"Depression means being sad all the time, right?"
"Oh my gosh, she has depression? But she's always happy!"
"Is it really that hard to just be happy?"
"Just smile! It'll all be fine!"
"Oh my gosh, why can't she just get over it?"
Anyone who has experienced depression knows these phrases all too well, myself included.
Depression isn't just feeling sad all the time. It's not just feeling "bummed out" when things don't go your way. It's a diagnosable illness and requires serious treatment.
One of the most frustrating parts about battling depression is when looking for support, those who you turn to don't understand how to help. It is unbelievably frustrating when some of the phrases above are dancing around the issue, and you can't do anything about it because other people simply don't understand.
Mental illnesses are similar to physical illnesses and disabilities in the sense that you can't truly understand how someone with that particular illness or disability feels unless you have been through it yourself.
One of the hardest parts of mental illness for other people to fathom is that someone struggling with the illness can't help it. Mental illness can completely consume your mind. Yes, depression brings those terrible thoughts into your mind, but then it takes the thought and runs with it. And it doesn't stop. Those who struggle with mental illnesses can't help it. You can't just bounce back to your normal self and everything gets better. They don't choose to act that way. In order to heal, it takes unbelievable commitment and motivation. And, in a bad mental state, that is the hardest thing to do.
With that being said, in order to help someone who is struggling with a mental illness, it is important to acknowledge that if you haven't experienced it, you won't completely understand it. And that is perfectly fine, as long as you can realize that.
The best thing you can do to help someone is to simply be there for them, even if you don't understand.
Let them know that you care.