3. “I can’t open up because I am afraid I’ll be misunderstood”
To sympathize with someone’s feelings and situation is entirely different from empathizing with the other person’s feelings.
What a person with depression requires is constant empathy from their support system. One of the fundamentals of a good communication is sound listening capacity, which most people lack.
I’ve often wondered what it is that makes communication between two people really difficult. When one of them has depression, there’s a higher possibility that this fear may be more. Why?
There are multiple reasons for it.
- The person who is in the grip of depression may find it impossible to explain where they are coming from. They may not be able to rationalize the what, where, how and why of their condition. Given how much of the world functions based on reasoning, this can be a dead end.
- They are mostly petrified with the feelings of being an unwanted burden on their family members and their close people.
- The fear is rooted in how the other person might perceive them and their condition, of whether their attempts to explain their condition will be futile or not. The conversation with the people they try to explain too may go into loops, pushing the depressed person into further feelings of helplessness about having to explain their state, without much success.
4. “I am afraid to open up because I’ll feel unheard”
As I write this, I realise that this has been my truth more than once.
Depression can feel like a dungeon, out of which an emergence seems like a distant dream. And when you can’t explain why you are feeling a certain way and that nevertheless the feeling is there, it can be even more frustrating.
Anyone who is depressed might actually not be seeking a magic solution, or to be rescued. What they instead want and need is a patient judgment-free hearing. To be heard for where they are and to not be labelled, questioned or damned.
They want you to listen more than suggest callous and oversimplified solutions.
The things they usually dread hearing from you are:
- “You are not trying hard. If you try to get over it, you can.”
- “Don’t be so sensitive in this harsh world.”
- “This is just a hard phase. You will get over it in time.”
- “This feeling is natural. Life is harsh with all of us. We all feel sad sometime.”
- “Just ignore it!”
- “Go out for a date and find yourself a girlfriend/boyfriend. You will be good to go.”
5. “I would be more positive if I could”
Yes, that’s exactly what many depressed people want to articulate.
Positivity is certainly an ideal state to be in, but consider this for yourself, whether you’ve ever experienced depression or not: is it possible to be positive every day? As an answer you might say yes, which will then take us to “choices”. And this is where you’ll need to remember again depression isn’t a choice.
Depression makes a person lose the ability to construct one’s future or be optimistic about one’s future; it makes one lose the hope and meaning of life.
As we are conditioned to believe that positivity is easy, and it takes just a smile or an intention, it’s unfortunate that in reality, depression does not work that way.
6. “Even if you don’t tell me I’m worthless, I feel it”
The inability to get up from bed, engage in basic self-care and a continuous relationship with medication, are just some of the things about depression that make it so hard. Apart from knocking off the reassurance of routine, the condition can make anyone feel worthless.
Speaking to friends on a personal note as well as people who have worked with those in depression, I’ve gathered it is ‘the lack of participation’ that can be damaging.