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The Key to Helping a Person Who Is Depressed

“Don’t look for someone who will solve all your problems. Look for someone who won’t let you face them alone.” ~Unknown

Depression for me is like constantly walking up a hill.

Most of the time the hill has only a one percent gradient. You can hardly even tell it’s a hill. I walk, run, jump, skip along, doing cartwheels and stopping to smell pretty flowers and listen to bird-calls; it’s sunny and warm, with clear blue skies.

Even though I have to put in a little bit of effort to walk up, times are good.

And then something happens in my life, like I lose my job, I have to move, or I’m having ongoing arguments with my partner, and my hill starts to get a bit steeper.

It’s still reasonably easy climbing, but it takes a little more effort. It gets a bit darker around me, like the sun has just gone behind the clouds. But it’s fine. I can do it.

And then some other things happen, like I’m feeling stressed out because it’s exam time, and I call my friend to hang out but she doesn’t have the time, and I injure myself and can’t do my usual activities anymore—and my hill gets even steeper.

And then all of a sudden, almost without me realizing it, I’m on hands and knees, crawling up this really steep hill.

It gets kind of dark around me, and pretty windy, like a storm is brewing. The temperature drops, I get goosebumps. But I don’t look at the darkness around and behind me. I am still aiming for the spot of brightness at the top. I know I’ll get there soon.

I struggle to make eye contact with people, go out to social events, or call friends back, because I’m so focused on just making it up the hill.

And then some other things happen, like I get a virus, or someone I love dies. And then my hill is so steep it’s like climbing a ladder, but slippery and made of grass and dirt and rocks.

I freak out a little bit now, because it’s really hard! I’m scared of falling, but I still keep trying, to keep going up. Even though I’m barely moving.

I can’t talk to you. It’s like I retreat right into the depths of my mind, and I can’t connect with anyone. I really need all my concentration not to fall.

And then it starts raining. Really heavily. It’s become pitch black, like the middle of a moonless night. It’s still crazy windy. I try to grab a tuft of grass, to hold on to something, anything. But it’s slippery and wet, it slides through my grasping fingers, and I fall.

And I fall, down the hill; sometimes not so far, sometimes a long way before I can grab a hold of something and stop myself. And I’m scared. Because that far down the hill, it’s dark, it’s rainy and stormy, and I feel so alone.

And at that point, people around me—my friends, my family—get frustrated with me. Because I’m crying all the time, at this point. (Wouldn’t you, stuck in a storm in the dark?).

People think they need to, or they think I want or expect them to, fly down on a helicopter, throw me a rope, and haul me straight back up to daylight. Fix me. Save me.

I can understand people wanting to do that, because you know, I would like it to be that easy. It would be nice. But no one can do that for me. It’s my hill. I have to climb it—myself.

And what is so comforting, at this point, is someone to just climb next to me. That’s all I want.

Just someone to sit it out with me, dry my tears and hold my hand, and give me words of encouragement and feed me occasionally, while I start to make the trek back up from so far down.

Because it’s a whole hill I have to walk up! It’s really steep that far down! It’s going to take me a little while. It’s hard for me to even remember what it feels like to be near the top.

But I’m trying, I’m forever climbing, and eventually I do get back up to the daylight, where it levels out and it’s not so steep and hard at all.

Though it can be tough climbing next to me, because when I’m down I’m inclined to do things like cry or ignore you or get angry with you over nothing, its worth it! Because when I get back up and I’m skipping along in the sunshine, I’m a really great person.

If you have someone in your life that’s struggling up their own hill in the dark, could you not worry about fixing them and instead just offer to be there with them? Sometimes that’s the most meaningful thing.

Depressed woman image via Shutterstock

About Louise Pontin

Louise is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who specializes in mental health. She believes that you can’t move your body without affecting your mind, and that movement should feel good and come from a place of self-love and care. She focuses on movement that helps clients improve their mood and coaching them through making behavior changes. Visit her at themindmovement.co and on Facebook and Instagram.

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  • Joanna Smith

    This is the best description of depression I have ever read! And it’s exactly how I feel.

