What Not to Say to Someone with Depression

Yesterday was one of the most difficult days I’ve had in the last year. I ugly-cried in the bathroom twice and ended up going home early. I broke the Whole28 to have wine because the only other option I could imagine was taking some of Lady’s meds, which would have been A Bad Idea. The wine calmed me down enough that I could breathe again.

I had been barely holding myself together for the last week and yesterday was when I broke. And you know what was the final straw? Someone saying good morning, then getting annoyed with me because I did not say good morning back. I said hi and averted my eyes because I was || this close to breaking. And then I broke.

This last week has been hard, and it’s only been made harder by a ton of insensitive and ignorant comments from my coworkers – but thankfully not my friends. I’ve come to realize in a very painful way that most people simply do not understand what depression is. It is not feeling blue. It is not being sad. It is a physical state as much as it is an emotional one, and when it is at its worst, I can stop being sad just as easily as I can turn into a train.

I thought, maybe something good can come of this at least. So here is exactly what NOT to say to someone you know who tells you they are depressed:

Have you tried exercising?

Yes, exercising releases endorphins. And yes, I have tried it. You know what happened? I felt good for a few minutes – and then I was depressed again. Wow. Go figure.


Just be happy!

Go be a train. Let me know how that works out for you.


Smile more.

You see this grimace? This is my smile. And now you are terrified of me.


Why are you sad?

There are these chemicals in my brain – oh, that’s not what you were asking was it? Well, a) sometimes it doesn’t matter what’s going on in my life, depression don’t care, and b) it’s none of your fucking business.


Well, so-and-so’s dog/cat/aunt just died.

Gee. Thanks. Now I feel guilty for feeling like shit.


Just think of positive things! Happiness is a choice!

In milder circumstances, yes. But right now my entire brain chemistry is conspiring against me. You’re only making me feel guiltier by implying I’m not trying when it is taking every. single. thing. I have to keep it together.


I was depressed once and I did this one thing and now I’m not depressed. You should do that.

That’s great for you! But in all likelihood, I’ve already tried it. And by insisting that it worked for you does not mean it will work for me. I’m sorry. Brains are different. People are different.


To end on a positive note, here are a few things you can say instead:

– I’ve noticed you’ve been really quiet/irritable/withdrawn lately. How are you feeling?

That sucks. I’m sorry. I’m here for you if you need anything.

What would you like for dinner? Nothing? Do you have anything against [insert food item here] if I put it in front of you?

Do you want a hug?

I can’t understand what you’re feeling, but I can give you love and compassion. And watch an amazingly silly/awful movie with you.

I completely understand what you’re feeling. Here is a box of tissues with that awesome lotion and here is a big cup of hot tea and here is a comfy blanket and here is that amazing escapist novel that helped me through my last bout.

Feel free to emote. You won’t scare me away.




Filed under depression

19 responses to “What Not to Say to Someone with Depression

  1. Yes. This. I just found your blog and your post here is exactly what I am dealing with right now. Your honesty and willingness to say these words will surely encourage others. At least, it helped me.

  2. Have you seen hyperbole and a half’s comic about depression? It’s wonderful.

  3. I like the second to last helpful one 🙂 Depression sucks – I’ve been there.

  4. Hahaha, I laughed out loud to the “Why are you sad?” responses. I am so sorry you’re feeling crappy. I’m sending good vibes from Colorado. I’ll also watch a sappy movie tonight in solidarity with you.

  5. Im sorry youre not feeling great hun xxxx

  6. In my experience, sometimes the only answer is a good ugly-cry. hugs.

  7. This is beer very true! I love your “what you can say” notes! I deal with depression daily and have dealt with my whole life, antidepressants have made a great deal of difference for me but it doesn’t take it completely away.

  8. Everything I’ve just read here is true. The next time I hear someone say ‘cheer up’ I’m going to think ‘train up’! Thank you for sharing this and I hope you feel better soon. Sometimes we need to open the flood gates.

    • “Train up!” I love it. I think I might just use that.
      And yeah – sometimes crying is the absolute best thing ever. The problem is that so many people want to make you stop crying without actually helping the underlying problems. It’s like having to sneeze, but getting jinxed out of your sneeze. You’re still left with stuff irritating your nose.

  9. You nailed this. I’ve heard all of those things before (mostly from my family members) and I’ve never had the ‘guts’ to stand up for myself and say something against their advice or statements. Instead, I’m left feeling worse and being made to feel like I’m trying to gain the attention of everyone around me / have people feel sorry for me – when in fact, I just want to hide and not face the world.
    I’m so glad you have Lady in your life.
    (found you on DITL, find inspiration in your online postings)

    • I’m working on telling people they’re being hurtful when they say those things, but it’s really difficult, you’re right. It should not be our responsibility to educate them, especially when it’s almost too much energy to simply exist. :/
      I’m hoping that by coming up with some canned answers to those comments/questions/statements it’ll be easier to respond in the future.

  10. Fat Girl Dancing

    I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. we can be depressed together in a blanket fort with ice cream and wine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s