Depression and anxiety are mental health conditions. They can rear their ugly heads together or alone. At some point in our lives we will all be aware of the effects of suffering from anxiety and depression. Be it personally or from the side lines, we will need support or will need to know how to offer support.
I have heard many people talk about beating anxiety and depression, how they no longer suffer from its affects, how they have won. These health conditions are something that you live with and learn to cope with. They never go away completely. I am not saying this to make it seem like there is no hope…there is always hope. I just need people to be able to understand that if someone suffers from this then they will need your support more than once in their lifetime.
Depression and anxiety come in many forms. A severe episode can last for months, sometimes years. But remember this….there will be better days ahead. Despite these conditions making the person feel hopeless, there will also be years when they can feel in control again. Learning how to support a person going through the tough times can make such a difference.
I myself have suffered from both anxiety and depression. I have also witnessed many people close to me battle with them. Being in that place can feel extremely lonely. Watching that person can be extremely upsetting and you can feel helpless.
The truth of it is that the sufferer needs to be able to control the effects of anxiety and depression themselves, you can’t do it for them. They need to find the strength to get up out of bed and face the day. But they do not need to do this alone. This is where you come in.
Often just you being there will help the person to feel less alone. You do not need to talk about how they are feeling, unless they feel ready. Your presence can be felt physically or if you live far away, even just regular phone calls and messages can help.
Distract with normality
By this I mean keep doing everything that you would normally do. A normal everyday, mundane routine can really help support a person suffering with anxiety and depression. Even if they are not able to join in with the routine, it helps for everyone else around them to keep going.
When the time comes for them to be able to talk to you make sure you listen. Do not judge. Listen for as long as they need you too. You might well hear the same things repeatedly over the weeks and months, but bear with them. They need to feel that you are listening and not bored or frustrated by what they keep telling you. Make sure to give them your full attention too.
Give them time and space
You are not going to help the person if you try to do so before they are ready. The person needs to be able to lead this themselves. If you start to push them, it will have the opposite effect. Give them the time and space to face the symptoms. Understand that it will take time. If they need to be alone, let them.
Notice when they have had a better day or when you have seen them trying their best to overcome a situation that makes them feel anxious. Encourage them to keep trying if they can’t manage anything at the moment. Offer to go to the doctors with them to give them moral support.
Put your own feelings aside
Watching someone go through this is heartbreaking. You can often see it happening before they realise themselves. And it has a major effect on you as the observer. You are often the closest person so will get the blame, the insults, the rebuffs, the cold shoulder. But understand this comes from a place of desperation not of hatred. It is the persons way of allowing the depression and anxiety to manifest without admitting what is actually happening to them. Put your own feelings aside and be understanding.
Love and reassurance
Above all else and no matter who the person is, or what their relationship is to you, keep telling the person that you love and value them. They may well not say it back to you for a while. That doesn’t mean they don’t love or value you. It just means that they do not have the headspace to be able to deal with any other emotions at the moment. Reassure them that they are loved and that you are there for them no matter what.