Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. –Dalai Lama
My brain is my worst enemy. It tells me that I’m not worth it. It tells me that I’m a burden. When I’m anxious, it tells me that space is limited, that I’m going to be crushed by the weight of my failures, that no one cares. It tells me to lie to the people who care about me, to put on a mask like nothing is wrong. It wants to kill me, my brain. Most days I am strong enough to quiet it down, but some days are harder than others. It took me many years to recognize what my brain was doing. It took me far too long to realize that. I was nearly gone by the time I figured out what my brain was up to. Now, I medicate. I talk about my feelings. I stress that by doing so I’m pushing away people who care about me. I’ve become difficult and cumbersome. I’ve become openly flaky when making plans. I’ve become selfish about my own need for space and reflection. In seeking transparency, I fear I’ve become too much.
I write this not to get reassurances, but to further be transparent. I know that it’s easier for others if I feign happiness and alleviate their discomfort, but that just traps me in my own negativity. If you think it’s an awful feeling not being able to help me, imagine how it feels from the inside. I don’t need a problem solved; I just need someone to listen, to let me be sad, and to ground me when I’m anxious. At times I wish I could clone myself and make a not depressed clone to take care of me, because I’m fucking terrible at voicing my needs. I absolutely hate asking for help.
All of that to lead to a handy dandy list/guide. That being said, this list is a personal one and should not be considered entirely broadly applicable, though likely a good starting place:
- Assess the situation. Is there a contributing factor of distress? Meds? Sleep? Stress?
- Make suggestions for self care in question phrases. “Do you want to try taking a shower?” “Would you like to try to get some sleep?” “Maybe you should eat some food?”
- Attempt to make tasks easier to complete. Can you make food for this human? Can you spend some time just sitting quietly with them?
- Whenever possible offering help is very nice. Can you clean something for them? Can you bring them a thing?
- Try to mentally categorize the depression the way you would a physical sickness. This human might be nearly bedridden, unnourished, and in need of physical comfort. If you’d do it for a sick kid, try it for your depressed darling.
- For the love of God, if you can’t say something nice then REALLY don’t say anything at all. Depression replays anything awful you say. Magnifies it.
- Though it may be difficult, don’t take anything personally. This human is fighting a battle. That consumes so much more energy than you may realize.
- When in doubt, just ask. So often if someone would just ask a question, it would make a huge difference. Use a non-accusatory tone, and just ask. “Do you need help? Is there something I can do?”