  • Hookchick

    Good description, only I don’t feel like I’ve EVER been “skipping along in the sunshine”. It’s pretty much always been the steep hill for me. And I actually have done better since realizing that I won’t ever get to a level, sunshine-y place; that the steep dark hill is where I live and I have to learn to deal with it.

  • Talya Price

    What if the person who is depressed is yourself?

  • Louise

    Thanks for commenting Hookchick – and you’re right, we all have different places of what’s ‘normal’ for us – good on you for finding out what works for you and making peace with it. x

  • Louise

    Thanks for commenting Joanna. So pleased to hear you connected with it – I have found it really helpful to be reminded that I’m not alone on this journey. Hope it helps (even a little bit) for you too. x

  • Louise

    Thanks for commenting Talya. There’s certainly a lot to be said about what we can do to help ourselves when we’re going through a struggle – unfortunately it wouldn’t fit in this post! I would suggest finding a doctor or psychologist close to you who could help you make a plan if you’re currently feeling depressed. All the best x

  • AJRK

    This is so hard. I have a friend who is depressed and around the time he told me that we had a big disagreement after which I felt I could do or say nothing right (trying to talk it over seemed to only make things worse). As a result, I don’t feel like spending time with him and it appears he doesn’t either, but I’ve no idea if this situation is because of his current depression or an unrelated problem with our friendship that happened to emerge at the same time as his current experience of depression started? Because he isn’t treating other people like this, only me. And when he’s felt depressed in the past he hasn’t behaved like this towards me. So it does seem to me his problems with me are more than simply a manifestation of his depression. But because there’s a chance that it is depression-related, I feel guilty for potentially abandoning him!! (We are in touch, but compared to before, our communication is infrequent and superficial.) I have other friends who’ve experienced depression who claim it doesn’t give you a license to be an ass-hat, but several things I’ve read online seem to suggest when people have depression their thinking can become distorted and they may subconsciously create problems in some of their relationships too. So I am very confused, basically.

  • Drew

    I need to comment on this article. Everything this person goes through, can and has happened to everyone. You don’t have to have depression to have these things affect your life in a bad way.

    Having depression means you will have bad feelings even without bad things happening. The uphill struggle is much harder when you don’t know why you feel sad. Even if or when there is someone around trying to make you feel better, it doesn’t always help. Your mind doesn’t associate them with pleasure, it’s in a different state. Sometimes you just want to left alone. Days, weeks, months even years may pass before you begin to feel like a person again. There are a multitude of treatments out there, not all of them work. The best thing you can do is learn what it is, and hopefully one day you can beat it.

  • lizzie

    Oh my gosh! I love this. These are my feelings, thoughts about where I have been this past year. Thank you

  • Lizzy Doole

    Thanks so much Louise for this article. I’m currently struggling after losing my grandma (who brought me up and was like a mother to me) and having said goodbye to her last week, I completely relate to this – you have put how I’m feeling brilliantly into words. No-one can fix how I’m feeling at the moment, but just being there is all I need. Thank you Louise x

  • Dani Flick

    I like the general idea of this, especially the last 2 little paragraphs. However, NOTHING has to happen to be depressed. Everyone goes through life changes like moving, losing someone (which could be considered deep grief, not depression), losing a job, etc. But not everyone gets truly depressed by these life happenings, and not everyone who is depressed is depressed because of something external.

  • Ashley

    This is spot on. You are not alone. Thank you for sharing!

  • Nikki

    I completely agree with this. I have had to deal with depression a few different times in my life. The first time I had it, my family doctor figured out that I had celiac disease. When I got off gluten, my emotions leveled out almost like magic. It was amazing that just a simple change in my diet helped me. The next time I was depressed, I thought it was because of an unhealthy relationship until the same thing started happening in my next relationship. It got so bad I ended up going to therapy and after I finally found a good therapist, he figured out I had OCD. I took the necessary meds, started reading about how to think positively for myself and keep away from harmful thinking errors. I was so willing to do whatever it took, I was able to get off the meds within 7 months. All that happened over the course of 3 years. Now, I’m happily married with my thoughts under control. Sometimes it isn’t your fault over how you feel, sometimes it’s just your body telling you it needs something.

