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10 things not to say to a depressed person (and please don’t ever say to me either)

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I cringed at these things my friends said to me these few years. For those of you who don’t really get us, I’ve decided to let you know  10 things not to say to a depressed person from my own experience.And be forewarned, for if you ever dare to even start uttering the below to me, I will hang you by your legs upside down, skin you alive and then deep fry you before publicly disowning you and denying your pitiful existence.

I had never thought people would write to me for advice and suggestions. A few weeks back, a friend wrote to me and said she just found out that a family member of a friend has depression. But her friend did not know what to say or how to encourage the depression sufferer. She asked me if I had any recommendations. It got me thinking.

However, as I’m not a doctor, I can’t give medical advice. Moreover, what to say is very dependent on the personality and situation of the oppressed. But what I can offer is my take on what NOT to say to someone in depression. Hopefully this can help you empathize where we weirdos are coming from, and for you to be more sensitive to our plight.

And on that note, may I solemnly remind you again: please don’t ever ever EVER again say the below in bold type to me in whatever circumstances if you consider me a friend. Otherwise I’m throwing a tantrum in your face.

Do NOT say:- (Oh wow, I’m writing a list!!!)

1. “Remain Positive”

I think: Duh! I know – but how? To me, my reality is that the world has alreadycaved in. What is irrational to you makes utmost sense to me. I’m so angry / upset / sad / lonely / devastated / hopeless / in despair… Why can’t you understand me?

I feel: Recoil further into my shell to avoid future contact and meaningless advice because you never told me how to remain positive.

 

2. “Don’t think like that”

I think: Why not? What’s wrong with thinking like I do? It’s an honest opinion. I really think this. It’s negative all right, but that’s what I think, so what’s wrong? So how should I think instead? Like you? But I don’t agree with you, and then I become you if I think like you…? 

I feel: I did something wrong for thinking a certain way, and you reprimanded me for thinking so. Thus, I withdraw, and berate myself for thinking the way I do, and spiral further down into depression due to self-criticism. 


3. “Pull yourself together” / “Snap out of it” and the likes

I think: How? Snap out of what? I don’t want to be like this either, you think it’s fun?

I feel: Feel completely useless and hopeless that I’m incapable of holding myself together and getting better. Depression snowballs with this sense of incompetence.

 

4. “Why do you need to be depressed?”

I think: Umm… I don’t know, I wish I knew. Doctors said it’s because of some imbalance in serotonin in me. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW!!!!!!!

I feel: Accused of committing a heinous crime to be depressed. Confused because I don’t know what happened to make me depressed and how it all happened. Lost since I don’t know how to get out of depression. Feel inferior and worse about myself, so I hide from you as well because I don’t want to feel inadequate. 

 

 

5. “Look at how lucky you are already! Be thankful”

I think: I am thankful for what I have. But what does that have to do with depression? Doctors and every website I’ve read say depression is an illness and has biological factors. Depression needs to be treated as any other sickness. You are lucky too, be thankful – stop having a freaking cold and sneezing germs into the air I breathe!

I feel: Misunderstood as a spoilt, ungrateful little girl when I’m not. Frustrated for being misunderstood, cry, wail, sad. Retreat into my hiding place – again.

 

6.  Go do something and you will feel better.”

I think: Go do what? I can’t be bothered. I’m tired. I’m not interested. I have no energy. I just want to sleep. Doing something won’t make me feel better. Leave me alone.

I feel: Tired and lethargic, and no energy to think about what to do. Harassed because you keep telling me to do something.

(N.B. What did work, was instead of telling me to do something, my fiancé simply made me put my clothes on, slid me into my boots, and dragged me out of the house for a walk, talking about random things on the way, not once mentioning anything to do how I was doing or asking if I felt better.)

 

7.  “What’s wrong with you?”

I think: I WISH I KNEW. I wish I knew. Oh how I wish I knew. Can you tell me? Can somebody tell me? I don’t want to be like this. Why am I like this?

I feel: Absolutely hopeless because I don’t know why I became like this, and I was unable to find out the reasons behind my depression. Very belittled and angry at myself. Can’t deal with this. I might as well die.

