What Not To Say When Talking About Depression

Talking about Depression and general mental well-being can be awkward and there is so much stigma around it. I understand why some find the subject difficult to approach, especially if they’ve never suffered from depression themselves. I think it can be easier to sympathise with physical problems even if you’ve never suffered with them yourself, whereas mental well-being can affect our personalities and behaviour; As such it can be problematic to know how accountable we really are for our actions.

Unfortunately I’ve found many people to be very good at saying the wrong things. It’s probably not their intention to cause harm – in fact the exact opposite -, but that is why it is important to learn how to talk about mental health. What might seem like useful advice or just an innocent slip of the tongue can be taken completely the wrong way when perceived by someone in a different mindset. This is just stuff that I’ve found from personal experience and others might have a different story to tell; Feel free to add your own points in the comments below.

  • ‘What do you have to be depressed about?’ – Depression could be considered an illness or a chemical imbalance and there doesn’t always have to be a reason for why we feel it. Some days I feel anxious and I don’t understand why. Hearing this also make me feel guilty for being down, and in turn makes me feel even worse. I often feel like I’m not allowed to express myself when I get this response, but having an outlet can really help.
  • ‘Everyone gets depressed sometimes’ – It’s normal for everyone to feel sad when something bad has happened to them; It’s normal for everyone to get a little run down sometimes, but I think it’s important to understand the difference between feeling sad and being depressed. When I started to realize that I had depression I could tell because of the way that it changed me. I started to lose interest in things, had less energy and sometimes even getting out of bed in the morning can be a struggle.
  • ‘Just forget about it for now’ – It may be easy to forget about the problems of other people because you’re not living with them all the time. It can also take an enormous amount of courage for some people to open up to you about how they’re feeling, and nonchalantly tossing the subject aside can make it seem like you’re not taking them seriously. From experience I have found that it can leave me feeling pretty desperate and considering silly things just to get people to pay attention (especially if it’s a cry for help.)
  • ‘Get over it’ – … or something along these lines, but depression isn’t something people choose to have and you can’t just flick a switch to make it better. If it was that easy it wouldn’t be a problem. I also don’t choose to live like this, if I could make it all go away I would. I often think back to the times before I had depression and wish I could be that same person again.
  • ‘You should take anti-depressants’ – In my opinion this should be a personal choice to each individual, but I’ve previously felt pressured into considering this option. There are multiple ways of dealing with depression and different things work for different people. The best advice might be to suggest speaking to a doctor about it.
  • ‘It’s probably just due to a lack of sleep’ (Denial) – It’s really helpful to feel like you have a network of support. However, I’ve found that a lot of loved ones just don’t want to acknowledge that you have depression – it can upset them to see you unhappy and it’s not always easy for them to understand why. Even though I’ve been diagnosed with moderate depression it is often put down to a lack of sleep or too much time spent on the computer. The thing is, a problem needs to be acknowledged before you can start to solve it. It may also be easier to talk to a person who isn’t emotionally connected to the situation.
  • ‘There are people going through much worse than you are’ – Sometimes I feel guilty that I struggle to cope with simple things when there are people out there who go through much worse than I do. The thing is some people are better equipped to deal with bad experiences than others. Two people can go through the same event and while one comes out the other side just fine the other can be left struggling to know how to process it.
  • You are just too sensitive‘ – I had this said to me a lot while growing up. Now when I’m treated unfairly I find myself questioning whether I’m the one that’s actually to blame. I think people are on all different levels of sensitivity and it’s not something that you can just change – well I’ve found that to be the case anyway. With sensitivity I also like to believe that you gain other traits such as empathy.
  • It’s not normal‘ or ‘It’s weird‘ – I usually hear this when people are not quite sure how to describe a person with a mental disability and the words ‘not normal’ will accidentally slip out. I try to refer to it as mental health or mental well-being myself because that suggests that it can affect us all in the same way that physical health does, rather than it being those with the problem and those without. It shouldn’t be something to be embarrassed about and a lot of people are affected by it.
  • ‘They don’t really have depression because they don’t experience it like I do’ – I’ve talked to other people with depression who expect all others to suffer with it in the same way that they do. I think it can affect people in different ways though. For example, when it comes to issues relating to low self-esteem and insecurities some people withdraw into themselves while others act up to draw attention to themselves. That’s why it’s important to seek a professional who can make recommendations based on your own personal needs.
  • ‘People don’t really think like that’ – My inner voice is always putting me down and telling me to expect others to hurt me. Trying to tackle this inner critic is difficult because it can be habitual (i.e. rumination.) I think it can happen if you’ve been on the receiving end of criticism a lot while growing up – well I think that’s one of the issues for me anyway.
  • Generally making you feel bad  – It can be scary to admit that you have depression or other mental health issues. Sometimes I’ve been made to feel like I’m weak for needing a little extra emotional support. The truth is, it actually takes a lot of strength to keep pushing yourself to conquer that depression through each day.
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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When I’m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

