When I read the news of Robin Williams passing away, a surge of panic fluttered through me.
I don’t suffer from the lying disease of depression but it does affect my life. You see, my best friend Kim suffers from sometimes debilitating depression. Some weeks are better than others, but I’ve learned to recognize the signs of when she is in a dark place. She knows what they are too. She gets short-tempered and withdraws from everyone. She even tries to withdraw from me. She doesn’t blog, use social media, or text me as frequently as she normally does.
I hate depression. I hate what it does to my friend. I miss her when the sadness birds take hold of her heart.
After reading about Robin, I immediately sent her a love note on Facebook.
I just want you to know that I KNOW that you battle depression and I PRAY for your every single day. I just read that Robin Williams passed away probably due to suicide from severe depression and I IMPLORE you to always tell me when you are feeling down (like you did last week.) So that I can check on you and be your family. PLEASE know that you are loved NO MATTER WHAT. I need you!! xoxox
Everyone needs to feel needed and loved. Everyone needs to be told as much.
And then, I started thinking that you probably love someone with depression too. I told Kim about this post that just kind of materialized and asked her to share some advice with people like you and me who love someone who is battling this disease. The following ideas are hers with my 2 cents (okay, more like at least 5 cents) sprinkled in. We are not certified experts on the disease, but we can offer you some real life, tried and true advice.
Discuss the suffering openly.
Check in with your loved one regularly but especially when you know they are having a bad day. Let them know that you’re concerned about them and thinking of them. Silence does not mean things are okay. Sometimes messaging and phone calls are not enough. Sometimes you have to show up and knock on the door. If they are on medication, don’t be afraid to ask if they are taking it.
Offer to listen. Maybe even rescue. (Even if it’s only 30 minutes.)
Last week Kim mentioned to me that she was napping in the middle of the day and that’s why she didn’t respond to one of my texts. I jokingly told her that I hate her happing because I need access to her at all hours of the day and night. (If you know Kim personally, you know what I mean by this. She’s the best.) She responded seriously letting me know that she had been having two severe depression days in a row.
I immediately invited her to get out of her house and just come sit in the car with me while I made an airport run. And then I offered to braid her hair because I knew it would make her laugh. (I have no sisters, no daughters, and my mother has shorter hair than my dad. I have zero braiding skills and no one knows this better than Kim.) Sadly, it turns our she couldn’t escape with me due to schedules.
And then I didn’t hear from her for a few hours. I texted to check on her. I texted again to invite her to go to Target. I texted again that I was on her doorstep and no one was answering. A few minutes later she thanked me for checking on her and told me she was at a family party. I breathed a sigh of relief and told her, “When you say you’re in a dark place, I gotta come find you.” She responded by confirming that it was very dark and nothing was helping. We kept the conversation going that evening and then hung out for the better part of the next two days.
This is what it’s like to love someone with depression. Kim doesn’t look sad, but her heart sometimes get too heavy.
Remind them that they are not alone.
According to the CDC, 1 in 10 adults reports depression. This disease is real. It’s not made up, although the disease is lying to your loved one. Kim says we need to encourage our loved ones to get help. She also says that, at least for her, the disease is hard because it’s not easily fixable. It usually takes time and medication.
Ask how you can better support your loved one.
I regularly do a little emotional inventory with my husband and ask him what I could be doing to make his life better or help him through a difficult time. I usually say, “Is there something that I can do better or something that needs to change?”
I’ve never done this with a friendship, but man, it sure does seem like a good idea. This is a new one, but I like it. Last night as I picked Kim’s brain for this post, I asked her what I could do to better support her in her battle. Her response was perfect, “I think just being aware and acknowledging the dark times is so helpful.”
Here’s to being more aware and to being a better friend to those that are suffering.
Remember, all great things take time. And you are more than great! You are far more precious than rubies. You are a work in progress. Be gentle with yourself. Have hope.
Lindsey and Kim