“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.