Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Do's and Don't's of Depression, and They're Mostly Don'ts

Even in a depressive episode, I still need to write.  I have to keep those fingers on the keys.  It’s probably not good writing, but I feel compelled to put it out there.  I figure it’s better than shutting down, which is what I would do otherwise.

People want to help me when I’m depressed.  But some things they do actually make me feel worse.  So here are some tips on how to approach someone who is depressed or in a depressed episode of bipolar disorder.  Someone named “Me.”

In no particular order--

Don’t tell me to shake it off or snap out of it.  

Don't tell me jokes.  Slapstick might get a muted chuckle, though.

Don’t send me internet memes to cheer me up.  Seriously.  Do not do this.  It makes me question why we are friends.

Don’t tell me any variation of “hurry up and feel better because we need you.”  That is about the worst thing you can say.

I’m not just in a bad mood.  

I’m not grumpy.  

I didn't get up on the wrong side of the bed. 

I’m not just having a bad day.

I do not have PMS. 

It is not anything you did.  

Don't be too nice to me, because I will cry.  I'm an ugly crier.

Don’t command me to feel better.  Believe me, if I could feel better, you would be the second to know, right after me.

Don’t try to fix me. I just want to be heard and understood. 

I have been through this before. I know what will work.  I am not open to suggestions.

No, I cannot go back to bed and read a book and eat candy. I have to go to work.

No, I cannot take a bubble bath and call a friend.  I have to go to work.

No, I cannot sit down in the middle of the day and start drinking.  That would be about the worst thing I could do.  Besides, as I believe I mentioned, I have to go to work.

Don’t ask me what’s wrong.  I have a mood disorder.  That’s what’s wrong.   

My depression is usually proportional to the mania that preceded it.  But please don’t accuse me of not heeding my symptoms.

It might seem like everything you say will be the wrong thing.  In that case, it’s okay to say nothing.  But don’t ignore me.  I can see where this would put you in a bit of a bind.   

Yes, I am aware that there are medications I can take that will help me with this.  Yes, I have some.  Yes, I do take them.  No, I didn't forget to take them.  

Yes, I have heard that St. John's Wort has been used to treat depression.  No, I don't take it.  See above.

I may have moments where I have a little energy and even laugh a little.  This is not a sign that I am all better.  

I am not being passive-aggressive.  

I am not an attention whore.  

I am not a drama queen.

Don’t tell me that you are having a bad day, too.  That is like telling someone with a brain tumor that you have a headache.  Unless you have a brain tumor like mine.  In which case, I will totally scooch over to make you some room.  

Do ask me if I want to talk about it.  And let it be okay if I don’t.  

Do ask me if you can do anything.  And let it be okay if you can’t.  

If I say there is something you can do, please do it.  Without fanfare.  You went to the grocery store.  You did not give me a kidney.

Don't make me feel guilty about being depressed.    Sweet Jesus, whatever you do, don't tell me that I am missing out on the best time of my life right now.

I am not ungrateful for your attempts to make me feel better.  I do appreciate your concern and love.  But you have to tread very lightly around me if I let my guard down enough to let you in.

Doc, it's only a scratch

In the words of Rocky Raccoon, "I'll be better, I'll be better, Doc, as soon as I am able."