28 responses to “What Not To Say When Talking About Depression”

  1. drakeca89 says :

    excellent take and great post these things are hard to understand unless you’ve been there kudos

    • wallcat says :

      Thanks. I try not to get frustrated with people who don’t understand. So long as people are willing to listen it’s ok.

      • drakeca89 says :

        Thats the thing will they listen. They are sympathetic and they will hear what your trying to say / describe but few actually listen. Thats whats makes it so hard. Plus as usaly “your not sick sick so whats the problem?”

      • wallcat says :

        I have to admit, a part of the reason that I started to write this was because I needed an outlet, as I felt like people weren’t really listening to me. Perhaps many misunderstandings could be solved if we all tried a little harder to listen and keep an open mind.

      • drakeca89 says :

        A outlet to vent is a good and needed thing. I am lucky and have a friend who I can got to and feel that she is on equal ground as I am. Many times I knew what the answer was before I talked about it was that I just needed to talk it out she actually did nothing so hold onto the things that help.

        Many of my fights could have been resolved if both sides would be just a touch more flexible.

      • wallcat says :

        I’m one of those people that prefers to talk things through, and I try to be there for others who need the same thing. Sometimes it helps just to have somebody tell you that they understand why you’re feeling that way or that things aren’t as bad as they seem. Not everybody wants to deal with things this way though, which is fine, but they seem to expect the same from me, so I pretend everything is fine until eventually it becomes too much and I need to blow off that steam. Unfortunately my family isn’t great at talking about things, so I can’t explain what I need from them to support me through this and it does make you feel very alone in dealing with it. My boyfriend has been incredibly supportive however, so I’m immensely grateful to have him in my life.

        When it comes to disagreements I try to give others the benefit of the doubt by showing that I can admit fault and understand where they are coming from. I suppose it’s easier said when you’re not in a situation though, but when emotions are running high it can be a different matter. It’s great that you have a person like that in your life btw.

      • drakeca89 says :

        well if all else fails while in a verbal fight you could always just Hockey Smack them: pull there shirts over there head and while there all tied up box there ears . . . .hahahahaha.
        I understand I try to not dump to much on my friend bc she has her own problems and I hear hers and dont want to add to them. But sometimes like you said you just need to get it out.
        My ex had to much of my problems with my folks so she got to the point where she just said I support you but cant hear anymore.
        I personally find if I go to long without going to a movie I don’t function well am more craby. The escape for a few hours is enough to get me back to a level state of being. Also in the summer and fall I ride my mountain bike on local trails and get a ice cream cone. Again escaping and for a few hours just shutting everything out.

      • wallcat says :

        Haha, that sounds like some pretty good advice. I enjoy taking the aggressive route sometimes… J/K… Yeah I get what you mean, I feel really guilty for doing it to my boyfriend sometimes and feel that he deserves better (but then that’s the low self-esteem starting to talk.) I find that a lot of people use me as the go to person when they need to talk about something. I don’t mind so long as by the end of the conversation I feel like its helped, but some people get really stressed out and snappy with me and it just becomes another form of rumination that makes it worse. Escapism is another option I take. I tend to turn to my games to help me.

