Often I can handle it when people hate (or dislike) me. I can usually "get inside their heads" enough to understand what thinking fuels their contempt of me. It still can hurt ... still can reopen those wounded places and expose the lies I battle daily ... but I can understand those people and can usually fight their disapproval easier with truth.
What I have a very difficult time battling is indifference. Indifference is when people tell me they love me when they notice me aching, but never follow up with a call or message when I'm out of sight. Indifference is when people ask how I'm doing, try to bless me with their words, but never touch base in the middle of the week ... never offer tangible help ... never sacrifice to show me they love me. Indifference is when my eyes are desperately searching for someone ... ANYONE ... to see me hurting, but not even getting a look ... or worse having someone say "Hi!" but never stop to see what is behind my desperate eyes. And indifference is aching so badly ... feeling so near tears that I avoid any eye contact ... and the people around me whom I know let me avoid them.
In the middle of drowning depression, indifference cuts into your soul. It echoes and affirms the voices in your head that are already telling you that you really don't matter, and it drags you farther into a cage of isolation.
I can remember week after week of feeling this way, lost and alone in places where I should have been revived, encouraged, and embraced. Admittedly, the indifference sensed by someone like me with an emotional or mental health problem like depression is often perceived, not genuine. I can look back during periods when I'm not depressed and see that most of the people I ran into when I felt this way weren't intentionally trying to ignore me. But because I was already fighting the lies in my head, I was quick to attribute what I perceived as indifference to my worth to others. However in the middle of it, it all feels so real and it is so hard to control the thoughts fueling the isolation and depression.
As I contemplate those dark places where I felt so alone, I can hear myself as well as others asking, "What could be done?" I wish I could just come up with ten steps to relieving the pain and suffering of someone with depression, but I'm pretty sure it's not that easy. I'm not sure that someone who did all the right things would have made me feel any better. However a few things have come to mind - those things I wished and longed for, but rarely saw happen.
- If you think someone is pulling away, ask a few questions. I know that I told enough people that I was "not connected," "having a hard time with ...," and even more directly "struggling with depression." (By this time, I was fully aware of my battle, and pretty upfront about it.)
- Know or review symptoms of depression and listen for them in conversations. Then ask a few more questions and express love and concern.
- If you really care about the person, stay in touch. Depression is isolating, and seeing someone pursue you out of loving concern can be a real encouragement when your head is telling you you're worthless.
- Spend a little time getting to know what motivates and encourages the person. I'm a hardcore people-pleaser, so when people get involved enough to keep tabs on me, I recharge and get way more done in my life, which in turn makes me feel more in control and better about ... well ... everything. Just stopping by or calling once a week can be a real boost for me. I'm also a very affectionate, touchy person, but I don't get that kind of affection much now that I'm parenting teenage boys, so hugs and embraces make me feel really connected. However not everyone feels better with these expressions of love and concern, so take time ... even ask what helps your friend or loved-one feel loved.
- Accept that you can't fix everything for someone else. Remind them that you can't fix it all. But remind them also that you are always there to support and do what you are able to do. Then ask if they have things you might be able to do.
- Pray for them! ASK them how you can pray. TELL them you are praying. But most of all PRAY!!!
- Gather a team. Caring for someone with ongoing emotional and mental health problems can be exhausting and depleting. Feeling like I'm burdening you doesn't make me feel good. So if possible, put together a team of friends who will help care for the person struggling together.
- Share encouraging scriptures. God's Word is SO powerful, and can break through all obstacles: spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical. I once had a friend mail me a note card with promises or truths on it every few days or week. She would tell me to list the lies that the truth countered and cross them out. Being turned back to God's promises encouraged my heart and kept me going even in one of the hardest times of my life.
- Don't forget them. Being forgotten makes me feel ... abandoned ... again. It aggravates the sense of being alone. So set up reminders to check back and follow-up.
- BUT if you DO forget ... come back and admit it. Everyone is busy, and it's easy to get overloaded and sidetracked. I get that. I also know that if I'm not your wife, child, mom, or other family member, I won't get the kind of priority in your life that they do. Just come back and admit that you dropped the ball and restate your love and commitment to supporting me.
**Please know that the things I say here are said in my humble opinion and out of the things I have felt. I fully understand that no one can "fix" my problems, and I have to make choices and face the consequences of things I have already chosen. I just know that I've also been in close places of harming myself, when I felt like no one cared, and some simple efforts of others would have gone a long way to keep me getting out of bed and making forward progress. Nevertheless, God is gracious, and often steps in when others don't and is always enough, even when you don't feel like He is.