The Things People Say…

I’ve been trying to think about all of the crazy, unhelpful, annoying, or just plain (ahem) depressing things that people have said to me since I’ve been struggling with depression. Here’s a first crack at the list:

  • You know God still loves you.
  • If you would spend more time outside, you would feel better.
  • Have you considered dieting?
  • Do you have an unconfessed sins that are weighing you down?
  • Things will get better eventually.
  • Have you tried acupuncture?
  • It’s all in your mind. If you decide to be happy, you will be.

There’s a long list of them, but I’m tired this morning. Can anyone help me out to fill this list in? What are the crazy and unhelpful things people say to you when they find out your depressed?

-DarkMyRoad

39 thoughts on “The Things People Say…”

  1. this is one of the reasons I don’t tell others about being depressed. I don’t want to hear “the things people say…”

  2. this is one of the reasons I don’t tell others about being depressed. I don’t want to hear “the things people say…”

  3. The unhelpful things my family would say to me boiled down to: “Your life is really a mess; you need to get off your butt and take care of things.” Yeah, that helped me feel better. Not.

  4. The unhelpful things my family would say to me boiled down to: “Your life is really a mess; you need to get off your butt and take care of things.” Yeah, that helped me feel better. Not.

  5. I’m probably one of those people who has said something as equally stupid. It was out of caring though.

    Help us out. When you feel up to it, generate a list of what we should say to depressed people.

  6. I’m probably one of those people who has said something as equally stupid. It was out of caring though.

    Help us out. When you feel up to it, generate a list of what we should say to depressed people.

  7. Yeah, those things can be annoying. Honestly, the most annoying thing for me – as a pastor suffering with depression – is the embarrassed silence I get in response when I mention what I’m dealing with. Esp from other pastors. If I’d said, “I’ve been sleeping with my secretary,” or “I think I’m an alcoholic,” or “I have cancer,” they’d know what to say. I tell them I have Depression and they look awkward and soon change the subject. And it never gets mentioned again.

  8. Yeah, those things can be annoying. Honestly, the most annoying thing for me – as a pastor suffering with depression – is the embarrassed silence I get in response when I mention what I’m dealing with. Esp from other pastors. If I’d said, “I’ve been sleeping with my secretary,” or “I think I’m an alcoholic,” or “I have cancer,” they’d know what to say. I tell them I have Depression and they look awkward and soon change the subject. And it never gets mentioned again.

  9. One of the most comforting things that I have seen is a DVD called “you are not alone”. It is a lecture given by Daniel Preus on the issue of Mental Illness. I picked it up at the last Ft Wayne Symposia.

  10. One of the most comforting things that I have seen is a DVD called “you are not alone”. It is a lecture given by Daniel Preus on the issue of Mental Illness. I picked it up at the last Ft Wayne Symposia.

  11. Okay, when I went through my bout with depression people said, “have you seen your doctor”? And “There are drugs for that now”. Its funny now but back then I was pretty sad!

    Here’s my things people say: “Cheer up darkmyroad, ther is a light on the path”. Somehow I found it, and I too am in the ministry.

  12. Okay, when I went through my bout with depression people said, “have you seen your doctor”? And “There are drugs for that now”. Its funny now but back then I was pretty sad!

    Here’s my things people say: “Cheer up darkmyroad, ther is a light on the path”. Somehow I found it, and I too am in the ministry.

  13. It’s a variation on the themes so far, but my favorite was always, “You spend too much time sitting in that chair. Get out of the house, spend more time with people! Have some fun!”

    Yeah, that’s why I’m depressed. Not enough fun.

    Being with people, even “fun people,” completely drained me. It’s still something I have to carefully balance.

  14. It’s a variation on the themes so far, but my favorite was always, “You spend too much time sitting in that chair. Get out of the house, spend more time with people! Have some fun!”

    Yeah, that’s why I’m depressed. Not enough fun.

    Being with people, even “fun people,” completely drained me. It’s still something I have to carefully balance.

  15. People say dumb things. But the fact of the matter is, we don’t know what to say. When I had my miscarriages, each time, I got “at least you can have another one,” “at least you have Chris” or “it wasn’t God’s will” or “it wasn’t meant to be” Quite often, my husband’s sense of loss over losing three children wasn’t even acknowledged.

