Being a Friend to Someone Who’s Depressed

“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” – Stephen Fry

It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed. This might sound obvious, but if you aren’t well-versed in mental health or mental illness, it’s not.  It’s easier to help someone who’s depressed when you’re in the moment. It’s easier to help them find a psychiatrist or a therapist. It’s easier to help them get help. But to be their friend – to love and support them through what could be the darkest points of their life up to that point – is hard.

I know it’s hard. Having been the person who’s depressed way more than being the friend, I understand how difficult it is. How frustrating it can be. That depression can put friends into awkward positions depending on the situation. And I know that at its worst, depression can permanently damage relationships when it becomes too much to handle. It’s one of the things I hate most.

But overcoming depression is all about making it to the other side. Whether it’s one day at a time or building up resilience and strength over a longer amount of time, the goal is to survive and to continue to survive. Even when you make it to the other side, there’s no guarantee you’ll stay there. Depression isn’t a cut on your hand or a broken leg; it doesn’t always get better with time. That’s one of the things that can make it so hard to be friends with someone who’s depressed.

I’ll tell you, though. Some of the happiest moments I’ve had are seeing my friends’ and family’s faces when they know I’m having a good day. Those looks, those feelings, those moments make all the work worth it. It’s the same way when I’ve made it through a tough spell. To extra meaning to the moment is that you know it probably won’t last forever; that’s just the nature of depression. So we appreciate it more. We enjoy it. But we also get ready to fight again.

It’s true: it’s extremely hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed. But Stephen Fry is right; it truly is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do. And it really can change people’s lives. It changed mine.

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3 thoughts on “Being a Friend to Someone Who’s Depressed

  1. illnessislife December 3, 2019 / 2:32 pm

    “If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.” Is this true in all cases? Can’t you be depressed because someone close to you died or something devastating happened or because you just don’t have the energy or resources to deal with everything on your plate?

    And now I feel confused or an idiot after reading the post, but I feel like it’s not hard to be friends with someone who’s depressed. I view life as an endless battle, and you’re lucky if you get to experience peace or happiness, so it’s not like a depressed person is anymore exhausting or depressing than everyday life. I don’t take peace and happiness for granted. I mean, I won’t spend all my time with someone who’s depressed because I have other responsibilities I can’t neglect. Also, sometimes depressed people are the only genuine people. Sometimes it’s the only time people are genuine. I prefer that to the non-stop putting on of a face and acting cold and superficial.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan Smith December 4, 2019 / 8:57 am

      You shouldn’t feel confused, I agree with you on a lot here! I used that quote about depression because more people are likely to understand and empathize with depression that happens for a reason than they are with things like clinical depression (clinical is what I tend to focus on).

      And I also agree with you that it’s not hard to be friends with someone who’s depressed, but I don’t know enough people who share that point of view which is why I ended up writing what I did. To be honest, most people I’ve met came to that conclusion after helping someone deal with their mental illness for a while. You’re totally right that a depressed person is not anymore exhausting than everyday life – it’s just a different type of exhaustion that not everyone is familiar with.

      Like

      • illnessislife December 4, 2019 / 7:32 pm

        I also get so confused as to what depression is, what’s clinical depression, etc. I used the term “clinical depression” once when people were discussing depression and someone said, I don’t believe in this term clinical depression. And, I was like, wait, is that not a term people use? I’m depressed but I’m not sure if it’s clinical depression or just depression or both, lol. My brain has some 1984-ish doublespeak issues with it.
        I guess it depends on the situation if it’s hard to be friends with someone with depression or not. I had a friend that would complain a lot about her life, and I didn’t realize how pessimistic it was making me feel talking to her. Like, I didn’t know enough about life yet to know if I should be that pessimistic or worried about things, idk. I think I needed more people who weren’t struggling in life to balance things out, but I didn’t have many friends. It’s kind of like going to a support group where everyone’s depressed but that support group is the only social interaction you have and all that you know of life.

        Like

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