“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~Leo Buscaglia
This is huge. And it’s oh, so scary. When someone you love is heading towards depression or an anxiety attack, you may feel unqualified to help them. You want to help, you want to “fix” it, but you have no idea what to do. You may feel completely helpless. But yet, you can help.
I truly wish I had all the answers for you. All I can do is provide a little bit of information from my own experience, that may provide comfort and hope to those that suffer, and to those that care for the suffering.
First of all, when you haven’t experienced the true depths of depression, you will NOT be able to understand. It’s like a woman without children; she cannot understand what childbirth is like. But it does not mean that you can’t be understanding, compassionate and empathetic.
3 Moments I’ll Never Forget:
1. I remember a day that my parents came to my house during the worst time of my depression. They had a big encyclopaedia in their hands (remember those big books with tons of information in them…before the internet? ) They opened up the book to the page on depression, and there were two photos. One was a colourful image of a “normal” brain, and the other was a not so colourful image of depressed brain. And they said “Look! This is what your brain is doing. It’s not your fault”. Wow! The sense of relief that day was incredible. For 37 years, I’d been told to “suck it up”, “get over it”, and “you’ll be fine”. Finally, my mum and dad understood. Yes! (To check out some images, just Google “Depressed brain vs Normal Brain”. It really is fascinating!)
2. My husband was a trooper through it all. The poor man had no idea what to do with me. He’s the kind of guy that likes to “fix” things, and he couldn’t fix me. So instead, he did what he could. He took over all the care of the kids, cooking, cleaning and well…everything. And he never pressured me to get off my butt to help. Now, he did encourage me, for sure. Encouragement and pressure are totally different. If he saw I was ready to attempt something, like sitting with the family for dinner, he would encourage me to join. He never made me feel bad if I couldn’t do it. My own sense of guilt was enough for both of us.
3. One day, my best friend (whom I’ve known since I was 14) came over. She brought Tim Horton’s French Vanilla Coffee, a chick flick, salt and vinegar chips with onion dip, as well as all the fixings for lunch. We sat and chatted over coffee, then made lunch and watched the movie. Through it all, she made me feel “normal”. It was wonderful! And yet, we both knew a dark cloud was in the room. She mentioned after that she had never seen me so sad, that my eyes were lifeless. At one point during the movie, I put my head in her lap and she just stroked my hair. I cried. I felt so loved. No questions, no quick fixes, no pressure. Just love.
Resources to help:
I could go into depth on what you should do if you know someone that is suffering from depression. However, there has been so much written already, by highly qualified individuals. Here are some great links you can check out:
A couple of key points:
- Be patient. It is not someone’s choice to be depressed.
- Educate yourself.
- Be willing to listen without telling them what to do or trying to fix it.
- Encourage, don’t pressure them.
- If you’re a Christ Follower, pray for them and pray with them. (And even if you’re not a Christ Follower, pray for them)
- Take care of yourself. This is VERY important. Caring for someone with depression can be very draining. You need to keep yourself healthy, so you can be there for them. Don’t stop living your life; play golf, pray, get help for yourself and visit with friends. Do whatever you need to do to fill yourself, so you are strong enough to care for others.
During my depression, Kevin would often just hold my hand. It meant so much! I knew that he loved me and was there for me – no words were needed.
What has helped you help your loved one?
1 Peter 5:10
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
Photo Credit: Christine Birch