My friend has depression…

Over the course of 10 years since my diagnosis of bipolar disorder and manic depression, I have had many friends come in and out of my life. Many of them were exposed to my depression and the symptoms that it has. Some of theme helped me and supported me, some of them withdrew from me, but most of all of them wanted to help me in some way. It can be hard to know how to help a friend during these times, they can seem irrational, hopeless and stubborn, you may run out of things to say and feel awkward. But just being there for your friend is actually a huge help. So whether you have a friend, a relative, or a significant other here are ways you can help them.

 Depression is a serious condition. Don’t underestimate the seriousness of depression. Depression drains a person’s energy, optimism, and motivation. Your depressed loved one can’t just “snap out of it” by sheer force of will.
· The symptoms of depression aren’t personal. Depression makes it difficult for a person to connect on a deep emotional level with anyone, even the people he or she loves most. In addition, depressed people often say hurtful things and lash out in anger. Remember that this is the depression talking, not your loved one, so try not to take it personally.
· Hiding the problem won’t make it go away. Don’t be an enabler. It doesn’t help anyone involved if you are making excuses, covering up the problem, or lying for a friend or family member who is depressed. In fact, this may keep the depressed person from seeking treatment.
· You can’t “fix” someone else’s depression. Don’t try to rescue your loved one from depression. It’s not up to you to fix the problem, nor can you. You’re not to blame for your loved one’s depression or responsible for his or her happiness (or lack thereof). Ultimately, recovery is in the hands of the depressed person.
Signs that your friend or family member may be depressed
· He or she doesn’t seem to care about anything anymore.
· He or she is uncharacteristically sad, irritable, short-tempered, critical, or moody.
· He or she has lost interest in work, sex, hobbies, and other pleasurable activities.
· He or she talks about feeling “helpless” or “hopeless.”
· He or she expresses a bleak or negative outlook on life.
· He or she frequently complains of aches and pains such as headaches, stomach problems, and back pain.
· He or she complains of feeling tired and drained all the time.
· He or she has withdrawn from friends, family, and other social activities.
· He or she is either sleeping less than usual or oversleeping.
· He or she is eating either more or less than usual, and has recently gained or lost weight.
· He or she has become indecisive, forgetful, disorganized, and “out of it.”
· He or she is drinking more or abusing drugs, including prescription sleeping pills and painkillers.
How to talk to a loved one about depression
Sometimes it is hard to know what to say when speaking to a loved one about depression. You might fear that if you bring up your worries he or she will get angry, feel insulted, or ignore your concerns. You may be unsure what questions to ask or how to be supportive.
If you don’t know where to start, the following suggestions may help. But remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. Encourage the depressed person to talk about his or her feelings, and be willing to listen without judgment. And don’t expect a single conversation to be the end of it. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others and isolate themselves. You may need to express your concern and willingness to listen over and over again. Be gentle, yet persistent.
Ways to start the conversation:
· I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
· Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
· I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately.
Questions you can ask:
· When did you begin feeling like this?
· Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
· How can I best support you right now?
· Do you ever feel so bad that you don’t want to be anymore?
· Have you thought about getting help?
Remember, being supportive involves offering encouragement and hope. Very often, this is a matter of talking to the person in language that he or she will understand and respond to while in a depressed mind frame.
What you can say that helps:
· You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
· You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
· I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
· When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold of for just one more day, hour, minute — whatever you can manage.
· You are important to me. Your life is important to me.
· Tell me what I can do now to help you.
Avoid saying:
· It’s all in your head.
· We all go through times like this.
· Look on the bright side.
· You have so much to live for why do you want to die?
· I can’t do anything about your situation.
· Just snap out of it.
· What’s wrong with you?
· Shouldn’t you be better by now.

