Your friend has not been acting like herself for quite some time. You thought that she was just upset about that bad grade she got on her math test or about that huge fight that she had with her mother. But after those things passed, she still seemed troubled. You’re getting worried about her. Her sadness never seems to dwindle. She is irritable and on edge, noticeably upset and preoccupied constantly. She is lifeless and uninterested, distant, and really not any fun to be around. You’re probably wondering what on earth got into this lively, cheery, happy, spirited girl you used to know. Did you do something? Did you say something? What on earth happened to her?
You try to help. You ask her to talk about what’s bothering her. You try to offer your hand and lend support. You try to tell her it’s okay, that whatever is going on in her life will work out. You tell her you love her and will always be her friend, no matter what. You don’t want to see her hurting, she’s your closest friend and she means the world to you. You try to remind her of all the amazing characteristics she has, and how she shouldn’t be feeling down.
At this point, you’ve done everything you can to try to reach out to your friend, but it seems like she’s only getting worse. Now, you’re maybe getting fed up with her. Every time you see her, she brings your mood down. You give her advice and try to be there for her, but you realize your efforts are making no difference. Honestly, you may feel like not hanging out with her anymore. She’s no fun, and never wants to do anything. She talks about depressing things, and everything is negative with her. But you feel compelled to stay friends with her and be there to work out her issues.
And you’re now probably confused and hurt. Why is she rejecting your offers to hang out on Fridays at your house? Why is she not answering your messages anymore? Whatever happened to your Snapchat streak that was on fire just not long ago? You’re probably thinking she doesn’t like you, or that she’s trying to push you out of the picture.
Well, here I am to speak for this depressed friend of yours, who cannot speak for herself.
It’s not your job to figure out why she’s depressed. You would have to be a medical professional to do that. There are a million different explanations as to why someone is depressed, from chemical imbalances in the brain to environmental factors
You can’t fix her, so don’t try to. Lord knows, every depressed person would love to sip a magical potion that will make it all be better and happy again, but nobody has figured out how to concoct something like that. In other words, the answer isn’t one thing, it’s not clear cut. Getting better is a long-term and multi-step process.
The good thing is, you can help her situation without necessarily “fixing” her.
What you can do for her is to highlight the fact that you are there to talk — with absolutely no filters. Depressed people often close up and build up walls because they feel as though people are belittling their pain, or making it seem insignificant. We’ve all heard the famous: “Well, there are children starving in Africa, you know.” That doesn’t help, at all. The fact that there are people “worse off” than you, doesn’t take back the fact that you are struggling. Telling someone that makes them feel even more depressed because they feel as though nobody understands them or “gets” them.
The best thing you can do is to encourage them to let it all out, without you judging them. Also, when you listen to them, let them feel what they are feeling. When they say, “I feel worthless.” Don’t say, "you’re being silly, you are not worthless. Stop that.” Let them know it’s okay that they are feeling worthless. Validate their feelings and emotions. Because let’s face it, playing devil’s advocate to whatever they’re feeling is not just going to make that negative feeling go away.
“You’re feeling sad, well feel happy.” “You’re feeling ungrateful, well be grateful.” It takes far more than that to change somebody’s mood. It will relieve a depressed person when you just let them feel everything, so please try to listen to listen, not listen to solve. What you need to get is how important the simple art of effective and meaningful communication can be to someone struggling with depression.
Being friends with a depressed person takes a lot of effort and energy. It’s almost like you have to overcompensate for their lack of energy. Being somebody’s therapist day and night, constantly listening to their problems, is exhausting. It's not that you don’t want to help them, because you do, and you try. But, sometimes it can feel as though you’re weighed down by their issues and it may seem suffocating.
I would advise you to help them as much as you can, but not so much that it hurts you. You should be living your own life and having fun. Only be a listening ear if you can handle it. Depressed people feel like a burden to people, always talking about their troubles and tribulations. So if you can’t handle it, it’s OK to leave the friendship or even just take a short break from it. Depressed people in no way want to inflict any sort of emotional distress on others. They get it if you choose to go. They will be mad, but that anger won’t be directed at you. They will just be mad that they have this awful illness taking over their minds that is affecting the things they used to love, like spending time with friends.
Depressed people are indeed sorry. Although depression is not their fault, they are still sorry that they can’t be smiley all the time like how they used to be. They miss the old times. They want to get better.
And if and when they do get better, they will never forget you for caring about them in their darkest hours.