Hello, I’m bipolar, and have been depressed a fair bit, and to varying degrees. I imagine everyone experiences depression differently in the same way everyone experiences life in general differently. We can all be in the same room, at the same party, but have a totally different night. So I can’t speak for all depressed people any more than I can speak for all people. But what I can do I guess is tell you about my depression and some of the things that I think help when I’m depressed. Because, from the outside, it can probably seem like quite a baffling illness.
1. Remember they’re still them Depression can seem to suck the personality from the happiest person, to the extent you may think they’ve changed for good. But it’s important to remember that this the illness, not them. Underneath they still love pickled onion Monster Munch, they still hate Game Of Thrones, they still fancy Michael Fassbender, and such. They may feel like – and indeed say – they don’t care about anything any more but they need you to remind them who they are to help lead them out of the fog. So bringing them a favorite food, joking about a thing you both dislike and watching a film with their crush (or even doing something silly like giving them a cardboard cutout of them) may help. Yes, they do still love hazelnut whirls (Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler for Metro.co.uk)
2. Send a postcard or a card saying you’re there for them I started getting seriously depressed around the age of 14. One nice thing a friend did was send me a postcard with a cartoon on one side saying ‘you can call me any time’, with a message and her number on the back. I never called her, but having that physical reminder on my desk that someone cared was comforting.
3. Be funny The stupider the better. If you’re not funny, try and remember their favorite comic or film director and watch something with them. They may not be up to laughing yet but it may help. Keep reaching out (Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler for Metro.co.uk)
4. Ask if they want a hug The asking part is important – some people will hate uninvited physical contact.
5. Sit with them For whatever reason, they may not mentally be in a place where they can talk. Luckily, thanks to modern technology you can do all kinds of things together and not talk – watch TV, watch a film, knit. The fact that you’re there will be noted.
6. Listen when they talk Some people chatter to fill nervous silences. This is understandable but not very helpful. Even worse is talking over them when they do speak. There’s a lot going on in their head – when they manage to talk, listen (Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler for Metro.co.uk)
7. Don’t be negative about their course of treatment Not everyone will choose to take meds or have counselling but, either way, this isn’t your choice to make. It’s up to them and their doctor to work out what course of treatment they prefer. Casting aspersions on certain drugs or making negative comments about support groups and therapy isn’t very supportive.
8. Keep asking them out They may not feel like it, they may ignore you but remember, they’re ill. Add a diary reminder to your phone if you need to – just keep in touch with them and keep asking them to social events.
9. Just be nice Not patronising, not awkard, just nice. In fact, just be yourself. It’s good to be reminded of normality when things are dark and gloomy in your head.