I'm NOT Okay. Opening up to Others About Your Depression
How do you tell someone that you’re depressed? How do you convey to your friend, partner, colleague, or family member that you aren’t just sad or tired, but that you have been feeling exhausted, empty, helpless, and hopeless for weeks, months, or maybe even years?
We all experience times of sadness, disappointment, shame and low motivation. The majority of us don’t think twice before looking to our loved ones for sympathy and support when we experience a loss, medical issues, financial difficulties, or if we simply had a bad day. However, not many people feel comfortable talking about the fact that they are depressed, and sometimes for good reason.
Mental health issues continue to be greatly misunderstood and are often responded to inappropriately. Only about 15% of the population truly understand what it is like to experience deep feelings of sadness over a prolonged period of time AND not be able to get out of bed every morning AND have no appetite AND feel like a failure AND not have the energy to go to work (let alone take a shower) AND have no desire to see anyone AND feel no sense of purpose AND experience a lack of control over their negative thoughts and self-destructive behaviors AND see no ending to any of it. Clinical depression can provide an individual with all of these symptoms and more, leaving them in a very vulnerable and emotional state.
Telling someone about your depression is important because it is a vital step toward finding healing. However, who and how you tell should be taken into thoughtful consideration due to the risky nature in opening up to someone. It is possible the person you tell may hurt you further with their response. Ideally, they will provide you with the support and empathy you are in need of to help you find motivation, hope, and yourself again.
Who to Tell
Tell those closest to you
This could be your partner, best friend, parent, sibling, adult child, or other close relative/friend. As long as you trust and feel safe with him or her, consider opening up to them. There is a good chance that they already know something is going on with you if you live together or see each other often enough. Hearing that you have depression might actually be relieving for them. It is likely that they have been worried about you and have been experiencing difficulty understanding or feeling close to you.
If you don’t feel safe telling someone close to you or are simply not ready
Consider telling someone who is somewhat removed from your life. A therapist, pastor, coworker, teacher, etc. Think about who is most skillful at offering support and understanding? Who has knowledge or experience of depression? Who has high emotional intelligence and can be a good listener? Who can point you in the right direction to find further support and guidance?
Only tell what is needed in the workplace
It is important to weigh the pros and cons of disclosing mental health diagnoses at work. Depending on the environment you are in and who you work with, there could be stigmatization. You may want to tell someone because you need special accommodations, which are indeed part of your legal rights. It may be of benefit to learn about these rights before sharing any information about your diagnosis.
How to Tell
If possible, don’t wait to open up to someone when you are in crisis. Sharing how you feel when you are calm will not only make it easier on you, but also help them to better adjust to what you are telling. If you do need to tell someone in a time when you are struggling more than usual, try to locate the most supportive person in your life or a professional.
Only tell as much as you feel comfortable
You don’t have to share everything with everyone you talk to. You only need to share what you are comfortable with. Take time to consider how much you want them to know and stick to that decision.
Let them know how they can support you
Before disclosing your depression to someone, think about what response you are hoping for. Do you simply want them to listen? Do you need them to help you find resources for treatment? Do you want them to share their wisdom with you? Let them know before you open up to them what you are looking for so that they can provide you with appropriate support.
Everyone has their opinions about what depression is and what should be done about it. Remember that you are the one experiencing it and you know yourself best! Be clear with people about when you want their advice and when you do not.
Therapy can provide a safe and understanding environment for you to talk about your depression and find ways to move forward. Call today to start your journey toward self-exploration, growth, and healing.