Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Words are powerful things. I've found, though, that most people forget that. Words mean things - which I'll go into greater depth at a later date, I'm sure - and words have great power. There are things you shouldn't say to a depressed person.
The term "crazy" for example, should be used with care. Also, the term "depressed." It's grating to hear people say, "God, I'm so depressed..." Your boyfriend didn't call you back last night, you got a C on an assignment, your boss is being a jerk, blah blah blah. You're not depressed. You got out of bed today, you're dressed, doing what you need to do, talking to people. You're not depressed, you're sad. Words. Sentence. Meanings.
But aside from words you must use carefully, there are certain phrases you ought to avoid. "I can't believe I supported your decision to leave school" is a big one. It's fine to regret giving support to someone, but for the love of all there is, keep it to yourself or at least don't tell that someone of your regret. Not if you don't want to inflict a great deal of damage.
Another phrase to avoid is, "It seems like you're not even trying to get better," coupled with, "Do you like feeling like this?" I shouldn't have to say this since no one listens anyway, but hear me now: You should not - EVER - accuse someone of enjoying their disease. Do you tell a cancer patient who's turned down treatment because it would cause more harm than good, "Oh, you must like being sick since you're not trying to get better," do you? No. A person who gave such an utterance would be summarily removed from said patient's presence!
But I don't have cancer. I have something far more difficult to comprehend. I take my pills and do the things I'm supposed to: eating well, exercising, getting sun, trying to socialize and not ruminating. But I'm still depressed. That doesn't go away. My symptoms are diminished, sure. But my sometimes crippling - paralyzing - social anxiety? My dark nights? Still there. Not going away. Manageable but not gone...never gone.
There was a time when I could tell people what I wanted to hear from them and they would listen and try to support me that way. Nowadays it's a good day when someone doesn't say something that not only belittles what I'm dealing with but manages not to offend and destroy my self-esteem in the process. Emily Haines (a writer, I believe) said of herself, "It bothers me that no one has the patience to deal with someone who is just sad." Why is it so hard to offer comfort? Face my doubts and give me faith?
So my last thought is this: Use words with care, for they can break people down swifter than they can build them up. Use your words for good, not pain.