      • drakeca89 says :

        ohhhh MAMA There is nothing better then coming home after a rough day and killing zombies with EXTREME hand to hand prejudice. Stupid world take that an that!!!!!

        low self esteem bad! bf or gf giving you that: come here you ur awesome to me look, goood!

        Yeah I always take turns I’l complain ask for some advice and then just say ok whats going on with you. My friend knows I’m good and its her turn to un load I’m sure ur man has a similar thing with you and belive me we dont mind. However I have had friends were I cold barely get a word in edgewise and after talking to them for a 1/2 hr literal felt exhausted

      • wallcat says :

        Lol, it’s definitely a good way to work that rage out and I feel It makes me a much calmer person afterwards :P. Yeah my boyfriend and I work in a similar way (we see eye to eye on a lot of things though and respect each others need to blow off steam sometimes.) I’ve also been in situations where people are constantly leaning on me and not letting me get a word in. It’s like they’ve come to you for a chat and maybe some advice but they’re really just working themselves up more. If they do it too often it can start to put me on edge too.

      • drakeca89 says :

        Its wonderful that you and him understand, many even though together don’t. I am glad for you. There most certainly is a difference between wanting an audience to get your rant on and actually seeking guidance. I have known my friend over 10 years now I cant believe its been so long and we understand each others needs. Though like many it does take a few years to truly understand how to listen. Sometimes I don’t have an answer for her but I listened. That’s the most important part. But after knowing each other so long sometimes we know what the other would say anyway and we have both found each other saying as much. Its nice because I have had friends whom were the opposite that all they did was in the end exhaust me, refuse to listen and decide on something stupid, or just wanted to get a rant on.

      • wallcat says :

        Thank you. I’m glad you have the same. Some people seem to think that the new relationship feeling is more exciting, but it can take a while to get to the point where you can fully understand and trust another person; To me that is far more special and not to be taken for granted. We never raise our voices with each other but just talk and listen and it really works for us. Sometimes just having someone to listen can help, even if they can’t do anything about it or I’m being irrational, because it lets you tire the emotions out so that you can then walk away with a clearer head to actually solve the problem with. Some people don’t though, they walk away still carrying all of those raw emotions and it can influence how they see things.

      • drakeca89 says :

        AHH YES the “Honeymoon” period. Yep I’ve had it and its great but when I look back I think ughh wow they are not kidding that there is little difference from being in love and madness /crazy. Lets face it eventually that does end and that’s where the real relationship begins. Same thing applies to the fun physical stuff eventually you gotta talk and if that doesn’t work what do you got? A bunch of sweaty nouthin! Getting to the point where you understand the other person takes time its not just knowledge about the person there likes and such its how they actually function and how they see/ view things. That takes time to get a full picture of a person and it takes investment too which usually means not breaking up or getting back together bc lets face it were not going to like absolutely everything. Listening and understanding the person takes effort and understanding and the ability to actualy listen that is a skill to not let your own mind wonder or imediatly try to fix it which means your not totaly listening. I think its something that comes with age as well. Lets face it it only gets more dificiult as we get older so what we need from our special person grows. When we reach that point if we cant put forth both sides and figure it out and then LEAVE IT BEHIND its not going to work. but its hard to just have 1 pow wow. Its a maturity thing, sounds like you both got it covered and that’s awesome many don’t including those whom are older then us.

      • wallcat says :

        Yes exactly. Everything you’ve written here is how I feel about relationships. I couldn’t have put it better myself. It’s not always smooth going, but it’s learning how to compromise and be around each other.

      • drakeca89 says :

        Thanks who knows maybe your my sister form another mother I am adopted so its possible right hahahah.
        Compromise is tough bc nobody gets exactly what they want.This usually leads to more fights because as people we are genetically selfish, so being able to compromise for reals is tough and is definitely a skill that everyone needs to have successful relationships. Course, making up after a fight . . . is nice to.

