By Juliette Virzi
If you live with depression, you might be used to the insensitive or ignorant comments people can make about it. You may even have a list of things you dread hearing.
Have you tried drinking green tea?
Maybe you should consider exercising more.
You need to focus on the positive.
And while these kinds of comments usually come from a place of good intention, they often end up invalidating someone who is doing all they can to not feel depressed.
When someone with depression opens up about their struggles, oftentimes they aren’t looking for your “solution,” “advice,” opinions, step-by-step depression healing guide, etc. — they may just be looking for someone to listen and be there.
We wanted to know what comments people with depression dread hearing, so we asked our Mighty community to share one with us and explain what it feels like to hear it.
It’s so important for us to have conversations about the harmful things people say to folks struggling with depression — but we shouldn’t stop there. At the bottom of this article, you’ll find some helpful tips about what you can say to someone struggling with depression to best support them.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
1.“Why are you acting like this?”
“‘Why are you like this? You have such a good life. You shouldn’t be this upset with the life you live.’ Thanks, I know that… I can’t help it, and now I feel more guilty than I already did.” — Clarissa L.
“I hate hearing, ‘Smiling will help. It’s scientifically proven that if you smile, even if you don’t feel happy, you’ll feel better.’ Since I’m a person that loves to entertain, I’m smiling and laughing a lot. I have been consistently making those around me laugh for years and, indirectly myself, and I am still chronically depressed. Smiling hasn’t helped with any aspect of my mental health and when I hear, ‘Just smile,’ it makes me feel as though the severity of my depression isn’t being acknowledged.” — Brianna L.
3. “Have you taken your meds?”
“When I’m in a bad mood people at work ask, ‘Have you taken your meds today?’ or ‘Did you forget to take your meds?’ I’m sure they don’t know I’m on medication, but it really messes with me because I have taken my meds.” — Eliza C.
“Constantly being asked, ‘’Have you been taking your meds?’ whenever I have a bad day… Ya know… because I’m on meds I should apparently never be sad anymore and always be happy and smiling and never react to life like the rest of the world.” — Andrea M.
4. “So, what do you do for a living?”
“’So, what do you do for a living?” I have myalgic encephalomyelitis, fibromyalgia and anxiety/depression. Been sick for 15 years.” — Gry F.
5. “You’ll be OK.”
“‘You’ll be OK.’ It’s like I’m [being] disregarded. I’ve opened up a conversation that’s making me anxious and when I get a reply like that, I feel like I was a ‘nuisance.’ It’s disheartening.” — Rachael B.
6. “Don’t think so much.”
“Honestly this infuriates [me]. As if the leading cause of depression is ‘thinking.’ No, actually thinking is what keeps me alive, and hanging on for a new day. When I spend days ‘sleeping it off’ I’m simply escaping life and trying not to think. A depressive episode isn’t something I can just ‘turn off.’ Sure, not thinking would be easier, but then I wouldn’t be alive.” — Kara S.
7. “Shouldn’t you be better by now?”
“‘Shouldn’t you be better by now?’ I understand it’s hard. They were shocked first, then supportive for a few months, but the last years were just awful… and I guess while they cannot understand how I feel, I would love them to realize this only puts more pressure on me. I didn’t choose not to be better.” — Katharina L.
8. “What do you have to be sad about?”
“‘What do you have to be sad about?’ Depression and sadness are two very different things, one is an emotion, the other is an illness.” — Becci P.
9. “I don’t have to worry about you.”
“‘I don’t have to worry about you. It’s not like you are [insert name of person more open about their struggles]. You are stronger than [them].’ I had very, very bad days or nights that I spent without any help. Or anyone to talk to. I feel a lot like I am not good enough to be worried about or that there’s always someone worse, so I shouldn’t feel so badly.” — Sara R.
10. “Have you tried exercising?”
“‘You need to go exercise/lose weight!’ I don’t even have what it takes to bathe regularly or keep my apartment clean — I don’t have energy to waste on a gym. And when I’m constantly being put on meds that make me gain weight, losing weight sounds a lot easier than it really is.” — Tia M.
11. “That’s just life. It’s hard for everyone.”
“I know that. But I’m not everyone. I’m me, and I’ve gotta deal with my stuff. And I’m your daughter. I want to feel like I can share my struggles and frustrations and just have your support and feel loved.” — Brandi S.
12. “There are people out there who are worse off. You should be grateful.”
“‘There are people in the world who have it a lot worse then you — you should be grateful.’ What I hate about this the most is in my worst moments, I actually repeat this to myself. I heard this so much as a child and teenager that it’s my go-to method of berating myself when I’m at my lowest and suicidal, and I’m seeking to do myself harm. And it’s absolutely true, I know people who’ve had harder circumstances in life, but why is it that the pain they feel should somehow lessen what I feel? When I’m feeling well, I try to remind myself my feelings are valid.” — Nicole D.
“That I should be happier about my life and more grateful. And that other people have it much worse, completely minimizing my very real struggle.” — Melinda B.
13. “Be strong!”
“‘Be strong!’ Of course, I am being strong. I’m depressed and still here, right? People underestimate those who suffer from depression. It is a daily struggle from the moment you open one eye till it is the time to close it again. That’s strength — making it through the day when you feel like utter crap.” — Martha D.
14. “Stop being lazy.”
“There is nothing I dread more than hearing people refer to me as ‘lazy’ because I can’t really function when I am depressed. I am far from ‘lazy.’ People don’t realize how hard I have to work to not give up.” — Lucia G.
15. “Just think positive.”
“‘Just think positive.’ Thank you so much! Because I haven’t thought of that before. If I had known thinking positive thoughts is so easy and so effective and would make my depression disappear instantly, I could have been healed already!” — Taylor G.
16. “You need to get over it.”
“‘You just need to get over it. Be more positive. If you’re not willing to get over it, it’ll never go away.’ No, it won’t ever just go away and I cannot just get over it.” — Jessica U.
17. “Why aren’t you trying my suggestions?”
“’Well, you’re not listening to my suggestions.’ [I hear this] during times when I’m just trying to talk my way through my feelings so I can get them out of my head and maybe make sense of them.” — Autumn S.
If you’re wondering what kinds of things you can say to support a person with depression, check out the following pieces:
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