    Debt, loss, and sickness leave people feeling uncomfortable. Depression is such a mystery that it makes it so much more so. In our culture, such an emphasis is put on health and high-functioning.

    So the other side of the coin is, what should be said?

    How about “I’m sorry to hear that.” Offer to put someone in your prayers. If you are so motivated say “is there anything I can do to help? (but only if you mean it and are prepared for something that might surprise you).” If the person says no, often they are saying it because they don’t want to impose and/or feel out of their comfort zone themselves, so add “no really, if there is anything you need, please let me know how I can help.” Don’t ignore the family. Ask the person’s spouse how he/she is doing through all of it. Be prepared for some needs there (i.e. an occasional babysitter so the person can get away, etc.)

    Often, meeting real, concrete needs can help, because a person who is depressed feels like they are in a vacuum and can’t cope with it all. The idea that every man is an island is a dysfunctional one anyway. That’s why God gives us friends, family, and especially why he makes us part of the Body of Christ. Luther teaches that when we commune with others, we are taking on their joys and their sorrows as well. Sometimes, being isolated and feeling like you have to rely on yourself or everyone else is relying on you and it can’t be reciprocated can bring on the depression. Hmm…wonder why so many pastors struggle with it?

  16. People say dumb things. But the fact of the matter is, we don’t know what to say. When I had my miscarriages, each time, I got “at least you can have another one,” “at least you have Chris” or “it wasn’t God’s will” or “it wasn’t meant to be” Quite often, my husband’s sense of loss over losing three children wasn’t even acknowledged.

    Debt, loss, and sickness leave people feeling uncomfortable. Depression is such a mystery that it makes it so much more so. In our culture, such an emphasis is put on health and high-functioning.

    So the other side of the coin is, what should be said?

    How about “I’m sorry to hear that.” Offer to put someone in your prayers. If you are so motivated say “is there anything I can do to help? (but only if you mean it and are prepared for something that might surprise you).” If the person says no, often they are saying it because they don’t want to impose and/or feel out of their comfort zone themselves, so add “no really, if there is anything you need, please let me know how I can help.” Don’t ignore the family. Ask the person’s spouse how he/she is doing through all of it. Be prepared for some needs there (i.e. an occasional babysitter so the person can get away, etc.)

    Often, meeting real, concrete needs can help, because a person who is depressed feels like they are in a vacuum and can’t cope with it all. The idea that every man is an island is a dysfunctional one anyway. That’s why God gives us friends, family, and especially why he makes us part of the Body of Christ. Luther teaches that when we commune with others, we are taking on their joys and their sorrows as well. Sometimes, being isolated and feeling like you have to rely on yourself or everyone else is relying on you and it can’t be reciprocated can bring on the depression. Hmm…wonder why so many pastors struggle with it?

  17. I know those lines are unhelpful. But they come from well-meaning people who want to help. On my good days, I can think, “Wow, that’s not helpful. But at least I know this is your misguided way of trying to take care of me, your attempt to show love and sympathy by trying to offer up a solution.”

    But the thing that I struggle with is that many of those suggestions really are good advice. They won’t solve the whole problem. The suggestions work for some people but not others. When I was having a few good months (in a cycle of decades of dealing with depression) I tried for the gazillionth time to start exercising. And it worked. It even stuck. For two years I’ve been exercising outdoors daily, and the sun and fresh air have done wonders for my depression. So has a change in diet. But those are things that nobody can urge on you, especially in the darkest times, because you just don’t have the energy to care, the energy to make the changes.

    The one that gets to me most is the “just act happy and your mood will follow.” First — no it won’t! And second — but when the depression is fierce, there’s simply no way to “act happy.”

  18. I know those lines are unhelpful. But they come from well-meaning people who want to help. On my good days, I can think, “Wow, that’s not helpful. But at least I know this is your misguided way of trying to take care of me, your attempt to show love and sympathy by trying to offer up a solution.”

