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Understand the disorder

Take time to find out what depression is and isn’t. There are so many popular misunderstandings
about the illness.

Keep in mind that they can’t just “snap out of it.”

Remember that the other person has a real illness. Like someone with cancer, they can’t simply “get over it.” Try not to express your frustration or anger in ways you’ll regret later. Don’t suppress your own feelings either.

Point out the positives

If the person is a pessimist, point out the positive things that are happening. Your friend or loved ones negative childhood programming may prevent them from seeing these things for themselves. People who are depressed have a vested interest in the lie that ‘nothing will go right’.

Ask about their feelings

Encourage your friend or loved one to let you know their feelings. Your ability to listen nonjudgmentally will be helpful in itself. This will also give you the opportunity to learn about their childhood patterning and what role you are currently playing in it. Who do you represent to you loved one from their early life? What actions of yours may be triggering depressive episodes?

Admit your own powerlessness against the disorder

Many people believe they can cure someone if they love them, just by the sheer force of their love. As if that feeling alone should be enough to effect permanent change. It isn’t. Step back, admit that alone your are powerless against the disorder. Seek support for yourself from friends and perhaps psychotherapist. The first stage toward helping the other person is to get help for yourself.

Deal with the guilt

To avoid feeling guilt over someone else’s depression acknowledge that you are not responsible for it. It’s not your fault and you alone can’t cure it. You can offer support, you can show friendship or love, whichever is appropriate, but you are probably too close to be able to solve the problem.

Do not try to rescue

A person suffering from depression will probably be a slave to their depression. They may well put pressure on you to fix whatever they perceive to be the problem. Sometimes depression can be temporarily assuaged in this way and the depression will lift. But it will come back and even more demands will be made. You may be forced into trying to play the role of omnipotent parent and feel guilty when you fail to provide what is demanded of you.

Don’t make excuses for them

Never become part of the depressed person’s denial. Don’t lie for them. Making excuses or covering up for a friend or colleague only prevents them from getting timely help. Ultimately covering up for them may do them harm and delay them recovery.

Encourage them to seek help

Many sufferers from depression deny that they have a problem or try to self-medicate with alcohol, or overwork or shopping. Your self-preservation depends on getting the depressed person in your life to seek help.

Discover your own patterns

It’s important to realize that the depressed person’s depression is playing a role your own system. You may be getting a “secondary gain” from their disorder. Their behavior may seem to give you an excuse to vent your own angry feelings, or an opportunity for you to play the knight in shining armour or perhaps a reason to excuse your own shortcomings. If you find yourself having relationships with a number of people who are depressed, there’s probably a reason for this in your
own past. Seek help in dealing with your own way of being.

Tell them what you need

The depressed person in your life may be ill, but there are still things that you will require from them. If you are not honest about what you’re getting from the relationship and what you want to get, you will make the other person feel even worse about themselves. Learn how to identify your own needs and boundaries and be true to them. Know when it’s OK for you to compromise and when it’s not. Be honest about what you can and cannot do, and about what you will and won’t do.

Never promise what you can’t fulfill. You may often be asked to.

Above all remember that even the worst depression is curable and you alone can’t cure it. The turning point can come at any time
Based on ‘Nine Rules for Living with a Depressed Person’ By Bob Murray, PhD

February 2008
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