Depression doesn’t feel like any other illness.
Depression scared me. It scared me to feel like I was drowning in an abyss. It scared me to look in the mirror and not recognize myself, or worse, hate the person I saw. It scared me to contemplate ways of killing myself, because I felt so hopeless.
As the friend or family member of a depressed person, what do you do?
For a Christian, depression often has two sides: spiraling downward, and simultaneously hating yourself for spiraling downward. It feels like something you should be able to pray away.
Whether you’re unsure if your loved one is actually depressed, or terrified to leave them alone because of what they might do, here are 3 things your friend needs from you right now:
- Your presence. Your friend doesn’t need solutions, advice, or motivational speeches. She needs someone to sit next to her and hold her while she cries. He needs someone to ask him questions and try to understand what he’s going through. You could ask your friend, “How are you?” But a better question would be “How is today?”
Send a text. Check in, often. Pray for and with him if he feels okay with that.
(Note: If you fear your friend is suicidal, strongly urge them to get professional help from a doctor or counselor right away.)
- Your care for their physical needs. Depression is physiological, not just psychological. I’ll never forget when my friends Niccole and Scott came bounding into my apartment with fresh flowers and home-cooked chicken tacos. They didn’t ask if my husband and I needed dinner. They just brought it. “You don’t want to cook when things are sucky,” Niccole said.
Get your friend out of the house for a walk. Invite him to join you in something you would be doing anyway.
- Your patience. She’s probably not going to be fun to be around. Social functions might feel impossible for her. Small talk might make her want to pull her hair out. But she needs to know that she is loved.
The voice in your friend’s head telling him what he ought to do more of and be more of is probably part of what caused his depression. He needs your gentle reminder that even in his doing nothing at all, he is loved by and perfectly acceptable to Jesus.
Loving a depressed person is draining and demanding. There was no quick, easy fix for me, and my husband often felt helpless. So remember to extend grace to yourself. You need safe friends to help you process your own feelings.
When I was in the abyss, I rarely felt the love or presence of God. When I was reading the Bible or alone crying out to Him, I heard His silence and felt His absence.
But I did experience His love and care through others.
In the darkest moments, I kept crying, “God, where are You?”
But now I realize, He was there through my husband. He was there through friends like Niccole and Scott.
He was there, and He will be there. With you.
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