Pro tips for being a friend to a person with depression
Trigger warning for suicide and depression-related thoughts – no physical details.
So, since I have neither the power of will nor the self-protection instincts in place to avoid the internet during a time when I know that it is going to wreck me, let’s see if I can do something to at least balance this shit out.
Robin Williams, a world-renowned actor who played roles that reside in so many hearts, killed himself yesterday.
Facts about Robin Williams:
Do NOT include (at the time of this post, from what I have been able to find – please provide a credible source and I will amend) confirmed diagnoses of bipolar disorder, or clinical depression.
Facts from my life:
Depression is clinical, or situational, or both.
Depression is not easy to pin down.
Depression is not something you can sort-of have.
Everything is a lie when depression is involved. Including whether or not depression is involved. Do people commit suicide who are not clinically depressed? Probably, yes. A whole lot of people do a whole lot of things that harm or kill themselves, and I am not here to posthumously diagnose them.
If you have a friend who lives with depression, here are some things you can do.
Please note that I did not say things you SHOULD do, because we’re all different, and maybe something on this list would be a bad idea for someone I didn’t poll. If so, sorry, and please contact me so I can fix? Excellent.
1. Say to your friend, “I know [very little/only bookish things/ALL THE THINGS] about clinical depression, and we [have/have not] talked about it, but I want to reach out to you on this topic because I care about you.
2. Know them and contact them about things that are important to them. “OMFG WHERE ARE WE WATCHING THE NEW EP OF THE DOCTOR, NO NOT AT HER HOUSE SHE’S AN ASSHOLE, FIND SOMEWHERE ELSE AND I’LL BRING THE JAMMIE DODGERS.”
3. Ask them, “How do you feel about all this stuff around Robin Williams?”
4. Tell anyone in your life, whether you think or know that depression is a part of their life, “I’m afraid/concerned/angry/feeling feelings I don’t understand, and I wondered if you can help me understand. Can we talk about this?“
Because it’s important. I promise. Even if you, and your friend, are both super emotionally healthy, and all you’re doing is reassuring each other and checking in – checking in isn’t such an easy thing. So checking in with someone who’s in a good place is nice, right?? Yay, you’re feeling good, awesome! Next person! And maybe you check in with one or three or thirty friends, and they are all loving life, and feeling good, and then, you check in with one, and he falters a bit. Or doesn’t respond at all.
I could email someone I’ve been facebook friends with for five years and not get an answer and not think anything of it. Because, why would they respond? I haven’t made any previous effort, so maybe they think I want something from them, or it’s a mass/hoax/spam message.
But the fact is, direct contact saves lives. Like a hunter cautiously approaching the woodland animal whose home was invaded by a bullet or a trap, there’s good reason for mistrust. Similarly, a person who was previously perceived as a predator – a bully – can help undo the emotional damage that someone has felt since the first time s/he was your target.
I’m saving this post without sharing because I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing by anyone who may see themselves here. Most important was saying, I understand what he must have felt, and I both love and hate him for what he did, and I am going to use this to grow. And for any fucker who wants to give me shit for saying I hate him for what he did – talk to me first. Know how much I fucking love this man. Recognise that, as with a parent, I couldn’t hate him if I didn’t first love him. And he is, even now, helping me to grow.