  • primalrevolutions

    Louise, this is beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing it in BEBH <3
    I've been reading and writing a lot about depression lately because I feel like it's something that needs more love, support, and attention. And, well, because I'm in the dregs of it right now. This is such an eloquent description, and something I can point people towards to explain… THIS! This is why I am the way I am. I've been wondering for too long, beating myself up, because I can't hold a conversation, I become a hermit, I lose touch with people. And now I see more clearly, it's because I am so focused on trying to climb the hill without falling into the depths… Thank you for this. Thank you. Thank you. x

  • Sinpa

    Woow, you have a sweet language, I like your article so much.
    I m not actually facing things like that,, I had tears on eyes while reading though.
    It is so impressing how you describe things, you are talented.
    I want to encourage you, and I wish you the best ^^

  • Nancy Bartlow

    I so relate to this. I feel this way often.

  • KAT64

    EXACTLY! I wish we would use a different vocabulary for the “blues” or “grief” that are a normal reaction to stressful situations & eventually lifts, & the lingering oppressive “depression” that is an illness & can arise for no reason at all, even when one’s life is otherwise perfect.
    I was hoping this would be something I could share with friends & family, but they wouldn’t get that it applies to me because I don’t have any of these sad, stressful events happening, yet I am miserable.

  • KAT64

    Exactly what I was thinking Dani.

  • Hi everyone! I’ve been reading the comments, and I wanted to pop in and share some thoughts that may interest anyone who wonders if the author experienced “depression” or just “the blues.” There’s something called “situational depression,” that is, in fact, triggered by life events–and it can lead to major depression.

    While it’s true that many of us struggle with depression without any obvious inciting event, situational depression is quite real and just as debilitating. This article explains it in more detail:

    http://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/coping-with-situational-depression.aspx

    I actually struggled with major depression for over a decade, and I formerly felt quite frustrated that I couldn’t pinpoint anything specific that caused it. I woke up feeling miserable most days no matter what happened the day before. Over time, I came to understand that, for me, depression resulted from multiple factors, the largest of which were learned helplessness and destructive thought patterns.

    I was told I had a chemical imbalance that would require lifelong pharmaceutical treatment, and it was easy to believe that, since I’d struggled for so long. What changed my life was considering that there WAS a cause; I just didn’t yet understand it.

    I think it’s important to remember that everyone is different. For example, some people might have underlying health issues, like Nikki. Also, I’m not suggesting that anyone just go off their medication. But I think it’s worth keeping an open mind and considering that there could be something that triggered the depression, even if it seems that nothing actually happened.

    Of course, it’s not easy to do this when you’re depressed, but considering various possible causes is the only way to identify various possible treatments and potentially find something that works.

  • Louise

    You are so welcome. And well done you – the more people talking about it and sharing their experiences, the more it becomes a topic that isn’t surrounded by shame and stigma. Much love xx

  • Louise

    Thanks so much for your comments Sinpa. I appreciate the support xx

  • Louise

    Thanks for commenting Nancy. Sometimes things are pretty hard. I hope you have the support around you that you need. xx

  • Louise

    Thanks for commenting Lizzy. I’m so glad the post was able to bring you some comfort. Wishing you all the best during your time of mourning. xx

  • Louise

    Thanks for commenting lizzie. I’m so glad you were able to get something from the post. xx

  • Louise

    Thanks for commenting Dani. I totally agree. I’ve experienced debilitating depression when my life could have been perceived as a great life, as well as gone downhill when I’ve had noticeable triggers. What leads to depression is different for everyone. And yet, I think everyone who is in that space (for whatever reason) could do with the kind of support I described in my post. xx

