depression advice

Depression: 6 bits of unwanted advice and my (unspoken) responses.

Having battled depression since I was in the first grade, I’ve gotten lots of suggestions and advice over the years on how to “get over it.” Here are just a few of those and the responses I would love to have given.

  1. “You take things too seriously.”

See, me, I think you just don’t take things seriously enough. Have you given any thought to world hunger lately? Poverty? Abuse? Because I have and it’s pretty serious stuff. You see me getting upset because of one (so-called) minor incident and you think I’m overreacting. What you don’t get is that, I’m not just responding to this occurrence. I was already thinking about the world’s pain and suffering. Then this thing happens and I’m catapulted into a thought process that attempts to take into account all sadness, all pain, all brokenness of all time. You try thinking about that without getting serious.

  1. “Just don’t think about that stuff.”

Oh okay. If you’d just hold my brain for a minute or . . . I dunno . . . a decade.

  1. “You’re just too sensitive!”

What you don’t understand is that I do not have an emotional epidermis. Think of me as a hairless cat. Wait no. No one should think about that. Ever. Think of me as . . . well . . . think of me as someone who doesn’t have an emotional epidermis. Best I can tell, my filters are super permeable. More stuff just gets to me.

Also, I’m not consciously choosing to be “too sensitive” as you seem to think. I’m trying to handle emotional difficulties better; but when you say “You’re just too sensitive,” what I hear is, “You are broken. Fix yourself.” Your not-at-all-well-thought-out advice reinforces what I already believe about myself. And that makes me want to curl up and sleep for a week. Which just makes people say, “You take things too seriously.” (See above.)

I promise you, I’m working on it. You can’t imagine how hard I’m working on it. This time, I just didn’t have the energy to use the coping strategies I’m developing. And I’m tired of picking up the mask every time I face people. So when you see me like this, please refrain from giving me your pithy solutions; instead of reducing my depression, they actually inflame the condition.

  1. “Perk up!”

On it! Thanks for the suggestion. Wow. Wish I could have known you 45 years ago. Would have saved lots of money in counseling and pharmaceuticals. Gosh, really! I’m all fixed now. Thanks!

  1. “It just doesn’t make sense. You don’t have any real problems!”

You are so right. I don’t. That’s why I don’t understand why I feel this way. Nothing is wrong. Except for everything. And also nothing. But everything.

Here’s the way things go down inside my brain:

Brain: You have no real problems.
Me: Then what’s wrong with me?
Brain: Lots of people have it worse than you! You have no reason to be depressed.
Me: You’re right; I’m such a loser.
Brain: Think about all the people who have truly difficult struggles. Victims of assault or abuse, people in poor health, those who are bereaved. You literally have no problems.
Me: You’re right. I have absolutely no right to feel this way.
Brain: Then stop feeling.
Me: Okay, how?
Brain: Ummmm. Yeah, I got nothing. Not my expertise.

So I hear you, I do. I even quote you to myself all the time. As a matter of fact, there’s no need for you ever to say this to me again. I say it to myself plenty.

  1. “Why don’t you just . . . [add overly simplistic, completely ludicrous, non-solution].”

Is that a question or an accusation? If it’s a question, settle in friend. I’ve got lots to say. Most people, though, don’t really want to hear the “why.” It’s not really a question at all. It’s an expression of frustration and I get it! It is hard to live with or around someone who is chronically sad. But if you really want to help, give me compassion not judgment. Compassion is infinitely more effective in reducing depression’s symptoms. So instead of making the above statement, why don’t you just create a safe place for me where love is plentiful and mercy is abundant, k? Thanks.

Here’s the thing: if someone you know or love is suffering from chronic depression, resist the urge to give offhand advice. Instead, offer grace: because grace, like love, never fails.

About the Author Aileen Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 28 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.

Leave a Comment:

Alisha Jerelle says April 14, 2017

Wow. You really have a way with words.. I feel this same way, but never know how to express it. My depression is geared more toward animals, and the fact that I can't help them all. I lose sleep over it all the time. That, and constantly overthinking that I'm never good enough. (I was bullied a lot in middle/high school). I've never seen a therapist. I've tried, but my insurance doesn't cover it. It's really hard for me to explain all of this to my boyfriend.. He's amazing and supportive, but I don't know that he TRULY understands or knows how to go about it. Maybe I will show him this article. Thank you.

    Aileen Lawrimore says April 14, 2017

    Oh Alisha! It's so hard. Partners struggle to know how to help and what to say; we struggle to tell them why they aren't helping without being judgmental of their efforts. I really think we as a culture need to be more aware of mental health issues. As awareness grows, we all benefit.

    Incidentally, I know another person who struggles with the animal thing. You're not alone!

    Thanks for reading and commenting Alisha. Together, we really are better, aren't we?

Patty says April 15, 2017

thank you for this post. when i first had depression/anxiety/life felt like chaos, well-meaning people said similar to the above at various times. But at night when i was restless, my wonderful husband would just hug me. the medication turned me into a zombie. i quit work becasue i had trouble leaving the house on my own. eventually life returned to normal. that was 30 years ago. About 6 years ago i was diagnosed with depression, no particular trigger, nothing that i can account for, but life is much better with the current medication. and few people know about it, becasue it means i don't have to explain. Maybe one day i will be brave enough and have the energy for the conversations.
in my case, there doesn't seem to be any particular trigger or area that i am more aware of, it is just part of my brain chemistry.

    Aileen Lawrimore says April 15, 2017

    Thanks for commenting Patty. So thankful you have a supportive husband and that you've found a better medication. I really don't think it is something you have to share with people if you don't feel like it. I think it depends on why you don't tell the story. If it is because you are ashamed, then dealing with the shame is important. But if you just don't necessarily want people in your business, that's another story. I know people with Chrons disease who don't tell people. I know people who have chronic pain and never mention it. It's not shame, it's privacy. Really, coping with this thing is hard enough. If sharing your story isn't helpful, then you should not feel pressured to tell it. It's only recently, and after much therapy and with great medication, that I decided to come out of my depression closet. It just wasn't time before now.
    Peace to you as you move through the difficult days. Thanks again for reading. 🙂

Tracy says April 15, 2017

Thank you for your articles. Some people do not understand the struggles with depression. Some days I just want to lay around and not get out of bed. I turn down invitations to do things, one also because of my weight, but it is a vicious cycle. I do feel better when I get up and start my day with exercise. Thank you again for your articles. Love ya and miss seeing you at church!!

    Aileen Lawrimore says April 15, 2017

    Tracy I'm right there with you! Thanks for reading and for your comment. I do so love my Marion home church! Y'all are the best!

Cathy Lawdanski says April 17, 2017

Well said and oh, so true. Thanks from all of us who suffer from depression!

    Aileen Lawrimore says April 17, 2017

    Thanks Cathy! It can be such a lonely road. Nice to know we have co-travelers!

Karen Pruette says January 19, 2019

I am so happy to have found your blog. I don't know if you remember me, but we were in Divinity School together at GWU for a while. I am now serving in the Eastern part of NC, so we are an entire state apart, but I enjoy reading your blog.
Karen Pruette

    Aileen Lawrimore says January 19, 2019

    Thanks for your kind comments Karen and for reading! I’m back at Gdub now working on a DMin—researching possibilities for church ministry to people suffering with mental illness. Hope to finish in Spring 2020. Good to hear from you and thanks again!

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