This is an open letter to everyone who has a close friend or family member who is struggling with anxiety disorders and depression and who don’t know how to support and help them.
This is something that is very close to my heart because I am that person. The one with social anxiety disorder and depression. The one who developed agoraphobia as a result. The one behind closed doors who can’t leave the house or get up to do anything. I am slowly getting myself out of the hole I have been hiding in for the last eight months or so and I am here to help YOU to help your loved ones because some people cannot do it on their own. Yes, sometimes people do need help from others.
DO NOT! Think that it is okay to try the “tough love” card with someone who has depression. Believe me when I tell you that you are only making things worse for them. Tough love does not work on someone with anxiety disorders and/or depression. Someone in that situation needs love, respect and a lot of help. By ignoring the situation and hoping it goes away you are basically telling them that you don’t care. And when someone with depression thinks that you don’t care they are less likely to try to recover.
IF YOU LIVE FAR FROM YOUR LOVED ONE OR FRIEND WITH DEPRESSION:
One thing that I have noticed is that when you are having a really bad and dark episode of depression your friends and family who live far away tend to back off and not pay any attention to you and don’t bother to check up on you or to talk to you. I am guessing that this is because they think that if they ignore something it might go away. This is a very selfish thing to do if you really care about someone. This does not help them. This is a time when they need you the most. Obviously, there will be times when they don’t want to respond or talk to anyone but even knowing that you are always there for them makes them realise that when they are ready to talk to someone that you are there for them to turn to.
- Keep in contact with them. If you don’t know what to say to them to make them feel better then just talk to them about how your day or week went. Tell them something funny that happened to you in the hopes that it will make them smile or laugh. Talk about the new puppy you got and how cute and cuddly he is. Tell them about the lovely flowers you are growing in your garden and how gorgeous they smell (appeal to their senses, it lets them know that there are wonderful things in the world that they could possibly be missing out on).
- Send them a card on their birthday and Christmas (if they celebrate it). People with depression often feel the loneliness even more at these times of the year. This makes them feel loved and special. If they are struggling financialy then send them a grocery store gift card so that they can go and buy bread, milk and chocolates. (It also gives them a reason to get out of the house, and if they don’t want to do that they can order online, simple!)
- Like and comment on their social media. This might not seem important to you but it can be to them. It shows your presence in their life and that is what they need. It means that you are showing support and that you care.
- Send them an email or text every now and then rather than bombarding them with phone calls they will never answer. Obviously, if they prefer a phone call that is also okay!
IF YOU LIVE CLOSE TO YOUR LOVED ONE OR FRIEND WITH DEPRESSION:
This is very important and I honestly hope that I can get at least one person to understand how important these tips are. Please do not try to force them to go out to pubs and bars to try and drink away their sorrows. If they want to then let them, but do not force it because when they feel worse in the morning you are to blame, not them. If you are going to try to get them to go out it is best to get them to do something that will help their anxiety, not hurt it. Going for a long walk in the park in the open, getting fresh air, sitting next to the lake feeding the ducks. That kind of thing to start off with is helpful.
- Please do not constantly invite them over to your house because you feel that it is good to get them out of the house. The problem I have with this is that it is difficult for them to walk or drive over to your house in the first place. Then they go over there and spend an hour or two there and go home to feel the same again. From my own personal experience, this does not help.
- People with depression are most likely not eating well or eating at all. How can you help? Take them a nice hearty home cooked meal (not take away), enough for them to have for the next day too. They will honestly be very grateful for this! And this is not something you have to do every day. But if you really care for this person then once a week should not be a problem for you.
- Send them a text and ask them if there is anything that you can do for them that day. Maybe an errand you can help them with or maybe take them to any appointments they might have, take them to the store if they need to go shopping. If you don’t have a car them offer to go with them for moral support.
- People with depression often go days without having a shower or bath, and it is not because they are being lazy, it is because they are simply just too exhausted to get into the shower or bath. It’s a good idea to go over to their place, run them a nice bubble bath. Sit there with them and talk or just be there. Help them wash their hair if need be. When they are done and in their bedroom getting dressed then give the bath a quick wash and tidy the bathroom for them.
- If they are struggling financialy then bring them a few necessities such as bread, milk, tea, cheese, veggies, toilet paper. I can’t tell you how many times I have run out of toilet paper when I had no money.
- Help them with household chores such as washing dishes or doing a load of laundry, washing their bedding, vacuuming and so on. People with depression often neglect cleaning their homes because they just cannot face it, are too exhausted to do anything or just don’t see the point in doing it. If their home is nice and clean it does make them feel a little better at least in the moment and it also motivates them to try to do it themselves. Like I have mentioned before people with depression are constantly exhausted and they sometimes need help with these things.
- Often people with depression neglect their own grooming or taking care of themselves. If you are good with cutting hair, why not give them a haircut, even just a trim could help them to feel good. Help them to trim their nails or even give them a manicure or pedicure.
- If they like to read then bring them a good book to read.
- Ask them to join you for a walk once a week. They can choose not to do so but at least you are trying.
Honestly, if you can do any of these things even once a month it would help them more than you know. Don’t just get angry or upset when they don’t want to do something that you want them to do, rather do something for them that you know would help them rather than to be selfish. And if your loved one or friend with depression also has social anxiety disorder please do not constantly bombard them with phone calls, send them a text and they will text back when they feel comfortable enough to do so. Patience is key here. Please please be patient with them. I had a friend who, even after telling her to please stop calling me all the time because of my social anxiety and to sometimes send me a text she refused to do so and told me that I am being selfish. Someone like that is very toxic and that is not going to help someone it is going to hurt them.
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