Snap out of it!
That’s what I’d say to myself if I ever fell into depression again. Ain’t that a great plan? There’s only one catch: It won’t work. As anyone who’s been through it knows, once depression sets in, we’re powerless to do anything other than let it pass. Depression isn’t something we can control. It’s tricky like that.
If you love a depressed person, it’s frustrating not to be able to say something like “snap out of it” because you know what a futile, horrible waste it is. But remember that you can’t pull them out of it—they’ll have to find something inside themselves in order to emerge from the darkness. So if you can find it within yourself to do so, just accept them accept them accept them. And while you wait it out, please also don’t say any of the following:
1. Practice Gratitude!
The essence of depression is that you have no perspective and are unable to appreciate all the blessings in your life. It’s not like you don’t know they’re there, but you can’t connect with them.
2. You’re Draining Me
When I was depressed, I knew I was draining others—I hardly needed reminding. It’s one of the terrific ironies of depression: Just when you feel the most isolated, you’re also in your most unlovable state. It’s OK to take space from a depressed person if that’s what you need to do. But try not to judge them.
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3. Leave Your House and You’ll Feel Better
Being depressed at home is bad. But being depressed in public is worse. It’s like taking a job where you’re supposed to know how to speak fluent Mandarin, and then starting that job even though you actually don’t know a word. Sometimes it’s better to let the sadness pass surrounded by the comforts of familiar surroundings.
4. Have You Tried Therapy? Drugs? Exercise? Meditation? Goji Berries?
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It’s all good advice but when you’re down, you can’t hear any of it. It just sounds like judgment.
5. Other People Have Real Problems
We know. Intellectually we understand that the problems of one little person don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. (Wisdom courtesy of Rick Blaine, “Casablanca.”) But emotionally, we can’t get there.
As an added bonus, some of us actually dwell on other people’s problems. In my depressed days, I’d dwell on war and racism and the fact that bad things happened to good people. So pointing that out isn’t a salve. It’s salt in the wound.
6. Stiff Upper Lip!
Depressed people are not Britain during the Blitz, but of course it’s easy to get those two confused.
7. This Is All Because of That Choice You Made
Which choice? Leaving my job with the verbally abusive boss? Or breaking up with the guy who lied to me? Even if I did make the wrong choice, the source of depression is often not an incident, but a malfunctioning brain. When people are depressed, it’s tempting to look for a reason so that you can make some sense of it. But there’s no logic to depression.
8. If You Changed Your Diet, You’d Snap Out of It
If I were the kind of person who could eat kale and drink goji berry juice (again with the goji berries), I probably wouldn’t be depressed. I’d be one of those positive people who laugh and go flowboarding for kicks.
9. Did You Know That When You’re Depressed, Your Brain Is Becoming ‘Wired’ to be Depressed?
Do I ever! I can feel my hippocampus shrinking even as we speak. But that’s not making me feel any better.
10. You’re Addicted to Drama
Maybe—because of what we just learned in number 9. Depression does have long term effects on the brain. But don’t despair. Antidepressants, exercise and meditation can reverse the effects. So even though I’ve said not to tell someone in the throes of depression about those strategies—because they usually can’t hear them in the moment—know that there is hope for them. And hope, in the end, is the opposite of depression. In a way, hope is the cure.