CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness, addiction, and abuse (c)2015 Nancy Virden
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Depression, whether triggered by circumstances we can see or not, is a place of pain. We may experience it to some level or another, but when a person won’t get out of bed you can bet she or he is hurting badly.
I know it is hard to take care of someone who is sick. It challenges our agendas and causes us to sacrifice more time and energy. Depression is especially painful to watch when we love the one suffering. Often we feel helpless, though this is not exactly true!
Each person with depression experiences it differently. Commonalities, such as a few predictable symptoms, do not mean one-solution-fits-all. If circumstances could be exactly replicated, individuals will still have unique reactions. It is tempting to think others “ought” to respond or feel as we do.
Consider this: Is it reasonable to assume millions of people each year would choose to have their lives interrupted in such a way? It makes more sense that your loved one prefers laughter, meaningful relationships, and accomplishment, does it not? If a person you care about seems unwilling to move, out of sheer stubbornness, laziness, or self-pity, remember no one wants to be depressed.
Your loved one needs love and affection, non-critical acceptance, and patience. Emotions are raw. Pain may be so intense that his or her body cannot keep up. Major depression can reroute best intentions into days of staring at the walls. Every joint seems to move in slow motion.
Despair and a sense of helplessness continued to hold my focus for over a year following a suicide attempt. Baby steps of self-care slowly led to more, then more. Eventually, I was able to decide to learn what enjoying life means.
“Well, of course!” you might say. “So why doesn’t my loved one with depression do that too?”
Your loved one may not know how. Losses and disappointments might interfere with her thinking processes. Issues, both known and unknown, may make him like a mental hostage for a time. Stress, betrayal, shock, trauma, and abuse are only a few potential backgrounds leading to depression. Sometimes, we do not have an answer to ‘why?’
It helps to know what to expect from professional help. Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MD, DO). Just as a sports injury doctor will prescribe coping medications and refer you to a physical therapist, psychiatrists prescribe medication, rarely offering talk therapy.
Psychologists hold doctorates in the study of human behavior and are often talk therapists (PhD, PsyD). They do not prescribe medication. Look for licensed therapists who may be social workers, school and church counselors, and many more. Professional therapists may also specialize, such as trauma counselors and family therapists.
Your loved one’s mental health is a complex mix of body, mind, and spiritual factors. Yet many are quick to tell a person with severe depression to snap out of it. Blaming, accusing, scolding, or shaming will not make it go away any faster.
What is it you can say or do to show support?
Avoid mind-reading and assuming you know what is happening. Ask, “Are you safe? Are you thinking about killing yourself?” In the U.S., you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK for advice. In a crisis, call 911 or take your loved one to the nearest emergency room. Do not leave a suicidal person alone. Remove all lethal items from the home.
Show your depressed loved one you care. In the depths of an episode, he or she may not believe “I love you.” Say it anyway. Promising, “I’m here for you,” may seem more substantial, however, you must keep your word in practical ways. Broken promises reinforce a sense of rejection and worthlessness.
Help to combat their sense of aloneness. “I’m going to work, but I’ll check on you when I get home” offers a positive look toward the future and a reminder that your concern is not temporary. “Would you like your friend to come over? I’ll call her” is a valuable service because major depression makes even tiny decisions challenging.
Set-up or offer to go with your loved one to the first appointment with a mental health professional. Do not assume this will be a quick-fix solution, and instead accept that you both may be in for a long haul. Just as there are less helpful, and better-equipped professionals in any walk of life, mental health professionals do not always connect with every client. If your loved one is not satisfied, help find someone else.
Avoid some common reactionary mistakes. These include: “You are neglecting your family”; “Quit being so morose”; “Just go to work already”; “You’re lazy, feeling sorry for yourself.” Comments like these are most likely attempts to change an uncomfortable situation. They are not helpful.
Place emphasis on the value of the person instead of on disappointments. Say, “I am glad you are alive” and “Stay with me, we’ll get through this together.” You may be met with a blank stare, nonetheless, this type of encouragement matters. It is like water on desert soil.
Above all else, be there. Sit by that bed and do not say anything. Read a book, do your homework, do banking, or do research on your laptop. Get on Facebook or Twitter and enjoy your friends while your majorly depressed loved one lies next to you. It is ok to laugh, cry, or share a story from your day. Keep your expectations for responses and positive responses low, and just be there.
Today’s Helpful Word
1 Corinthians 13:4,5
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…” -Saint Paul
To learn how a relationship with Jesus creates eternal hope, click here
For more on what to say or do for a depressed loved one, click on this link.
***** COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME
NOTE: I am not a doctor or a mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 988, or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.
If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.
*picture from qualitystockphotos.com
My mom she has a mental illness on her cellphone she tells all her sisters that there is bugs and parasites in the house and there is not. She won’t set up an appointment to see a therapist and I would like her to and I want her to stay out of my room and to stop talking to me she would come in my room and start talking the ridiculous bug and parasite nonsense and there is no bugs and parasites in my room.
Thank you for reaching out- I can only advise that you find professional mental health support for yourself. You need someone to talk to who will nonjudgmentally help you to deal with this very difficult situation. They will perhaps have appropriate answers for your mom, too. God bless.
My mom does need to see a therapist yes. Thanks
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my mother won’t get out of the bed she just lays and watches tv i have not been out of the house in a week or two i need to get some food we have been eating out a lot and we can not afford it my stepdad works all the time and he is busy to take me i can’t drive and so what can i do
Hi Jackie, this is a rough time and I’m sorry your mom is struggling. I do not know where you live, but does your community have stores that deliver groceries? If not, call some churches and find out if they have volunteers. Do you know a neighbor or friend who might make a run for you? Keep watch for any news of delivery services in your area. Some grocery stores are using delivery services. God bless you and protect your family. Amen.
Hello Nancy, Under different circumstances, I agree with your compassionate care advice. Unfortunately, our 26 year old son is also crippled by a delusion concerning a past relationship that he feels we have chosen not to help him to rectify. This has resulted in his being angry & non communicative with us. He has lost confidence with talk therapy ( since no one has acknowledged the validity of the delusion.) He has been hospitalized voluntary and involuntarily, not seeing a talk therapist now, refuses medication, plans to see friends out of state and is marginally exhibiting self care – irregular eating, moderate hygiene, pet care. So, other then provide healthy meals that he may or may not eat on his own, help to feed his cat and say I love you, good night and good morning – we are helpless and overwhelmed with the severity of his current situation and the prospect of life in the long term.
Hello Seeking, I’m sorry it took so long to approve your post- had some issues with WordPress today. Delusions are very difficult and my heart goes out to you. If a person in need won’t seek help, we still have the power of prayer which I do not take lightly. Please take care of your own needs. If you hadn’t thought of it already, perhaps seeking counsel for your own sake is an option.
My sister has been chronically depressed since i ever remember, it only gotten worse and she is definitely not suicidal, but she has no hope and he isn’t interested in anything, because of that she has been in bed the past 13 days and i barely could manage to make her shower or do small tasks like so, I really don’t know what to do, she’s 22 and her life is falling apart already, Please help I have been to every therapist around here and no one is even helping all said the same exact things and she has nothing to share anyway so she sits on the therapists sessions while they’re forcing her to make up words when she has nothing that’s bothering her, just no motive is the issue
Hello Kailo, I am sorry to hear about your sister’s pain, and your compassion for her is clear. Typically, professionals gauge the severity of depression by its intensity and duration. It sounds like you are saying your sister’s depression is intense, and it has been going on for some time. First, let me be clear. I am not a mental healthcare professional. It is not for me to diagnose or offer medical or therapeutic advice. What I can say is that in my deepest depression I too felt like there was nothing to say. I resented the questions therapists asked. I had no motivation (which is a core symptom of depression, by the way), and my energy was low. From my experience and observation of others, what you describe sounds to me like your sister needs professional help. I know it is hard, but at this point if you can, I would trust the pros over your sister’s reaction to them, namely because they are all saying the same thing., If any of us, including you and your sister knew how to get out of this there would be no depression. It may be important to give them time to do what they are well trained to do. Continue to treat her with respect, but consider encouraging her to go back and to work with a professional. Take care of yourself, too. Thank you so much for commenting.
Anonymous: It is amazing how life can open up in beauty when all seems hopeless. Please keep reading and search for answers.
My teeanged daughter is going through this right now. It’s very hard because on top of the depression there is still some typical teen behaviour issues so it’s very difficult to know how to parent her. I try to err on the side of compassion, but sometimes her terse comments get the better of me. She has been an anxious child her entire life and depression entered the picture in grade 10. I am just working now to try to get her to graduate. She has a week and a half left and I’m trying to cheerlead her to get through the remainder of her assignments and exams. This is the most difficult time of my life; I can’t even imagine what she’s going through. I’m not a perfect mother, but my advice is to remain present with your kids, particularly if you’ve noticed changes in their behaviour or that he/she seems to be particularly tired/anxious/withdraws from school. My daughter is seeing a psychiatrist, a pscyhologist and has been on medication for over 2 years now. It’s an uphill battle but one I have to continue to fight with her for all of our sakes.
My heart goes out to you and to your daughter. What a struggle! Thank you sharing, and for your good advice. Please take care of your own mental health! I’ll be praying for you both.
We are in the same boat. My daughter’s depression started about 2 years ago (she has been on meds for several years), and this past spring, it was at its worst (some mild suicidal talk). We admitted her into a PHP toward the end of the spring semester for 6 weeks. She was able to continue doing school while there. She went back to her school with only 3 weeks left before graduation. It was the most difficult time trying to help her finish the school year and graduate. Lots of tears and prayers. She did graduate! We spent the summer contemplating the plans for her to go to college. She seemed to want to do it, so we moved forward. She moved into a dorm at a nearby university and started classes in Aug. We saw her about 3x per week and brought her home each weekend. In many ways, she was doing really well. However, her depression started affecting her emotionally, and she fell apart after a stressful situation in one of her classes. She stopped going to classes altogether, and called home in a panic, wanting to quit and come home. After a very lengthy talk with her daddy and me, she decided to withdraw and move home. This has been extremely difficult. Now we have an 18 year old living in our home doing nothing. We’re pursuing doctors, therapists, group, change in meds, etc. We’re also doing whatever we can to encourage positive, healthy behaviors. As difficult as it is, we are trusting in God’s timing to heal her and for her to flourish in life once again.
Thank you for your comment. I too had a child withdraw from college due to depression. If I can offer you some comfort, what your daughter is going through and her living with you is temporary. It takes time to get well, as you know, and sometimes a person is not ready to pursue highly stressful activities (such as college) for a longer time. However, people do grow stronger, and you are obviously doing everything you can to get her the help she needs. God bless you! He will answer your prayers.
What is said here is true and life saving. I did not know while Hubby couldn’t get up he wanted to die. What could have happened if I had not stayed right there refusing to leave his side only for groceries. And I said I’m going to such and such to buy food do you want any special treat? I even got a few responses. He wanted to kill himself I never knew it! He would be dead had I not loved him enough to convince him to see anyone he trusted medically. And finally it was forced by illness the beginning to a hopeful good end. He is in a top notch facility facing his issues taking baby steps a day at a time and a shower everyday ! Yeah team! Progress not perfection. I don’t ask anything heavy like why or what I want the end result. You must be as Stubborn as the depression is refusing to let it steal your loved one. If you must leave let them have the phone numbers write them down again depression screws up memory they can’t remember a number DIALED a thousand times. It won’t hurt to back up your moves give an idea of time to expect you back stick to it closely if your late call say I’m behind and why and how long. Let them constantly know they matter that much more and more they may start believing it too enough they can finally grasp for help with your help or mine got mad at depression and it saved him, not knowing better I begged him not to go due to the wreckage he had left us in so selfish of me I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I don’t know why he hated himselself or gave up but that strong he man did and hurt him hard in bed two years eating MEDS that was his existence and did not call for me to move back home he was in trouble. He couldn’t call