How to piss off depressives

I can't snap my fingers and just "be okay"
Life in general is a neverending stream of mild annoyances - well, it's a neverending stream of much more than that, good and bad, but I'm known for being pessimistic, negative and a lover of complaining. Between you (because let's face it, there aren't that many of you) and me, I like it that way; it means I have a way to vent about the bad things in life instead of repressing them behind faked smile upon faked smile.

So why complain so much about how depressives are treated by the people around them? After all, there are a million and one things to complain about, from the exploitative nature of capitalism to how I hate having to put the bins out early. What makes this more worth complaining about than anything else?

Black and white photo of a white cis woman with her head in her hands
There are many things worthy of complaining about, I admit - but this is one of them. You see (and if you're sane, this will very probably offend you) people who have never been depressed seem to think that they have some unique insight into the mind of the depressive, that if only the depressive just does this or that or takes their advice, they'll be instantly cured and skip off happily into the sunset. Okay, that might possibly be a little bit of an exaggeration, but if you've ever suffered from depression you probably know what I'm talking about: everyone and anyone seems to think they're suddenly an expert on your mental health. Sometimes you can shrug it off with a sigh and much rolling of your eyes; other times you want to scream. Still other times you do end up screaming at people to educate themselves or shut up.

Woman's make-up
I'm sick of it. I find it incredibly patronising that I'm assumed to know very little about my own illness, and I don't like having to spend the time I could be using to actually attempt to recover explaining to people that they're actually just pissing me off...Not to mention that I then have to fix my own mood after that, which in itself takes up time and energy.

So please don't say anything like this to me, and most likely to other depressed people (but we will tell you what we want) - for our own damn good. And if you know me personally, and you see any of what you've said in here, I just want you to know that I don't hate your guts or want to hurt you, but if you could stop saying these things that would really help.

"Your depression is just your emotional constipation and if you can't fix it it's because you don't want to, which makes you a weak person."

I know, I know, very few people say this outright, but from what I can see sadness in general is seen as a kind of emotional constipation that it's up to the sad person themselves to get rid of, that the natural state of a person is happiness and if you're not happy, clearly there's something deeply wrong with you.

I have a couple of things to say about this. Firstly, it's patently wrong - depression is an illness, not some kind of strange choice that people make because they wake up one day and decide that it would be fun to spend the rest of their lives wanting to die. Secondly, it's sometimes true that depressed people don't want to recover. This is less to do with weakness and more to do with how you feel when you're depressed - namely, that you're shit, so's everything else, and that this shit is immutable. In such a situation, you're highly unlikely to want to expend the energy and motivation you lack to do something you don't believe is going to work. Plus, when you've been chronically depressed for a long time, you know its ins and outs. If, like me, you were unlucky enough to develop a mental illness before you learned to truly appreciate being sane, you then have no idea of what sanity actually entails, you get scared of having to step into the unknown; yes, depression is shit, but you know what you're doing with it. Sanity could be just as bad, if not worse because you don't know how to manage it. In this case, the solution is simply to grin and support them, or they will get worse due to feeling unsupported. Deal with it.

"Eat a vegan organic diet to unblock your liver!" or any variation.

Again, a fairly common one - at least in my experience - and one that's actually sort of true. Depression is not helped by eating a crappy limited diet - but neither is it caused by liver blockages, and going on special diet X is not going to help unless there is an underlying medical need to do so. (Plus organic food is expensive and veganism is not for everyone. Sorry, vegans, but that's the conclusion I've reached after trying to think through it.)

"You're not really sick, it's all a plot by Big Pharma to get you to take pills you don't need!"

FUCK YOU. Right, bold and ALL CAPS over and done with, this is a really shitty and horrible and damaging thing to say and if you're saying it, you need to step back and take a good, long, hard look at the consequences your message might have. I hate Big Pharma and I hate the way they've pushed the medical model, but unfortunately my illness doesn't go away if you stick your fingers in your ears and pretend it's a conspiracy cooked up by the pharmaceutical-industrial complex. And while I am one of the people fortunate enough to be able to deal with my depression without taking medication, different people respond differently and some of them do need some medication.

Plus sign saying "be positive"
"You should be more positive."

Do you not think I thought of that already? Or that I have this magical happiness switch in my brain and I've deliberately taped the switch down to the sad setting? When I can be more positive, I generally am. When I can't, I'm not.

"Have you tried..."

...Yes, I probably have. No, it didn't work.

"If you're still depressed, you're doing it wrong."

This insinuation is one of the ones I find most frustrating and upsetting to deal with. Depression is incredibly difficult to live with and manage, and sometimes it seems like mine is resisting all my best efforts to recover. At the moment, I'm doing everything I can short of taking medication and you know what? I guess I am better. I've gone a month and a half without cutting. I don't talk about suicide nearly as much. I know a little more of what I have to do. But sometimes it gets more shit and I don't know why. (Lack of sleep doesn't help, but what can I do? I don't set my school's hours.) I'm doing everything I know how to do and sometimes, just sometimes, even that's not enough.

Do you know how that feels? To do everything you can and see it do nothing? Frustrating, isn't it? It makes me want to lower myself, to get on my knees and beg for it all to stop, when begging for it all to stop is supposed to be a step towards recovery. And then to hear someone say that I must be doing something wrong if I'm still depressed...Oh, it's like holding onto the edge of a cliff by your fingertips and feeling the earth crumble away.

I guess the upshot of all of this, and why I really care, is that support speeds recovery and makes it more robust, and not having that support can feel a lot like a betrayal. So I'm asking you, no, I'm begging you, to please stand by the person in your life going through depression. To put up with their illness, no matter how hard you may find it - because all things being equal, they're going through a tougher time and they need you there.

I'm nowhere near idealistic enough to pretend that love conquers all, so I understand that it might get too much for you and that you might blame yourself for not being able to cope or resent the depressed person for not getting better. But it's not you, it's really not - and it's not them either. It's simple circumstance; there's no-one to blame.

I can't make you support them. And I'll tell you this right now: you're not going to get their old self back, ever. But if you support them, you'll get someone better, someone stronger, someone wiser, someone who's been to the depths of hell and somehow come back alive. It's scary, I know. I'm recovering and I don't know who the hell I'll turn out to be, which terrifies me for reasons I don't really understand. And it's not easy at all (if you find it tough, counselling is recommended by a lot of mental health charities). But if you care about them that much, I guess it's worth it to see them better some day.