Living with a Mental Disorder

From the film ‘Girl, Interrupted’


When I was 13 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was hospitalized and medically treated in a children’s ward, for three months. Since 13 I have had six suicide attempts and three additional hospitalizations. My condition has been improving, marginally since 21 despite not being medicated, but over Christmas break I had a sort of relapse. I was not suicidal but rather listless, depressed, and I refused to eat or get out of bed. My family was so concerned for me that they called a mental health center who came out and saw me immediately. I was put into outpatient therapy and am currently getting back onto a medication treatment.
There were days when I couldn’t eat.
There were weeks when all I did was sleep.
There were months when I would harm myself and cry myself to sleep.
It was terrible. Terrible for my family, terrible for my friends, and terrible for my significant others who wanted to help, didn’t know how, but were caught up in the windstorm of my emotions.
I failed many classes, lost a couple of jobs, and ruined several relationships because of this. I am filled with regret mostly because I don’t even have a clear reason for these things except for the fact that I was sick and unable to make clear decisions.
Since January I have decided to make my life the best that it possibly can be and I wanted to share some of my methods of living with a mental disorder.

“Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity’s Gate)” – Vincent Van Gough
  • Admit it to yourself. Understand that you have a mental disorder, you are not a bad person, you have a condition that affects your emotions and brain chemistry. These things need to be treated, like any other health issue, and if you don’t treat it it may continue to worsen. Saying that, having a mental disorder is no excuse for being destructive you are responsible for the management of your condition. A person with a disease cannot expose themselves to other irresponsibly, right? 
  • Seek help. Inpatient treatment is admitting yourself to a hospital if you feel like you are a danger to yourself or others and/or if you cannot continue to function. You will have access to doctors who will asses your condition and put you on the proper path to wellness. If you are suicidal or homicidal I would recommend this option. Outpatient treatment are options like therapy, group therapy, and counseling, this may be once a month, once a week, or several times a week. If you don’t feel like you need extensive care you should seek outpatient care. Having a professional help you sort out your issues and ways of dealing with them, is the best way to come to terms with your disorder.
  • Let go of your old life. The way you used to do things is not working, let it go. The way you approached your health, your relationships, your career, your daily life is over and you need to accept the change. You may discover that the things in your life are contributing to your condition and they need to be changed or abandoned. I have panic attacks triggered by a fear of failure or looking stupid, and I have to start learning how to let go of that fear to live a full life. 
  • Research your diagnosis. This is your life, your health and you need to take responsibility for it. Look up what your diagnosis means, what is this disorder what are common symptoms and treatments for it. What are the effects of the medicine that you were given and what is the rate of success. Is cognitive therapy available for it and are you able to start enacting some personal therapy of your own to help you deal with the disorder. 
Designs from a candy store in Barcelona called “Happy Pills”
  • Take the time. Tell people that you are making moves to get well and have patience with yourself. You are not going to get well over night and you need the time, the space and the understanding to get well. If you are living in a toxic environment that is counterproductive to your health, you have to address this. You can’t get well on the inside if the outside is also a mess. Taking the time and making the steps to get well may require you to make changes to your environment. Evaluate the people around you and if they are not encouraging you to get well, then you need to move away from them and take care of yourself. 
  • Try some physical therapy. I used to hate when people told me to try exercising. I was like “are you calling me fat?!” but it really does work. Exercise regulates our bodies(to help you sleep), releases dopamine (the feel good chemical), and gives you an excuse to focus on something else in your life. There is scientific evidence that having a healthy body can help us mentally as well, sharpening focus, reasoning, and stress levels. Exercise is sometimes the last thing I want to do but I do it now because its a habit for me. It’s me time. 
Hopefully these things have helped you. I can’t tell you that I have completely recovered, it is a daily struggle to stay well and reach happiness. My goal in all of this is to live a peaceful life and come to an acceptance of myself. I am on the road right now, there are good days and bad but I am making the decision to keep trying. I hope you keep trying too. 
Here are some resources:
http://www.befrienders.org/ – International
http://www.thetrevorproject.org/ – for Gay, Lesbian, Trans, Bisexual teens in the US

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