    But the thing that I struggle with is that many of those suggestions really are good advice. They won’t solve the whole problem. The suggestions work for some people but not others. When I was having a few good months (in a cycle of decades of dealing with depression) I tried for the gazillionth time to start exercising. And it worked. It even stuck. For two years I’ve been exercising outdoors daily, and the sun and fresh air have done wonders for my depression. So has a change in diet. But those are things that nobody can urge on you, especially in the darkest times, because you just don’t have the energy to care, the energy to make the changes.

    The one that gets to me most is the “just act happy and your mood will follow.” First — no it won’t! And second — but when the depression is fierce, there’s simply no way to “act happy.”

  19. In psychology, there are two theories about how mood and behavior interact. The first is “you feel something and that effects your behavior.” the 2nd is exactly the opposite. “your behavior effects your mood.” The fact of the matter is, in different situations with different people, both work. The “act happy and you will be happy” is a little simplistic. AA calls it “fake it to make it.” You basically decide what normal behavior is and do it, even if what you really want is that drink.

    If your mood has come on because you are an introvert and you have been way too social and you need to have some down time, then sitting in a room doing something quiet can help. But chronic isolation rarely helps someone who is depressed…so occasionally going out with friends even though you don’t feel like it, going to work even though you want to stay in bed, accomplishing something even though you don’t want to, can help. Is it the whole answer – no, its not.

    When I’m depressed, I get moody and I start snapping at everyone. But that’s not a Christian way to act, and when I do, I feel worse. When I consciously make the effort to interact with my children instead of hiding at the computer, and suppressing the urge to snap at them and instead be nice to them, I find that I feel better. I also have found that the more I try to get away from them, the more I feel like I need to be away from them…and then I feel worse, even though I’m having “personal time.”
    Somewhere in there is balance. But balance can sometimes elusive.

  20. How trying this one on for size?

    “Stop feeling so God damned sorry for yourself? Get off your ass and go out there and get involved in something that helps other people, contributes something positive? Stop all this damned naval gazing and pity-partying?”

    That was not very compassionate.

    But…is it true?

  21. How trying this one on for size?

    “Stop feeling so God damned sorry for yourself? Get off your ass and go out there and get involved in something that helps other people, contributes something positive? Stop all this damned naval gazing and pity-partying?”

    That was not very compassionate.

    But…is it true?

  22. It’s not true. If you physically can’t move or think, or you can’t remember what happened 2 hours ago, you are sick. It’s not a matter of self pity or picking yourself up by your bootstraps, etc etc etc. One would never say that about someone with a broken leg or who just had a heart attack. The fact that depression (or anxiety, or OCD, or whatever) are mental illnesses does not mean they are not real. It means they are much harder to identify and overlook.

    -DarkMyRoad

  23. It’s not true. If you physically can’t move or think, or you can’t remember what happened 2 hours ago, you are sick. It’s not a matter of self pity or picking yourself up by your bootstraps, etc etc etc. One would never say that about someone with a broken leg or who just had a heart attack. The fact that depression (or anxiety, or OCD, or whatever) are mental illnesses does not mean they are not real. It means they are much harder to identify and overlook.

    -DarkMyRoad

  24. i must say, this was the most selfish thing i’ve read in a long time. you are lucky people care about you, cause i know i wouldn’t giva a damn if someone i tried to cheer up would turn around and complain. especially when there’s obviously nothing to say since half the things you thought were annoying are true. you should get out, you probably should diet, it is all in your mind and if you take this advice, you probably will feel better. The things people say come out of pity and if you think it’s annoying, stop feeling sorry for yourself and others will too. But if you actually are enjoying the attention, which is my guess, than at least stop making the people that are giving it to you, feel like idiots.

    1. Romans 3:10-12 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have become together worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

      Go humans go.

  25. i must say, this was the most selfish thing i’ve read in a long time. you are lucky people care about you, cause i know i wouldn’t giva a damn if someone i tried to cheer up would turn around and complain. especially when there’s obviously nothing to say since half the things you thought were annoying are true. you should get out, you probably should diet, it is all in your mind and if you take this advice, you probably will feel better. The things people say come out of pity and if you think it’s annoying, stop feeling sorry for yourself and others will too. But if you actually are enjoying the attention, which is my guess, than at least stop making the people that are giving it to you, feel like idiots.