 

8. “You should do this…” or “You should not do this (such as kill yourself)…”

I think: Why? This is my life, I’m allowed to end it if I want. Why should I eat? I’m not hungry.

I feel: Patronized by your condescending tone (even if you didn’t have one). Rejected for not doing what you think I am supposed to. Another bash to my already dwindling self-confidence – you just succeeded in making me feel more desperate and more depressed.

 

9.  “See how others suffer even worst, and have no food to eat, be grateful for what you have”

I think: But you told me not to compare myself with others when I told you I was envious of others who have achieved more than me. So how double faced is it that just because others are less fortunate I can compare with them? I know you are trying to tell me I should count my blessings – I do, trust me I do. But how does this solve my depression? I still feel that life is not worth living despite being grateful for what I have. I am too tired to carry on and try.

I feel: Baffled as to why sometimes you say don’t compare and other times you tell me to do so. I don’t understand how being thankful makes me feel better, because what I have now has no meaning and no value to me. I JUST WANT TO DIE. Maybe if I die, there’d be more food for those who don’t have any. Proceed to jumping out the window from 30th floor.

 

10.  “It’s all in your head…”

I think: IT’S NOT! But I know. How do I change my head? It’s not my fault. I didn’t want this. I can’t control it. I’m trying but I can’t!

I feel: Furious at myself for not being able to control my head and thinking. Inept at everything I’m trying to do and worse, for disappointing you. Alone that no one can understand me. Alienate myself. Doomed to fail; might as well die…

 

You might consider our reactions and emotions to what you say extremely unreasonable. I will not argue about it. Nevertheless, bear in mind that someone affected by depression does have a lot of “irrational” thoughts by standard of the norm. Yet, it is our reality and we completely believe it, irrational or not. So don’t try to debate or convince us otherwise. You will only push us further down our bleak track.

My contention is that, the wrong thing said, can unknowingly push a depressed friend over the edge. Not to be fatalistic, but 60% of suicides in the world is associated depression – go ask the World Health Organization if you don’t believe me.

Please, give us a break. If we all had a choice, I don’t think any of us would want to linger in a state of depression.

If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Just sit with us, let us cry, kick your shoes or whatever. That’s maybe all we need for now. Leave the lecturing to a medical expert such as a psychologist who can do it skillfully.

I compiled this from experience and based on my own reactions; I winced every time someone said the above to me in the last three years. Just for reference.

If you have anything else to add to the list of things to not say to a depressed person, feel free to in comments below. And if you liked this blurb please share with your friends and help my blog grow. Thanks :)

                               

830 Responses

  1. Hello my friend! I want to say that this article is awesome,
    great written and come with almost all important
    infos. I would like to see extra posts like this
    .

  2. Bonnie says:

    Thank you! People are so rude by these and other comments – would you diagnose a person for cancer???
    Please add: Do your homework about your friend/loved ones condition BEFORE “Informing them HOW THEY SHOULD BE”… grrrr

    My bestest friend asked me yesterday “Why are you still seeing your therapist; it’s been years – isn’t she just pulling you back in? Why don’t you just forget it and quit hurting yourself – because You Are Doing This To Yourself.
    Followed by, I love you and just want you to get better…

    How do you respond to that?? Now I’m even further in the well of darkness. thought a friend would throw me a rope…

  3. hxh says:

    That’s exactly why i don’t get it! Thankyou!

  4. hopeless says:

    you have no idea about any of my life. if you have never been depressed you never will get it

  5. Apophrades says:

    Depression is also a condition that is caused by things other than feelings. Mine, like most people that I know, suffer from depression that stems from a chemical imbalance. I have a neurological condition that, without warning, can cause paralysis, aphasia, and extreme depression despite the fact that I am on chemotherapy, high dosages of vitamins, and stron antidepressants.

  6. nochnoch says:

    Hi Apophrades

    Thanks for adding to the discussion. Yes depression is also caused by chemical imbalance so as you suggest, we need to understand the root cause to find the right solution!