      • wallcat says :

        Haha, it’s a possibility… or maybe not, lol. I’ve found that by trying to be the compromising understanding one I’ve ended up caught in the middle in a lot of friendships, or worse being taken advantage of. When you’re with people who never compromise, it can leave you feeling a bit resentful. I think the balance is the hardest thing to learn. To know when to back down or stand your ground. I’ve known people who are too far one way or the other. Sometimes you need those disagreements to better understand the needs of the other person, but I hate confrontation and have never been good at dealing with it. The few times we do argue we’re instantly apologizing so that we don’t have to live with that awkward feeling. lol.

      • drakeca89 says :

        I got caught in the middle a few times to once that hapens I was a little more guarded on my advice and how and WHOM I gave it to. It seems like because of it I was the friend who gave more then the others and thats hard because you know they would not give the full 100 % that I gave. That too made me more leary of giving out my advice. But I always seem to be the advice giver maybe its just a genetic part of who we are?
        Ahhh never backing down I used to be preaty darn stubborn myself but after years of battles I learned to pic pick my battles. I would get frustrated at my friends whom didnt and were engaging in a war for little to no reason in my mind at least. Frankly I found fighting just to damn taxing. So I would at times just say agree to disagree and find away to walk away. Friendships only get tougher as we get older.
        But they are very important especially once in a committed long term relationship or a marriage. Friends at that point help keep a part of who were were before and thats important too. So all and all friends and battles associated with them are tough but worth it.

      • wallcat says :

        Yeah, I’m not sure if it’s just in my head (I question this a lot because my sensitivity can affect the way I see things,) but I feel like in a lot of my friendships I’ve given more than what I’ve received in return, or that the rules have always felt a little one sided; Like I have expectations thrust upon me, but in turn they don’t have to live under those same expectations. Maybe I just have different expectations for what a friendship actually is.

        I find it flattering that people consider me to be trustworthy enough to come to for advice or to share a problem, but then it’s not nice when you have a moment where you need support in turn and it’s not there to be found. I think for some people, wanting to help others comes more naturally, whereas being in conflict and standing our ground can cause too much heartache to be worth it. I tend to be a very agreeable person for that reason. I wish I could be a bit more assertive, but I act automatically and only afterwards do I look back and question why I went along with something, lol. I know that having disagreements is a natural part of life, but I’d still rather try to avoid it. 😛

  2. Miss Mojo says :

    Good post and points there. I totally agree on ur points. I myself chose getting a mild dose of anti depressants and i dont regret that. As that was a way to get balance again, and for me it helped 🙂 i was only on them for almost a year then i gradually stopped and im feeling much better. Ofc they dont solve your issues, but can help you get on your way to actually deal with your issues. Getting balance so you can get out of bed to start coping. That was and is my experience anyways. We all have our own and different struggles wich we need to solve im our own way, often with some outside help to get some perspective 🙂

    • wallcat says :

      Thanks. I know of others who have taken anti-depressants and have heard mixed opinions. Some say it really helps just to give them that balance they need, but others have told me that its made them feel worse or come with side effects. If it helps then that’s great, just so long as people realize it’s not the only solution or an easy fix.

      • Miss Mojo says :

        Its for sure not an easy fix. It doesnt fix any issues. You dont magically become happy. For those they work for, they dont go around smiling and being cheerful. But they might help not being on the verge of breakdown every second of the day etc. Anyways what works for some doesnt work for all. Hope u have a nice holiday.

      • wallcat says :

        Thanks for sharing your experiences on this, it’s something that I’ve never really been fully sure about. Glad to hear that it has helped though. Happy holidays!

      • Pasduil says :

        I’ve known people be helped by them, and also by talk therapies. Both are probably worth considering at least, but neither are going to work for everybody.

  3. Pasduil says :

    Something to bear in mind is that depression is going to shape how you interpret what people are saying and why they’re saying it. They’re probably mostly doing it to encourage you and help you the best they know how, but on your end it feeds into the “nobody gets me” feelings and other depressive thoughts.

    It’s true that most people are not going to be well informed, they’ll have lots of misconceptions, and they won’t know what would or wouldn’t be helpful to you. The only way they could be well informed is if they’d had occasion to go learn about it, or you had explained it to them. But people in a period of depression probably are not well placed to explain it to anyone, not motivated to do it, don’t even believe they could manage to do it, or that anyone would care to have it explained anyway.

