Guest Post: 7 Reasons To Tell Your Friends About Depression
Occasionally on 7 Reasons, we put the irreverence aside for a minute and focus on more worthy and serious topics. Today’s guest post tackles depression. A subject close to our hearts as we know both those who have suffered and currently suffer from the illness. Thankfully, not in silence.
Until recently, at least, many of us seeking help with depression felt obliged to keep it private, or at least restrict the info to our doctors & spouses. Now, with high profile mental health campaigns lifting the taboo, it’s easier to speak out. I’m not talking about suddenly having ten more shoulders to cry on, but more helpful things like being able to say, “I’m really sorry, but I can’t come to your party; my depression is flaring up”… instead of promising to go, copping out at the last minute, then feeling guilty about it for a fortnight. So here are seven reasons why you should speak up:
1. It’s Fairer On You. People have different methods of hiding their depression – some folk just drop out of contact for a few weeks, while others maintain a super-cheerful front all day & then burst into tears once alone. These tactics put so much pressure on you; to explain your absences, to maintain that twinkling grin. This is actually really stressful, and may fuel any worries you have about what people are thinking of you. My aunt, who has manic depression, finally admitted to everyone why she disappears for weeks on end. And it lifted a load off her shoulders.
2. … And Fairer On Them. If your friends are worth having, they worry about you when you go quiet for a while. It’s much better if they know why. They might still worry, but at least now they know you haven’t run off to Benidorm with a creepy old pop-star, or joined a cult. If they really can’t cope with having a depressed friend, it’s probably because they have issues of their own that they’re unwilling to confront – if you do lose any friendships over this, it may well have been best for both of you, even if it does feel a bit insulting.
3. The Situation Feels Lighter. You may, like me, have witnessed that look of sudden comprehension & relief on a friend’s face, as you explain what’s going on. Chances are they had a feeling something was up, but couldn’t understand it. Some people blame it on themselves, while others just wait for things to work out. With the secret out, it somehow has less gravity – it’s not some terrible mystery, after all – just something that you must dedicate time to, in order to recover.
4. You & Your Friends Can Make More Realistic Plans. Instead of assuming that everyone’s going out clubbing yet again this weekend, people can start being – dare I say, a little more imaginative? Chilled out gatherings at home can be way less stressful than having to glue on your happy face & dance all night. It also means that you feel less pressure to drink alcohol, which doesn’t help depression & can interfere with any medication you’re taking. When your friends do go out & party, they won’t feel disappointed when you can’t make it.
5. It Gives Your Friends A Chance To Be Nice To You. Once you start being honest & open, they’ll start asking if you fancy a cup of tea, sending daily kitten pictures to your inbox, making you presents, or sharing personal interests. It might sound trivial, but these things all build towards a happier life – and they’re all true stories.
6. You Can Focus On What You Can Do, Instead Of What You Can’t. Instead of sitting at home ticking off a list of events you’re missing, you can start thinking up things you can do without much trouble. Like meeting for coffee, spending half an hour on the phone, having someone round for a quiet evening. You’ll feel less isolated & more positive, while they’ll feel included & friendly.
7. It’ll Encourage Other Sufferers To Do The Same. Discovering that I’m not alone and that I can recover from depression – with a little help from my friends – has sped me along the road to recovery. It felt brave to speak up and I was inspired by others, like my aunt, who’d done the same before me.