A year and a half ago, I wrote a post entitled “10 things not to say to a depressed person (and not to me either)” Today, it is still going strong, with a flurry of comments. So for that, I thank all readers for their contributions to the discussion.
From the comments, quite a few people have asked, “What then should we say to someone who is depressed?”
I realize I have been quite vague in my responses to them, and not as directive as they might perhaps, hoped I would be. I admit that some might find my response, unhelpful.
The reason I find difficult to answer the questions, “What do I say to someone who is depressed?” “How do I help them?” “What should I do if my friend/mother/father/husband/wife/person around me will not go to counseling?” is because, the answer is most likely, “It depends.”
[I am reminded of my studies in law, where every case analysis started with “It depends”, and students were troubled by the ambiguity for all they wanted, at least in Hong Kong, were the model answers to memorize and regurgitate for exams. Yet in most cases, arguments for or against were possible only because, “it depends” on the circumstances…]
Secondly, even if I was trained, an email or discussion board comment would not be sufficient information to determine any course of action, for in my experience, doctors always ask about history, behaviour symptoms, and more importantly, they diagnose the issue and severity at hand, before offering any advice. I have known people who were inaccurately diagnosed and therefore given the wrong medication for their mental health problems, hence delaying their recovery.
Above all, I do not think there is one specific formula for treatment of clinical depression that would work for everyone.
We are affected by our history, upbringing, environment, culture and personalities. Therefore, each case is different even if we experience very similar symptoms of depression. Our negative thoughts would be centered on a myriad of issues, and thus even Cognitive Behaviour Therapy would be tailored to assist us in avoiding thinking traps in slightly different realms.
Thus, I hesitate to tell you what you should do as blanket advice. What I could do is to share my experience in the hope that you would find inspiration as to how to help yourself or others.
Each treatment is personal to the person. We must find our own combination of methods to help ourselves through the struggle. What works for others might not work for us.
But if everything else is “it depends”, there are a few things for certain regardless of the method of recovery:
- First and foremost, ACCEPT you are facing a challenge and need help. Stop denying, or try to end your denial period quickly. Well, it took me a year…
- TAKE OWNERSHIP of your recovery. It’s your body, mind and soul. You are responsible for taking care of yourself even though you will need help. You need to want to help yourself first.
- GET AN ACCURATE DIAGNOSIS by a qualified doctor, psychologist and/or psychiatrist. And if you do not like the first one, find the second one, the third one…. It took me several tries to find the one I feel could understand me.
Then the rest, is up to you to meander and discover.
I know some might be disappointed I did not give a list of steps to take to help a loved one out of depression. But in my subsequent posts, I will share some of the things that were said to me which have helped, actions others took which have comforted me, and the methods I have used to coax myself from denying I had depression depression to embracing the illness.
Until next post, take care.