    1. Romans 3:10-12 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have become together worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

      Go humans go.

  26. Obviously all of the cliches are well intended. That was and is never my point. My point was rather that what may come across as well intended is actually very hurtful.

    I’m sorry that this offends your sense of justice in the world. I wish it weren’t true.

    -DMR

  27. Just discovered your blog – somewhat comforting as a sufferer of chronic depression most of my life to find others who have had to endure dumb insensitive although maybe well-intentioned comments from others re how to deal with depression. Like “hey – just snap out of it” I hope that the day is dawning where depression will be given the same consideration as other illnesses – like you would say to someone suffering from Crohn’s disease, broken limbs, blindness, epilepsy – “why don’t you just snap out of it and get on with your life?” or “gee – we should count our blessings because people all over the world have itmuch worse than you do.” I’m well aware of that and greatful to have what I have but unfortunately when the black dog of depression is upon me – it consumes me and I’ve done my best to cope with it. Depression hurts so much it is physically pain, debilitating and unbearable. Unless you’ve been through it – you don’t get it. People like Yesna make me want to scream. Thanks for your blog – it is much needed.

  28. Just discovered your blog – somewhat comforting as a sufferer of chronic depression most of my life to find others who have had to endure dumb insensitive although maybe well-intentioned comments from others re how to deal with depression. Like “hey – just snap out of it” I hope that the day is dawning where depression will be given the same consideration as other illnesses – like you would say to someone suffering from Crohn’s disease, broken limbs, blindness, epilepsy – “why don’t you just snap out of it and get on with your life?” or “gee – we should count our blessings because people all over the world have itmuch worse than you do.” I’m well aware of that and greatful to have what I have but unfortunately when the black dog of depression is upon me – it consumes me and I’ve done my best to cope with it. Depression hurts so much it is physically pain, debilitating and unbearable. Unless you’ve been through it – you don’t get it. People like Yesna make me want to scream. Thanks for your blog – it is much needed.

  29. Hi Dark – I’m late in the game reading your blog. I decided to start at the beginning and work my way through in hopes that I will learn from you and your commenters – and I am learning.

    I hope it’s not too late or intrusive to comment late, but I would like to comment if it is OK. Please email me if this is inappropriate.

    Anyways. I have come to some conclusions on the whole mess of letting people know about my situation. 1.) most people are well meaning, but they give the law, even if it is helpful law (eg: exercise, prayer, etc.) and they want to ‘fix’ you. If you don’t get ‘fixed’ by their advice they can become frustrated and/or angry and blame you for not getting well 2.) most people want you to get over it so they can get on with their lives – it’s similar to bereavement (eg: you have about 6-8 weeks) If you are not ‘well’ in their time frame – then it’s your fault and they want to be left out of your struggles 3.) You disturb people’s comfort zone and/or their lack of understanding of what it is like to deal with a long-term chronic illness 4.) Essentially it all ends up being about them not you. People do not seem to know how to accept disabilities very well. We appear to live in a ‘fix-it’ or send it to the trash heap kind of culture.

    My other conclusion is that the art of listening is a rare gift. To be able to listen without judging or giving advice, to be able to give patient love, to be more than a fair-weather friend who will walk along-side and not try to lead. To be able to sit on the porch with you and give you the gift of knowing they are just ‘there’ and they pray for you. To be understood and have people let you ‘be’ because you have left no stone unturned in the quest to get well. People like this are rare gems.

    Lastly, the people who are gems are usually the people on the same path you are. They are fellow travelers on the dark roads of suffering. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is bereavement, mental illness, children with disabilities, or whatever. It is easier to find comfort and give comfort in these groups. People in these groups know the ‘law’ doesn’t always (and sometimes rarely) works to correct a problem. It is the gospel and love, patience, faith, and hope exchanged that seems to heal and/or give strength.

    I’m not sure people who have never been on these long-lasting roads of difficulty will ever understand suffering or the people who suffer. I may sound bleak, but after 15+ years of dealing with a lot of tragic deaths, traumatic events, and the resultant PTSD and the depression and anxiety that accompany it – this is what I have found to be true.

