It is a topic close to my heart .. and one that continues to teach me so many valuable lessons. Being a good friend to someone who lives with anxiety, depression or any mental health concerns is not easy. As I have shared in the past, I have been a crap friend on many occasions, and there is only so many times you can handle the rejection of unanswered calls and lack of interest in invites and occasions. Or is there?
If you are able to take a step back and truly accept that it is not personal if your calls go unanswered, and your friend suddenly seems less interested in the things that you always did together, this will be your first step towards being a good friend to someone living with depression. It has nothing to do with you, please hold onto this one vital piece of information!
It does take an extra amount of work at times, as well as the resilience to handle all of the unintended rejection! If someone is worth having in your life, then stepping up into this sacred role is in fact a divine responsibility!
As someone who has been there, rejected many and lost more friends than I can count, these are my suggestions for being a good friend to someone living with depression:
♡ Do a lot of listening, and not a lot of talking. Use open ended questions that are not too loaded with potential silences or doom and gloom. This is an example of a good question: “How can I best be of help today, should we have a chat about some things that might be fun for us to do together?” This is an example of a question you should avoid: “Why can’t you just cheer up and get over it?”
♡ Be subtly persistent. By this I mean that you should never give up on making contact, even if you are rejected over and over again. If this is a good friend then you need them to know you are not going anywhere, whilst also respecting their need for space at times. It may be that you send a text message twice a day when you know that they are needing alone time. Perhaps you could drop some things at their door and let them know that you will keep doing that, ask them what they are most in need of too.
♡ Make a list for yourself of the things you know your friend is passionate about, the things that make him/her smile and the things that you know they would be doing if they were in a better place. Keep this list for yourself and remind your friend of these things often. If they love reading then you could drop some new books or magazines to them, if they love cooking you could drop a new cookbook to remind them of this passion.
♡ Read as much as you can about depression so that you have a better understanding of what your friend is feeling. It is a really tricky thing to get inside of the head of someone living with depression, just as tricky as it is for us to try and explain how it feels. If you have a good understanding of the information available, as well as a real insight into what other people are doing to survive and thrive, this will be helpful. I shared some of the ways that I thrive in this post.
♡ Remember that it is better to say something than nothing at all. I know that it can be excruciating at times to try and say the right thing, and the thought of saying something ‘wrong’ can hold you back from saying anything at all. Just keep it simple, be yourself and be gentle. “I am here for you” is one of the most universal phrases for supporting a friend in need. Practice it, use it, please.