What if your loved one is experiencing anxiety and depression?
As a close follow up to my last post. What happens when you are the other person? What happens when you see your loved one is experiencing difficulties? Not being able to put a tourniqet on the wound and nurse them back to health can be devastating. Here are 8 tips for you, the loved one, the person who feels helpless and hopeless. All is not lost.
Depression and anxiety are insidious and they are isolating especially in relationships. It can also make a recovery process more complicated and confusing. Where to start? Where to go? Who to talk to?
But, let me state this now. You and your support is immensely significant. More than you know. I know from experience that my partner had a hellish time with me, and I could do nothing to help him either. Because I struggled to look after myself.
Let’s visit some strategies.
1. Be there.
And this doesn’t mean being there as their therapist. One of the biggest things for me was the loneliness I felt. Your loved one needs human touch. Hold their hand, sit with them and hold a space for them. Make time to do this. Allow them to cry, or sit in silent thought. Nothing needs to be said but the human touch is what it important. Sit for ten minutes, hold them. Tell then them you are there, tell them you’ll help them find a way and most importantly - tell them just how important they are. To you, to your family, to their friends and to the wider world. Tell them you need them, in any capacity. Well or unwell, you need them.
2. Try a small gesture.
Ok, I’m going to tell you something. When I’m unwell, if someone makes the effort to do something small for me, I can’t express just how much this means. And it can be tiny. It can be a text while you sit next to them, it can be running a bath for them or booking a massage. I’ve had all of these things come my way and I have never, ever forgotten how they made me feel. Here are a couple of things that work really well. New sheets on the bed (or just beautifully fresh sheets), lavender oil on the pillow, an eye mask and possibly ear plugs. Sleep is so important for your loved one. Even if they are restless during the night, by creating a comfortable sleeping environment they are one step closer to getting the proper rest that they need. Often people forget about the bedroom when it comes to mental health but it starts there. If someone had cleaned my sheets for me and walked me through getting a good night's sleep I do believe my insomnia may have been reduced. Maybe not cured but I would have a safe place to try again and again. Secondly, smoothies and salads. Again might seem trite but it will go further than you think! Make the most jam packed smoothie that you can muster. Make a giant salad with superfoods such as beetroot, kale and nuts. I’m not saying this has to happen everyday and your loved one may struggle to eat it but, it’s self love, it’s self care, for them and for you.
Also, alcohol ban. I’d say forever because quite frankly someone experiencing mental health issues is better off without it. But, make the effort to have an alcohol free week or two.
3. Don’t judge or criticize.
Just be careful about what you say. These statements can seem helpful but they are honestly hideous for someone who has no choice in how they feel. Avoid:
“You just need to see things as half full, not half empty” (Feels impossible)
“Think about those who are less fortunate” (Brings up guilt)
“If you got up out of bed and moved around, you’d see things better.” (energy levels don’t always allow this, depression and anxiety can cause serious fatigue)
They only serve to make your loved one feel lonelier.
“This is temporary”
“You are allowed to feel this way. Rest when you need to”
“What can I do to help you?”
4. Avoid the tough-love approach.
Being silent, using aggression, pushing their boundaries and giving ultimatiums will have a profoundly weakening effect on your loved one. This might be an obvious one, but think of being bullied and how weak it makes you feel. How hopeless the situation is. That’s what they are experiencing, even although they know you love them. It’s useless and harmful.
5. Don’t minimize their pain.
It’s not a flaw, it’s not a weakness. It’s a difficult, complex disorder that needs loving attention just like a wound. Think of them bleeding. What would do you? You’d wrap them up. You’d tell them how much you loved them and that everything is going to be ok. You’d believe them. You wouldn’t question that they are in great pain and you’d be gentle and there when they they recover, feeding them grapes and bringing them magazines. Same thing here, envelope them, tell them it’s going to be okay. Wash their sheets and feed them superfoods. This all goes a long, long way.
6. Learn as much as you can about depression.
Read, learn, talk to me (email me, call me) whatever you need to do to understand what that wound I talked about looks like. The more you know the better equipped you’ll be. Talk to them about exactly what’s going on. Are they not sleeping? Are they not eating? Are they over-eating? Are they checking things over and over (OCD), do they feel fatigued or are they experiencing heart palpitations. Are they in physical pain? Are they sleeping? All of these things can give you a better idea of what they are going through. Because there are so many different types of depression and anxiety. If you can get a clearer idea of their symptoms, then the next steps can be easier. An official disgnosis will come quicker from a doctor if you can help them list these things. Then treatment can begin. Someone with generalised anxiety may behave very differently to someone with Bi-polar so it is so, so important to understand the ebbs and flows of mental illness.
7. Be patient.
It doesn’t matter how long this is going to take. Or how involved the treatments are going to be, or the difficulties that accompany the passage from symptom onset to recovery. It can and will happen, but I’m not going to sugar coat it. It takes work. It takes doing something about it. So many times I’ve spoken to loved ones and they tell me that the person experiencing these difficulties knows but keeps trooping on. Nope. Won’t work.
It takes a whole. New. mindset. It takes a lifestyle overhaul. It takes going to doctor after doctor, therapist after therapist, pill after pill (if they CHOOSE to go down that route, don’t let a doc force them into it). It takes trying everything until they find what works, and it may take a long time. Breathe. It gets better, and better and better. Recovery is possible.
And this patience has a powerful result. With patience comes hope. Sometimes supporting someone with depression may feel like you’re walking a tightrope. What do I say? What do I not say? What do I do? What do I not do?
But remember that just by being there and asking how you can help can be an incredible gift.
In my opinion the most important. Thou can’t pour from an empty cup. Look after yourself. While they find their tools, find yours. Exercise, drink water, meditate, run, watch hours and hours of netflix, take a bath, go alone to a movie. The stronger your mental health is, the more vibrational energy they can channel from you. It’s incredible what you can do for a person. I see it in others. When I’m good, I can be with another person and just by expressing restfulness, peace and understanding I see it in their eyes. Hope.
Sit with them and write their symptoms down, not just ‘feeling depressed’. Is there anger, is there fatigue, is there sweating, heart palpitations, when is it worse? Morning, night? Are they sleeping? Any pain? Any spiralling thoughts? (OCD) Suicidal thoughts? (don’t be afraid of asking this question, being able to say yes can make such a difference to that person). What kind of suicidal thoughts? Violent or just not wanting to wake up, there’s a bit of a difference. Download my free suicide resource here. Anyone making them worse? Breathing issues? Do they sometimes feel ‘high’? Do they do reckless things (spend too much money, stay up all night working?)
Take this to a doctor! Get an appointment made. And don’t let them shove pills down their throat. There are psychotherapy sessions available. If you need doc recommendations or therapy recommendations contact me. I’ll get you a list of the best. Get bloods done. Check thyroid and B12 levels (very, very important) don’t let your doc skim over these.
Make a plan. Make a 20 day routine to try exercise, get those superfoods in and a meditation time. Lots of apps available for them to try. Headspace being one of the best.
Follow up. With them and with the doc. Do not let a doctor whisk you away never to be seen again. Make follow up appointments and monitor behaviour over a 6 month period.
At ease xxx