    Noch Noch

  7. Bryan Bray says:

    Hey thanks you just pointed out that its not peoples fault that there depressed. scientificly to:)

  8. SJ says:

    Noch Noch
    How do we find and understand the root cause of our depression?
    Thanks

  9. nochnoch says:

    Hi SJ

    I think we all have different ways to find out and have different reasons. AS I am not a professional medic I can only share my experience. For me it was through anger. Through my anger and crying, I started realizing there were more emotions under the anger, i noted down the emotion under the anger – was it disappointment, sadness, belittlement, frustration, being ignored… etc? then with the help of my psychologist, we did Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, where I wrote down also the behaviour associated with these emotions, how did I act, what did I say. Eventually, I also wrote down what I was thinking at that incident. Slowly my thoughts became clearer, and I could look back into the past and find a lot of little things which hurt me in the past which I have suppressed or never processed in a healthy way, which became accumulated anger and stress. Then with each incident, I had to process it in my mind and let it go.

    Another thing was stress, I had to identify the ways the environment, others, and myself caused stress for me, where my stress level was and how did I cope. I realized I did not cope as well as I thought

    I cannot rule out hereditary depression but my parents and ancestors were never diagnosed so I wouldn’t know. My depression was not a long standing biological problem, so it became primarily a mental health issue. Most doctors deduced the depression and other somatic illnesses I suffered to be caused by stress.

    This was how I found out what caused and the root of my depression

    Hope this helps
    NN

  10. Mark Welsh says:

    I am a house painter- I am trained as a classical artist, but no one was waiting to pay me to be one after my training- So I began painting historic homes. This work is not the most intellectually difficult one could have picked to occupy ones thoughts, but it has provided me with ample opportunity to bear witness to my own though processes, and what states of awareness they can contribute to, be it depression or exhalted states of realization. The last thing most people want is free intellectual time to ponder topics that could trigger depression or tipping one to question their world & life view that might push them out of their comfort zone, even if their comfort zone is sadly, being depressed. But it has afforded me to become familiar with places within I’d rather avoid.

    Many things have occurred to me over the decades about depression, and it’s many subtle layers and colors. I say layers because I have experienced moments of clarity in my musings that some depressions are healthy and spiritually proper reactions to what is wrong in the world and within ourselves. It is a warm/ spiritual depression born of an opening of our hearts to what is not right within or without and we are admitting to it with intent of working for change.

    My point to is that , some depressions, are not your depression, but you have awareness of it’s presence due to your proximity to it’s infecting you. This was great news for me, that some of my depressions were my cellular memory of having experienced others depression and this knowing gave me distance inside to allow it to be present with out identifying with it.
    This disassociation from certain depressions gave me interior freedom and confidence that it would not overpower me as it once had.

    M

  11. nochnoch says:

    Hi Mark

    I am not sure I completely understand what you mean by disassociation from certain depressions, but nonetheless, depression have also given me some clarity in my musings and helped me become more self-aware. This blog is a journey for my ups and downs, depressed or not

    Thanks again for your input and adding a dimension to the discussion

    NN

  12. Ricardo Mustachio says:

    You’re damn right.

    That’s why I stopped trying to explain it at all (at least 90 % of the time). Sometimes though, people who “have been” depressed, versus people who actually have depression, believe they *get it* and just like them, all you have to do is get a puppy, or go for a walk, or toughen up and get the job done, whatever that might be. Its like people who have seen war on the military channel tell a soldier with ptsd “that doesn’t look so bad”.

    my contribution to things not to say to a depressed person:

    “Back in my day you didn’t have time to sit and worry, no one knew what it was and we…. spent less time in our heads/ just got the job done ’cause we had to/ didn’t have the luxury of spending all day whining…”

    how i felt: Incredulous! How could one be so condescending? So obtuse? How many are so ignorant to realities beyond their tiny and ever-limited spectrum of experiences? Shocked at the complete lack of tact and perspective I silently foam at the mouth, speechless yet rabid. Not knowing where to start. Or how.

    What I thought/did: RANT!!!! in my head, for like 20 minutes strait. Swallow the loss, go green at the gills for a bit and grab a drink or six to stop the f*#^&ing caring so damn much factor and work for hours to build the perfect rebuttal, only to weekly fart out a few words to a disinterested, older-generation, mightier-than-though know-it-all.

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about Noch Noch

Noch Noch is born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. Noch Noch loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive for the last 7 years in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2011 due to her illnesses and now spends her time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress.