How to Love Your Neighbor Who Struggles With Depression
Guest post by Jess Leigh Hanna
When I applied for The Book Proposal Bootcamp, I was looking for a book proposal. An added bonus I also received was an incredible support group of talented, passionate, articulate, hilarious, encouraging women who instantly became trusted friends.
I’m thrilled to introduce you to one of these women who can become your encouraging, hilarious, articulate friend, too. Jess Leigh Hanna writes about real-life struggles with shocking honesty backed by pure Gospel. She’s given us permission to share her article, which originally appeared at www.jessleighhanna.com, about what it feels like to wrestle with depression – and how we can help.
How Do I Tell You I’m Drowning?
Guest post by Jess Leigh Hanna
I’m able to write this because, at the present moment, I am not drowning.
But last month I was.
And I couldn’t say anything because I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what you would hear when I finally spoke.
Hearing and being heard are two different things.
I typically don’t like to discuss depressive episodes when I’m in them, because I’m barely surviving my own reactions to life and I can’t risk having to deal with your reactions to my life. I don’t want you freaking out or just sending virtual hugs because you don’t know what else to say. I get that, but it’s not helpful.
When I’m eyeballs deep in this struggle, bring me coffee. Write me a note. Come over and sweep my floor–not because it’s dirtier than yours (though it probably is) but because you’re willing to take one small burden off my mind. Go for a walk with me, help me get those physical activity endorphins pumping–you know, do the things people say helps with depression, but no one ever offers to do with you.
“Get outside!” – come outside with me, schedule a walk somewhere new
“Work out!” – work out with me, maybe even more than once
“Drink more water!” – bring me water, maybe buy me a fancy new water bottle
“Get enough sleep!” – help me finish evening projects or put the kids to bed so I don’t stay up late again
“Stop scrolling social media!” – sit and chat with me instead
“Just pray more!” – pray for me, pray with me!
“Take a shower and get dressed!” – watch the kids so I can, and please don’t complain if it’s a three-hour process
Basically, depression feels like being alone, like nothing matters, and like nothing will help change that. On top of that your brain is lost in some weird fog and your thoughts are mush, so even trying to focus on the tasks you should be doing is challenging.
“But you look fine!”
Yes, I realize that. If I started stabbing my face with a fork until I’m disfigured, would that help?
You can’t see high blood pressure or headaches or fibromyalgia either. I’m not trying to be snarky, it’s just the truth.
The crazy thing, though, is occasionally some things will override the intensity of depression. Sometimes you can keep going just because the responsibility of having kids overrides the feeling that nothing matters (i.e. you might not matter, but your kids do). Sometimes having someone in your space, helping out, can override the loneliness and can’t-do-anything mentality. Sometimes kindness overrides the dark fog that seemed impermeable moments before.
Depression doesn’t make sense. It’s a terribly frustrating thing to live with, and I know it has to be challenging to live with someone who deals with it.
But don’t stop trying to help. Don’t stop getting in that space and being helpful. We will get out of that dark hole, eventually, and kindness makes it that much easier to try.
And please, keep bringing the hope and light and grace of Jesus into the darkness of depression–we need tangible reminders of His hands and feet. Sometimes it’s hard to remember which way is up when you’ve been “down” for so long.