Everyone’s experience with mental illness is different, but when I am in a season of depression, I feel a physical heaviness. My mind feels thick and clouded. Everything feels difficult. Deep unwelcome apathy where excitement, joy, love used to live.
I lay in bed for days. My bed is the only place I feel safe. When I’m able to get up, I’m going through the motions. Your friend may not feel exactly as I did, but chances are they can relate to some of these feelings.
I have learned it is helpful to include a small group of friends and family in the journey. And if your friend has let you in, that is HUGE. Your support is so meaningful.
I remember friends would ask “Is there anything I can do to help?” Sometimes, it was easy to answer honestly. Other times, I couldn’t assess my needs or even form words that made much sense. Even if I felt compelled to share or ask for help, guilt tends to prey on a depressed mind–trying to convince you are selfish or “too much” for asking for help.
So how can you support your friend who is depressed? Do not feel pressure to do every one of these suggestions! Pick one or two and do them faithfully.
Shame and/or guilt
There is a social stigma attached to depression. And even if it is irrational, most sufferers believe they are somehow at fault. So often I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t pick myself up out of this place. I couldn’t will myself to get out of bed. I didn’t want anyone to see me like this.
No energy to engage
Depression takes a lot out of someone emotionally and physically. Some people have a hard time even getting out of bed and showering, let alone engaging with others.
Don’t take it personally
Though it may sound cliché… it is not about you. They could value your friendship greatly yet be physically and mentally unable to care. Depression has a way of stealing emotions and replacing them with indifference. They could even WANT you in their life, but cannot will themselves out the despair and apathy that has engulfed them.
Be persistent, but not overbearing
Don’t give up on them. I loved daily check in texts from friends, with no expectations! I didn’t feel pressure to be engaging and I could respond as I was able.
Only you know your level of closeness with your friend. Go with your gut!
Pick something you know they like. If you aren’t confident about what they like to eat, say something like:
“I’m ordering you dinner tonight. Does Qdoba, Subway, or Pizza sound best?”
Making decisions (no matter how small or insignificant) feels overwhelming during depression. The less to decide, the better!
2. Household tasks
Remember, you cannot make them feel better, but you can do their dishes or straighten up their space! Visual clutter tends to add fuel to the depression fire, but usually there’s no energy to do anything about it. You could:
3. Childcare (if they have kids)
This is HUGE. Parenting takes SO much energy—even when you’re healthy. While depressed, it can feel impossible. I would zombie my way through the day providing basic needs and nothing more, praying for the moment it’s safe to crawl back in bed.
“I’m going to take your kids for a few hours on Thursday so you can rest, would 2pm work?”
Send check-in texts (don’t call)
I felt loved and cared for when a few of my friends who knew I was struggling sent daily check-in texts, short encouragements, scripture that reminded me of the truths I believe.
You may not know what to say, that is okay. Showing up, even if you say the “wrong” words, is what matters.
In my experience, when depressed, my brain is too jumbled to comprehend or even read the bible. But when a friend would send me small, digestible bits of scripture, I could hold on to that.
There have been times in my past where I would have my husband read scripture to me. It brought me comfort to hear God’s word, when reading was too difficult.
Pray for them
You can only do so much. Surrender them to God, who is steadfast and merciful. Lay their health at the feet of Jesus—who has experienced deep despair firsthand and understands what they are going through.
To go a step further, record yourself reading a prayer you are praying over them. Or text them a specific prayer for them.
Be patient & persistent
Encourage your friend to seek professional help (if they haven’t already)
Understand your role
If you are reading this, I assume you have a heart for helping a friend struggling with depression. I am thankful for that. Depression can be lonely, your care will mean so much.
If you have more questions or have something to add to this post, I would love to hear from you!
And if you know someone who this post would benefit, please share!
I appreciate your love and support
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