Not everyone will feel led to face their battle publicly...and that's okay! I just don't want anyone to feel that they have to suffer silently. I can't say this enough: PLEASE reach out to someone...it can be a family member, a friend, a mentor...or even me. I won't betray any confidences and know what you're facing. Nobody should have to go through this alone.
Back in September, I purchased the book, Defeating Depression: Real HOPE for Life-changing Wholeness, by Leslie Vernick. What an amazing resource this has been! I started reading it when I was in the deepest part of the pit, and was looking for anything I could find that would offer some encouragement from a Biblical perspective. This book is full of encouragement, and practical advice for people facing depression, as well as for those who walk alongside them. One of my favorite parts of the book is the sample letter she provides for family and friends. This is what it says:
I know you've noticed I'm not myself lately and have asked what's wrong and how you could help me. I am battling depression. Here are some things I think you could do that would encourage me during this time.
- Please don't judge me. I judge myself mercilessly. I don't know why i feel the way I do, but I'm trying to figure it out. Please show patience and support.
- Please don't tell me just to "snap out of it." I don't like feeling this way. Believe me, if I could just snap out of it, I would have done so.
- Don't tell me it's all in my head. My heart hurts too. My body feels lousy, and often I feel as if I don't even have the strength to put one foot in front of another. When you say things like this, it's like telling someone who is bleeding by the side of the road, "It's all in your head. Just snap out of it."
- Speaking of bleeding by the side of the road, remember the story Jesus told of the Good Samaritan? He helped the wounded man and demonstrated compassion. Please understand that right now I may not be able to do for myself what I once was able to do. I may need your help and some of your time, energy, and/or money to get better. Please offer them generously; don't make me ask or beg. I probably won't. When you seem reluctant or unwilling to help me, I don't feel I'm worth anything to you.
- I need encouragement and support. I need you to reach out to me and not allow me to continue to isolate myself. Call me. Invite me for a walk. Come over to my house to talk with me. Don't take my reluctance or even a no for an answer. I need you right now. Pray with me and hold me. Hugs can bring more comfort that words can express. Let me cry when I need to.
- Please tell me the truth, but speak it with grace and love. I am a prisoner of my own harsh words. I do not need to hear scolding words from others. The Bible tells us to help the weak (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Right now I'm weak. Help me regain my strength. Your words are very powerful to me, especially negative ones. I hear them much louder than any other words you will ever say.
- If I'm under medical care or seeing a counselor, please understand that my doctor and/or my therapist are here to help me figure out what's wrong and how to get better. If you tell me what you think is wrong or what I should or shouldn't do to get better, it confuses me and undermines my confidence in the helpers that God has put in my life.
- Finally, in the Bible there was a man named Job who was very depressed. His friends said all the wrong things to him. Listen to his advice to them. He said,
Won't you ever stop your flow of foolish words? What have I said that makes you speak so endlessly? I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off my criticisms against you and shake my head at you. But that's not what I would do. I would speak in a way that helps you. I would try to take away your grief (Job 16:3-5, NLT, emphasis added).
Speak to me in a way that helps me. Encourage me. remind me of the good things in my life. Help me trust God with all of this. Stand by me and tell me you love me, and then with your help and God's, I will be able to have the strength to fight to get healthier and stronger.
Thank you for wanting to help me and for caring about me. I appreciate you.
Love, __________ (pp 240-242)
Wow...I'm so glad she included this in her book...I don't think I would have had the presence of mind to come up with this on my own! I'd like to add a couple of other things that are helpful for a mom struggling with depression.
- Offer to bring a meal over. It doesn't have to be fancy. Heck, you could even call a local pizza place and have pizza delivered. One of the most overwhelming things for me, when I'm in the pit, is to try to come up with something for dinner. I can't even tell you how many nights we've had cereal.
- Offer to babysit. I've got great girlfriends that have stepped in to watch my kids so I can go to my counseling appointments, or even so I can have a couple of hours to run errands alone.
- Send a card. There is nothing better than opening the mailbox and seeing a pretty, handwritten notecard from a caring friend. You don't have to fill it with Bible verses or profound thoughts. A simple "I'm thinking of you and I love you" can say it all!
- Help with housework. Again, my girlfriends and mom have been lifesavers in this area. Show up and just start cleaning. Tackle a project and don't be afraid to tell your friend "go through this pile and eliminate half of it to throw away/donate/recycle."
- Remember my husband and kids. It's not easy for them to see me this way. If your husband knows mine, encourage him to call and offer to meet for lunch (or dinner, but then offer to come over yourself during that time to help with the kids!) Invite my kids along for a trip to the park or a sleepover. Mom isn't always the most fun person to be around, nor does she have the energy to plan for fun.
If you have other ideas, please share them with me. I'm sure there are things I've overlooked. Also, if you are going through depression and a friend offers help, don't let pride get in the way and cause you to decline it. You're robbing two people of a blessing, that way! One of the ways I've felt the most blessed is when I reach out to others and they accept my help. We were never meant to walk through this life alone. I'll say it over and over if I have to...WE NEED EACH OTHER!!!