in community services and help a lot of young people to get through this but when it’s the person that you love and spend more times with, it’s different. Thanks so much!!!! I have also looked at the other one about things to say. Really helpful. Thanks for sharing your personal life and experience with us too.

  219. Lost and unimportant says:

    My husband gets his tips on how to treat me from suicide prevention lines (like hotline dot org) which call me wanting to kill myself a form of spousal abuse. He holds on to this and I am so lost. So are all of those of us in pain and says something being abusive and what we feel is not their concern?

  220. debbie says:

    I went to a mental clinic last year in July for emailing back and forth with my old school counselor that I was really thinking about just taking a bunch of random pills and she took it serious of course and I still don’t know what I could have had capable of doing to myself that night because it was just a horrible horrible night and my emotions were all over the place but anyways I got escorted by some policemen when they came to my house to take me to the clinic and they took me there in the middle of the night and the whole time I was there I felt even worse and the worst part is that when I got there and they finally started to ask me questions and one of the counselors told me that my case wasn’t as grave or anything that they just brought me here just because there wasn’t anywhere else and that I could just rest for the night which sounds reasonable and I know I probably didn’t explain that part thoroughly but I felt so unimportant somehow and I had to wait to talk to one of the doctors in the morning and when I finally did the next day i immediately thought after that’s what i waited for and i still felt like crap even though it was an overall experience i still felt really stupid for being there because a lot of other people there had it worse and i was just there looking like an idiot well that’s what i thought at least and i still feel stupid for emailing my school counselor about the almost suicide attempt.

  221. Gillian Rowell says:

    Thankyou for your blog. It’s very useful. I am suffering with depression and suicidal thoughts after a relationship breakdown. I have been to my GP and he said something along the lines of ‘you can’t expect your boyfriend to put up with you and your depression’ and then compared me to a cancer patient. I’m struggleing to make people realise that the pain is so bad I can’t see a way out. My boyfriend has totally turned his back on me and it’s incredably painful. I feel very rejected and abandoned. I am seeing a counsellor but there is only so much you can do in an hour a week. I just feel so lost. Your blog has been very helpful and made me realise I’m not the only person that feels this way. Thanks Gill

  222. Tiredofjerks says:

    Sometimes people with mentally ill relatives are the least understanding. My cousin has said very bitchy things to me, including ‘don’t come over unless you’re in a good mood.’ Then punctuates it with, ‘I’m only joking.’ A white lie would be a much nicer way to handle the situation. Also says to me, ‘you’re always depressed;’ nice thing to say to someone with bipolar II.

  223. Ann says:

    My husband told me he is embarrassed by my depression and wish that I wouldn’t talk about it with anyone. He don’t want his family to know I am on the edge everyday, struggling with the thought of suicide. It left me feeling even more hopeless. I don’t know what to do anymore.

  224. Hala ellaithy says:

    Giving u the answer to your problems like I KNOW THE DAMN LOGICAL WAY OF SOLVING but i just cant do it stop feeling like u r smart and am stupid bec i am depressed but not dumb
    I am losing my bf over this depression and losing my brain

    • If only logic was the answer! And yet people see millions of people around the world suffering with MH conditions and yet don’t think, “Hmm, there must be more to it than just thinking logically….”

  225. Photogirl says:

    I’ve read through many of your posts and feel a lot of familiarity. I’m not sure of my diagnosis because I really struggle with the idea of sharing what’s going on with my doctor, mostly because I’ve been brushed off so many times and I know I have another medical condition that they’re not interested in investigating, It makes me feel so worthless. I’ve suffered from depression since I was about 10 and things are getting increasingly desperate in my 30s..

    I get really frustrated with my family’s response. They ignore it even when I voice suicide and self harm in front of them and the one time I asked him, my husband has said to me that there is nothing that can be done for someone with depression so why acknowledge it, I don’t know whether he thinks that is really the case but it’s the excuse he’s using to not have to have anything to do with it and deal with the hard issues. He’s like this with other difficult areas and I bear basically all of the parenting and financial planning type responsibilities. My mum has suddenly realised that she can help me with support but it’s taken a long time she was trying to ignore it until literally the last few weeks. I could have done with help as a teen but we were never taken to doctors for anything even some injuries that could have really done with medical attention. I do feel like many people hate having to actually deal with things that are hard, and that extends to so called professionals too.

  226. Maria o says:

    I remember when I was in the psych ward for suicidal ideation/depression and anxiety, one of the nurses who had to watch me asked me why I was there. I said it was hard to explain, it was complicated. She said “No it’s not,” and asked if I was in school. I told her no and she went on to tell me how ungrateful I was and how people from her village got their asses beat if they didn’t go to school, etc. And she finished off by telling me that my problems weren’t real, I just had to try harder. It made me feel a million times worse. I can’t believe she had the nerve to said that… While working in a psych ward (!). I went to the hopsital feeling borderline lost and meaningless. I left feeling like I was an ungrateful twat who didn’t deserve to live. What a mess of a nurse, that was ridiculously unprofessional. I just keep thinking if there was someone in an even worse mental state than I was, and she said shit like that to them, what would’ve happened?
    I know that people who haven’t experienced mental illness can’t understand, I just wish they admitted it it instead of denying I have a problem or telling me I’m just making it up.

  227. After1mage says:

    I’ve been depressed for over five years now and I still find myself struggling with people’s reaction to my illness. For years my family has been trying to convince me that maybe I wasn’t so bad and that maybe the depression was just a phase and would go away. It made it really hard for me to seek treatment and take myself and my illness seriously. As far as things not to say to me, here were a few:
    “You’re weak”
    “Why don’t you put more effort into it? You’re so lazy.”
    “You’re attitude is really stressing us out.”
    “Someone just needs to light a fire under your a**”

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