    So the fact that you’re at least trying to explain with this post is very positive, and kudos to you for stepping out like that. I imagine it took a fair bit of courage to write.

    Here’s something to consider that might help you communicate with those people more successfully…

    Your depression is a fact of life, and it’s not some kind of personal failing on your part that you have it.

    Likewise their lack of knowledge about depression and their discomfort in dealing with it is also a fact of life, and it’s not some kind of personal failing on their part that they have that. You can help them to understand better without thinking of them as in-the-wrong for not already understanding.

    The communication will go better if you don’t operate from a place of “they ought to know better” just as it would go better if they didn’t operate from “she ought not to be depressed”.

    Regardless of all that, I’m touched by your post, and I’d say you’re pretty darn awesome to have written it! Looking forward to more of you Celebrating the Small Things in future, which I will now read in a new light.

    • wallcat says :

      Thanks for the wonderful comment, it really means a lot to get such feedback and to have the chance to discuss this. I agree with what you’re saying. I’ve seen people complain about similar misunderstandings with a lot of anger, but I wanted to try and explain it without seeming like I was pointing the finger of blame – just to show that what might seem like good advice isn’t always helpful when taken from a different perspective (sorry if it didn’t come across this way.) It’s better to try and give people the chance to understand. It can be difficult to do so though, especially with loved ones, because they might see it as a failing on their part. I’m also quite an open person and I think that sharing experiences can help others in a similar position, even if it only offers a chance to relate. I think it’s important for people to start considering mental health in the same way that we consider physical health, that it can affect us all and we need to learn how to take care of it.

      My depression isn’t always bad, but at it’s worse I’m aware of the fact that it can affect how I perceive things, always finding a negative spin to put on how people treat me or overlooking the positives. I know it can be difficult being on the other side of that as I know a fair few people with depression.

      Yeah, I thought those ‘celebrate the small things’ posts were a good idea because we need to try and be more appreciative for what we do have rather than always focussing on what we don’t. Sometimes it makes me feel better to think back and look for the positives of the week before.

      • Pasduil says :

        I’m glad you liked the comment. I was a little anxious how you’d take it, given people – even without depression – can fail to hear anything good you say about them and take any suggestions you make as a criticism.

        From what I’ve seen you’re remarkably open and impressively together, even for a person that doesn’t have depression.

      • wallcat says :

        That’s good to hear, sometimes I worry that I can come across as being a little harsh – usually when talking about subjects that touch upon previous bad experiences. To tell you the truth I actually think things through for a while and I try to challenge my feelings before I reply to people. It can be difficult online because you don’t have facial expressions or tone of voice to inform you to the intention and my mind tends to jump to the negative conclusion first. I’ve surprised a few people online who have expected me to reply defensively to find that I’ve actually considered the points they were making. I’m also very good at putting a mask on because it upsets people when they see me unhappy.

        I think what I suffer from is more like anxiety. I ruminate a lot, get wound up about things that have happened and worry too much about things outside of my control. Sometimes I get depressed because I feel like Its preventing me from being able to get the most out of life (like connecting with others through an MMORPG can be a challenge and I don’t join many guilds.) Keeping a blog can test me sometimes, but it was advised to me to gradually push my limits rather than avoiding things. Staying busy also keeps me distracted from ruminating too much.

        A lot of the people in my life also have depression, bipolar and anxiety issues. Sometimes it’s difficult because I think you can rub off on each other. It’s also difficult to be around people who always snap at you and won’t talk about it; It took me a long time to realize that it wasn’t my fault. I suppose that I just prefer to tell people so that they know that they are not necessarily to blame when I’m having a down day.

        I know that in your comment you are trying to help, and that makes a change to not being able to talk about it at all. To have put myself out there and had good feedback has helped to lift a bit of a weight, so Thank you and happy holidays.

      • Pasduil says :

        Happy Holidays to you as well, however you celebrate them!

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