were talking a 30 year love and he couldn’t call me.married that long all he had to say is help me i’de come running. And I pushed my way in once I learned his plight. No way anything could stop me. I love him truely and it is a we disease just as it was said cancer. He could no more help himself than a three month old can drive. And I know it. Take this serious foljsthe life you save will be that one in bed. Don’t leave them alone if at all possible they could be hiding wanting to die mine was! How did I not know I didn’t know why he could not shower. I went in with him for his first so he wasn’t alone or afraid I saw fear in his eyes he couldn’t talk about. The eyes talk, LISTEN if you truely love them. If you may not get a parent there you know does and willing to do anything including staying at their side. Not wierd it is their life in the balance. If You believe in prayer this is time drop to those knees put your hand on their chest stand in their place ask for their needs pray constantly for each need thanking God for the answers and guidance strength wisdom. And that person has hope. Pray out loud let them hear positivity whether they believe or not they hear your live and commitment to them can give them your strength to borrow. I told him take my little strength use it to make a dec and ill go do it with you. Its a we thing im here for the long haul you will see the other side of this its only temporary setback i said to him alot!! Fibally he walked the dog about really four country blocks his own decision and took a shower. He made small strides I praised made a big deal of because i knew it really was a big deal. He is closer to him now than in years off pain pillsand suffering physixally but not bad as i said under great care. Gabapentin increasesed slow and lorazapam lowered slowly its very dangerous to stop gave him two violent seizures near killed him fell down a flight of stairs and a head injury so they put him on a reduxed dose pronto he feels strong enough he wants off of it but he can stroke out it must be down to a certain level and gabbapentin at a certain high level to take over its science they know best let them. I say. I know why he wants off due to its highly addictive medicine he was never warned and should have been dr. Was tild ge was a former addict w a addictive personality should never been prescribed all the meds he was on. They made him a legal jukie. The amt of pain pills on daily coulda stobed out 4 elephants and did nearly kill him 27 heart stents open heart and 1 bypass and 2 heart attacts after that. So it was taking him out i think he saw no way off of it all. May have got him to that bed! Lost hope of ever being truely clen. Vision have one and share it with your love say I see hope you’ll be up and we can do this together. That in itself is real hope they can’t speak right now watch the eyes you may see a twinkle for the first time. Take any hope and hold it tight. Real tight. You both get there . trust in something bigger than you that Loves you both call prayer groups look on the web for them they will do what you may not be able yet but you will see how big Gid is and He cares for both of You and feels your loved ones pain knows it well ask him to take what is paralyzes them, He will never doubt the T will come once they can see you are there and do care won’t leave let them gain strength to raise up first they must get mad enough at it all to desire to get out of bed that’s an inside job! Only they and your hard prayer and carefully filling them with Gatorade or equivalent and protiene cracker pnut butter corn tortillas w beans form a perfect protiene for a vegetarian salads pumped up W chesses and prtienes ask a health food store what to add to a salad but finger foodvenison jerkey beef jerkeyturkey jerkey eggs milk Nestle’s quick higher protiene NE than boost! Read labelsxottage cheese w peaches pnut butter cookies homemade w milk. Broths with crackers but spread cheese or anything healthy avocado great high protiene wgood fat! Read on the web you will learn fast . potatoes spinache dip on crackers . make them wipe off with scented pampers wipes wearingfresh CLOTHES daily clean sheets . play the radio to their choice unless you hear bummer music and tell it’s bringi g them down nope off! Watch TV programs light hearted topic not murder killi g missing people junk like that don’t belong. Be there for a miracle it will come then get best Psychiatric help you can afford. You get what you pay for a humans life! .stick to it do not give up or be HATEFUL . you’ll be pushing off the cliff. Your the only support. They have watch who is let in no negative people who could trigger it worse . watch carefully don’t tell anyone that’s priacy of patient. Be wise. And kind. Love them till they love them again!! Good job!!!. You can do it!! Never quit before the miracle.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. You give a real-life account of how patience and acceptance is the best support one can offer.