By Enoch Li
I cringed at these things my friends said to me these few years. For those of you who don’t really get us, I’ve decided to let you know 10 things not to say to a depressed person from my own experience.
And be forewarned, for if you ever dare to even start uttering the below to me, I will hang you by your legs upside down, skin you alive and then deep fry you before publicly disowning you and denying your pitiful existence.
I had never thought people would write to me for advice and suggestions.
A few weeks back, a friend wrote to me and said she just found out that a family member of a friend has depression.
But her friend did not know what to say or how to encourage the depression sufferer.
She asked me if I had any recommendations. It got me thinking.
However, as I’m not a doctor, I can’t give medical advice.
Moreover, what to say is very dependent on the personality and situation of the oppressed.
But what I can offer is my take on what NOT to say to someone in depression. Hopefully this can help you empathize where we weirdos are coming from, and for you to be more sensitive to our plight.
And on that note, may I solemnly remind you again: please don’t ever ever EVER again say the below in bold type to me in whatever circumstances if you consider me a friend. Otherwise I’m throwing a tantrum in your face.
Do NOT say:
1. “Remain Positive”
I think: Duh! I know – but how? To me, my reality is that the world has already caved in.
What is irrational to you makes utmost sense to me.
I’m so angry / upset / sad / lonely / devastated / hopeless / in despair… Why can’t you understand me?
I feel: Recoil further into my shell to avoid future contact and meaningless advice because you never told me how to remain positive.
2. “Don’t think like that”
I think: Why not? What’s wrong with thinking like I do?
It’s an honest opinion. I really think this. It’s negative all right, but that’s what I think, so what’s wrong?
So how should I think instead? Like you? But I don’t agree with you, and then I become you if I think like you…?
I feel: I did something wrong for thinking a certain way, and you reprimanded me for thinking so. Thus, I withdraw, and berate myself for thinking the way I do, and spiral further down into depression due to self-criticism.
3. “Pull yourself together” / “Snap out of it” and the likes
I think: How? Snap out of what? I don’t want to be like this either, you think it’s fun?
I feel: Feel completely useless and hopeless that I’m incapable of holding myself together and getting better. Depression snowballs with this sense of incompetence.
4. “Why do you need to be depressed?”
I think: Umm… I don’t know, I wish I knew.
Doctors said it’s because of some imbalance in serotonin in me.
I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW!!!!!!!
I feel: Accused of committing a heinous crime to be depressed.
Confused because I don’t know what happened to make me depressed and how it all happened.
Lost since I don’t know how to get out of depression. Feel inferior and worse about myself, so I hide from you as well because I don’t want to feel inadequate.
Also see other articles by Enoch Li:
Thanks to Enoch Li for providing her helpful articles.
Photos above added by Douglas Eby (author of this site):
Top photo is by Anthony Tran on Unsplash.
Next two images are of ‘Cecilia’ in The Virgin Suicides (1999, written and directed by Sofia Coppola, from the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides) – after her suicide attempt by slitting her wrists, a doctor in the hospital asks her, “What are you doing here, honey? You’re not even old enough to know how bad life gets.”
Cecilia replies: “Obviously, Doctor, you’ve never been a 13-year-old girl.” Her sisters apparently gave her about a dozen bracelets to wear on each wrist to help cover her bandages. Later on, they all died of suicide.
Lower image from book: I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression.
The kinds of reactions from others (including health professionals such as physicians) that Enoch Li writes about can help keep many depressed people shut off and unwilling to talk openly. Even reactions you expect or anticipate, and whether they happen or not. That was part of my experience earlier in my life, with depression and dysthymia.
Also see list of Mental Wellness and Emotional Health articles