  30. Hi Dark – I’m late in the game reading your blog. I decided to start at the beginning and work my way through in hopes that I will learn from you and your commenters – and I am learning.

    I hope it’s not too late or intrusive to comment late, but I would like to comment if it is OK. Please email me if this is inappropriate.

    Anyways. I have come to some conclusions on the whole mess of letting people know about my situation. 1.) most people are well meaning, but they give the law, even if it is helpful law (eg: exercise, prayer, etc.) and they want to ‘fix’ you. If you don’t get ‘fixed’ by their advice they can become frustrated and/or angry and blame you for not getting well 2.) most people want you to get over it so they can get on with their lives – it’s similar to bereavement (eg: you have about 6-8 weeks) If you are not ‘well’ in their time frame – then it’s your fault and they want to be left out of your struggles 3.) You disturb people’s comfort zone and/or their lack of understanding of what it is like to deal with a long-term chronic illness 4.) Essentially it all ends up being about them not you. People do not seem to know how to accept disabilities very well. We appear to live in a ‘fix-it’ or send it to the trash heap kind of culture.

    My other conclusion is that the art of listening is a rare gift. To be able to listen without judging or giving advice, to be able to give patient love, to be more than a fair-weather friend who will walk along-side and not try to lead. To be able to sit on the porch with you and give you the gift of knowing they are just ‘there’ and they pray for you. To be understood and have people let you ‘be’ because you have left no stone unturned in the quest to get well. People like this are rare gems.

    Lastly, the people who are gems are usually the people on the same path you are. They are fellow travelers on the dark roads of suffering. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is bereavement, mental illness, children with disabilities, or whatever. It is easier to find comfort and give comfort in these groups. People in these groups know the ‘law’ doesn’t always (and sometimes rarely) works to correct a problem. It is the gospel and love, patience, faith, and hope exchanged that seems to heal and/or give strength.

    I’m not sure people who have never been on these long-lasting roads of difficulty will ever understand suffering or the people who suffer. I may sound bleak, but after 15+ years of dealing with a lot of tragic deaths, traumatic events, and the resultant PTSD and the depression and anxiety that accompany it – this is what I have found to be true.

  31. As a person with bipolar illness, I've found that those well-meaning comments from people while I'm depressed aren't as bad as the "Look, you're better now"s when I'm not depressed or hypomanic. To me, this implies that my illness simply lifted; that it had nothing to do with the dozens or hours of therapy or class or introspection and hard work on my part. It also makes me feel like the other person beleives that I'll never be affected by my illness again. After nearly a decade of struggling with mental illness, I have come to accept that it will be back, and I feel like a disappointment in the eyes of the people who said "look you're all better" when it does return.

    1. I am so with you on this. I just suffered my second bipolar episode in ten years and the posted comment following yours is mine. It took a lot of struggle for me as well to be in that better place. Please let me know if you need someone to talk to. I can definately relate.

  32. As a person with bipolar illness, I've found that those well-meaning comments from people while I'm depressed aren't as bad as the "Look, you're better now"s when I'm not depressed or hypomanic. To me, this implies that my illness simply lifted; that it had nothing to do with the dozens or hours of therapy or class or introspection and hard work on my part. It also makes me feel like the other person beleives that I'll never be affected by my illness again. After nearly a decade of struggling with mental illness, I have come to accept that it will be back, and I feel like a disappointment in the eyes of the people who said "look you're all better" when it does return.

    1. I am so with you on this. I just suffered my second bipolar episode in ten years and the posted comment following yours is mine. It took a lot of struggle for me as well to be in that better place. Please let me know if you need someone to talk to. I can definately relate.

  33. I just was shown your blog about someone who really cares about me. One of the things I find most frustrating when you are depressed is that people seem to think that they have all the answers when in fact they have none and therefore try to overcompensate fot their lack of knowledge. My favorite is "we're all a little crazy," or "we all feel like that sometimes." Thanks, that helps. But in light of the subject, one might ask "well, what CAN you say?" in which case, I always find, "you know, I'm here for you if you need someone to talk to," to be very helpful 🙂

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