Category Archives: Depression

5 Things NOT To Say To A Depressed Person and 1 Thing You Can

I have launched WordPress at least six times in order to write a blog post about mental illness.  I did after my babies were born.  I did after the shootings at Newtown, with tears still fresh on my cheek.   I never publish.  These posts that I write feel so raw, so vulnerable, so real that I can’t seem to ever publish them. And now Robin Williams has taken his own life and everybody scratches their head and wonders “why?” First, let me say that suicides come in clusters, so as we mourn this loss as a society we should be aware of the everyday people standing next to us who may not be doing so well.  The best I can offer right now is a list of things NOT to say to somebody who suffers from depression.

1.) Just Cheer Up! Be Positive!

I put this in the same category as telling a woman who just miscarried “it’s for the best” or telling somebody who lost their dearest friend “they are in a better place”.  No, no they are not.  And no, I cannot just “cheer up”.  If I could just “cheer up” then I wouldn’t have mental illness.  No, I would just be having a bad day.  Indeed, mental illness is more than just feeling bummed out.  Mental illness is a smothering blanket that extinguishes all light, all love and all hope.

2.) It’s All In Your Head

Well pardon the french, but no shit Sherlock!  It is in my head – that is why it is called ‘MENTAL ILLNESS’.  I cannot control my head. If my head was healthy – like your head – then I could manage it, but I can’t.  There is something so painful about looking into the eyes of somebody struggling with depression and hear them say, “I don’t know WHY I feel this way, I don’t want to and I wish I could make it stop”.  A person with mental illness has lost control of their brain. They intellectually know that their life is blessed, happy, robust but they don’t feel those things. Their brain prevents them from feeling happy and blessed.

3.) It’s Not a Real Illness

Or really any variation of doubting whether or not it exists or is a real thing. Unless you are a mental health expert, have lived with somebody with a mental disease, or experienced it yourself you have NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.  Until you’ve seen an otherwise completely healthy human crippled by depression to the point where they are non-functioning and incapable of taking a shower or getting out of bed you are not allowed to have an opinion otherwise give voice to it.

4.) You Should Totally Exercise – It Releases Endorphins

OMG are you serious?! Nobody has ever mentioned that to me.  That is the most mind blowing advice I’ve ever received in my whole life.  You should write a book. Many people with depression and mental illness work out.  As a matter of fact some do this to excess and it’s called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and is frequently associated with an eating disorder. Those are also mental illnesses.  And the people who suffer with a mental illness can barely muster the energy to get out of bed and drag themselves through a work day otherwise exercise, eat, take a shower, etc.

5.) Have you tried vitamins? Green Smoothies? Kale? Flaxseed Oil? St. John’s Wort? Carrot Juice? Etc.

Most depressed people have tried EVERYTHING.  As a matter of fact they must keep trying new things in order to manage the disease. Remedies that work in the beginning stop working and they have to adjust.  Sometimes it takes a combination of a whole host of things to keep the demons at bay and every person is different.  No offense to your offer of carrot juice, but a person with depression needs to work with a medical professional and therapist in order to fine tune the treatment regime that works best for them.

What should you say?  “Please call me when you need help”.  People that suffer with depression feel alone in the sadness — ALL THE TIME.  They need constant reminders that they are not alone.  If you feel they need professional help, then help them find it.  Give them a phone number, drive them to a clinic, let them know you are there. Spend time with the person. Hug. If you are worried for their personal safety then ask them – point blank – “are you thinking of killing yourself” – if the answer is anything but a definitive “NO” then call the suicide prevention line.

I can’t help but think that every person who has taken their own life has regretted it.  Perhaps, just perhaps YOU are the very person they need to help them get back on track.

The Clouds Start To Part

You wake up one morning and it feels like somebody has rearranged your bedroom while you slept.  Something is different but you aren’t quite sure what has been moved.  You feel different. A good different.  Suddenly getting out of bed seems possible. That pile of dishes in the sink? Not really that big of a deal.  And you realize, for the first time, the clouds are parting.  The anti-depressant medication is working. You can breathe again and I do.  I breathe deep and long. I tentatively step back into my life like a skittish cat escaping from a box.  The depression this time around has been dark, very, very dark. The hopelessness and sadness smothered me and I wasn’t sure I would find my way out, but I am making my way.

It has been hard enough dealing with the sadness but David and I have had so much more on our plate.  The new house, the new baby, work problems, and all that stress has stretched our marriage as far as it can go.  At some point when so much is piled on, you can’t help but eventually turn on each other. At times it has felt like David and I have been hanging off a cliff and the only thing preventing us from falling off is that God and family have a firm hold of our heels.

We’re not out of the woods – not yet. We haven’t quite made it over the top of the mountain but we can see the top. In the meantime our family has run ahead of us and reached a hand down to help us along.  That is what family does.  I find myself repeating again, again from Lucy’s ABC Bible Verses “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” – Proverbs 3:5  I don’t know why so much change and turmoil has come upon us at the same time but it has.  What I do know is that all this conflict has forced David and I to take a hard look at our life and path.  Sometimes in order for you to make a dramatic change in your life you need dramatic conflict.  I will not and cannot lean on my own understanding and so faith is all I have left.


It would be so much easier if I woke up and my body was covered in a rash.  Perhaps I could have a small cough or drippy nose. I would then know. It would be obvious that something was wrong with me, but that isn’t how it happens.  At first you attribute the mood swings to the stress happening in your life. I mean who wouldn’t be a bit frazzled after moving and having a new baby? Of course it is stress.  And the constant stream of tears? Well, I did just have a baby my hormones are just normalizing.  Everybody has bad days.  The loss of patience and irritability? I haven’t slept well in weeks and any normal person would be a bit annoyed.  At some point it becomes harder and harder to explain and justify. And then it happens.  After Max was born it was uncontrollable anger at David for leaving his coffee cup in the sink after I had just finished the dishes.  This time it was being so frustrated at Lucy I gently pushed her out of my bedroom and locked the door.  I didn’t throw her to the ground, or hurt her, or violently push her – but push her I did, and the underlying anger that was bubbling inside of me was scary.

Depression. Postpartum depression.

Depression isn’t like any other kind of illness. You can’t go to the doctor and point to a physical ailment and say “fix this”.  It is like a toxic gas that slowly creeps into your life. You know that something doesn’t smell quite right but you can’t figure out where it is coming from until you are doubled-over sick with toxicity.  And once you are sick it taints everything around it. 

I spend most of my days feeling overwhelmed and on the verge of tears.  All I can think about is wanting to sleep. If I could just sleep. And yet, even when the baby is asleep I can’t sleep. Insomnia plagues me at night.  Every obstacle and daily frustration feels like an insurmountable problem that needs to be faced. My mind restlessly wanders from one thought to the next never settling.  I’m incapable of decision making.  Just getting dressed or deciding what I’ll cook for dinner paralyzes me.  I spend hours aimlessly knocking around my house unable to focus my mind on any one task.  My inner voice obssessively chants; “So sad. I’m so sad.”

My only comfort is David.  His presence seems to settle the demons and lets me be at ease – even for an hour. I know what I need to do. I’ll make the necessary calls to doctors to get medicine prescribed and people to help and people to talk to about it.  In the meantime I feel a bit like Eeyore waiting for the rain cloud to blow away.