As if battling against your mind was not hard enough, sometimes other people can really hurt you with what they say. In this trying time, all that someone struggling could hope for is some love and support but, surprisingly, not everyone will provide you with the reaction that you desperately need. Some common bad reactions after revealing your fight with depression are (but not limited to):
“I don’t have enough time to be like that; I have too much to do”
Someone said this while talking about mental health issues to me, as if they were a choice, an optional lifestyle to live, which was so insulting to me. No one would ever choose this. No one would ever want this. Furthermore, I am currently studying for a masters degree I don’t have time for this either, literally no one has time to be unwell. I had to cancel working abroad for the summer because I am not well, which is something I’m devastated about – definitely not a choice.
“People have it worse…”
This is an awful thing to say to something with depression. Of course people have it worse, some people are living in slavery and in poverty but does someone else’s suffering diminish another’s? Your life feeling unbearable is obviously not ideal and no one should ever discredit that.
“Oh, I didn’t realise you were still struggling with that”
I think my mouth hit the floor when my friend said this to me. Every single day takes a massive amount of effort from me, so to hear that this has went unnoticed really upset me. I think it also reinforced the idea that no one cares about you, which is a common thought for those struggling with depression.
“I dunno what’s up with her”
This was said years ago but it has stuck with me. I was not open about depression then – but it must have been pretty obvious considering that I spoke about two words every four hours. I was clearly upset and my friend had noticed that because she said this to other people in a group chat (which I was accidentally added to) and yet she did not ask me if I was okay. If your friend seems off talk to them, they might not feel comfortable bringing it up and this shows them that you care. If you ever catch someone bitching about your mental state and this person does not apologise nor check what is wrong – immediately recognise THIS IS NOT A FRIEND and walk away.
I believe this stigma towards depression contributed a lot to me not seeking help until I got to the point where I couldn’t function anymore. I was too scared of being labelled attention seeking or a liar that I didn’t want to admit it. And the unknown of how someone is going to react can really make you nervous about talking about it. To combat people’s cruel comments, I think the only thing to do is to educate people to make them understand how hurtful these things are.
Whenever I hear someone joke about mental illness, I take a deep breath and remind myself that they do not understand. If they understood they wouldn’t do it. And mental illness is an extremely common thing, there is a good chance that one day they will understand.