  • Louise

    Hi Kat64, thanks for your comment. I think using the term ‘depression’ applies in this context, as I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder almost ten years ago. Since then, some of my episodes of depression have been when everything in my life appears to be going perfectly, and some have been when there is a build up of stressful events. I totally get the frustration when your life seems great and yet you feel like shit – it’s confusing, and can bring up a whole lot of ‘I’m a broken human’ thoughts (for me, anyway). For many years I raged against my depression, thinking of it as a rogue chemical imbalance that popped up for no reason (also what doctors told me). It’s only in the last year or so that I’ve started to take a different approach and try and find meaning in my experiences – learn lessons about what is going on in my life that could be contributing. And it’s not always a big thing like doing exams or moving house – it might be something like not getting enough exercise or not spending enough time cuddling my partner. I’ve found that taking this approach has brought more meaning and compassion into my experience. On the other hand, I also understand if you don’t like the idea of taking this approach. We all need to figure out what is right for us and what we need when we’re going through a hard time. All the best on your journey. xx

  • Louise

    Hi Drew, thanks for commenting.
    Depression in response to a stressful experience is just as real as depression that crops up when things seem to be going swimmingly. The way you manage and treat the depression might be different, but the experience for the person of having depression is the same. I have spent many years (on and off) in an uphill struggle when I couldn’t find a reason for it, and I totally get the frustration associated with that. It is crazy confusing when you don’t want to be alive and yet you can’t think of a valid reason that you feel that way.

    Experiencing stress related to life events is a normal human reaction. Experiencing depression related to life events is a signal that you need to get some help and support.

    I wish you all the best in your journey. xx

  • Louise

    Hi Nikki, thanks for commenting. I’m so pleased to hear you were able to hear the messages from your body and take action to make the necessary changes to be well. xx

  • Louise

    Thanks for commenting Ashley. It’s really nice to feel the support! x

  • Louise

    Thanks for commeting Lori. I’ve also been diagnosed with major depression, and told to take lifetime meds to manage it. However, in the last year or so, I’ve been beginning to go deeper into what it might be about, at the core. After raging at it for so many years and sticking to the story of ‘there’s nothing really wrong in my life that is causing it’ I’m trying a new story of opening up to it and trying to make meaning. I’m coming around to the idea that even if/when there’s nothing apparent in my life that could cause depression (like losing a loved one or the stresses in the post) perhaps there’s a deeper message that I need to hear, on a more spiritual level. It’s a journey, that’s for sure. Thank you. x

  • You’re most welcome, Louise. It sounds like we’ve had similar experiences. Thank you again for sharing your story. =)

  • KAT64

    What I’ve been told is that meds are not magic beans. They will not make you happy or even “cure” the depression. What they CAN do is get you out of that paralyzing grip of the illness so that you can help yourself in whatever ways you need in order to heal. I think this is true. Thanks for sharing Lori.

  • KAT64

    Thank you for your thoughtful response, Louise. I apologize, I didn’t mean to diminish your experience. It can be easy to forget that a real person is behind an article. It is nice to hear from others who “get it.” Glad you are finding something that works for you. It helps to hear what approaches can be effective. Best to you as well.

  • That makes a lot of sense. You’re most welcome, and thank you for sharing as well. =)

  • Kara Inglis

    I found this such an articulate way to describe exactly how I feel and how I’ve felt. Great article, Thank you.

  • cassandratoday

    Thank you for this articulate — even, oddly, beautiful — description of how it feels. It is so hard to put into words, especially when the depression really takes hold. I’m tucking this away for future use, when I need to tell friends what’s going on and I can’t find the words.

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  • kathleen smith

    (How i got my husband back with the prayers of Prophet Akim )I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. I’d write all sorts of notes and questions and things I’d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would wonder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking about me too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart tfo find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love me and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right out of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school mate snatched my future husband away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with his prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com).

  • kathleen smith

    (How i got my husband back with the prayers of Prophet Akim )I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. I’d write all sorts of notes and questions and fthings I’d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would wonder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking about me too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart tfo find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love me and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right out of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school mate snatched my future husband away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with his prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com).

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    (How i got my husband back with the prayers of Prophet Akim )I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. I’d write all sorts of notes and questions and things I’d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would wonder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking about me too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart tfo find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love me and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right outc of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school mate snatched my future husband away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with his prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com).

  • kathleen smith

    (How i got my husband back with the prayers of Prophet Akim )I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. I’d write all sorts of notes and questions and things I’d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would wonder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking about me too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart tfo find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love me and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right out of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school mate snatched my future husband away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with hdis prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com).

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