I know many people who suffer from depression and one of the bugbears we all share is the strangers who tell us that they had depression, just like us, but they beat it by using one simple trick.
Getting more excercise is the most common one that I’ve found, but eating healthily, cutting out sugar/wheat/dairy, getting more sunlight, etc. all crop up at some stage too. I’ve even had someone tell me in complete seriousness that I wouldn’t be depressed if I did something artistic*.
It’s often hard to know how to react to those people. Personally I tend to smile and nod, and occasionally make comments such as “Of course, it’s not always so straightforward is it?” to remind them that there are many types of people, many types of depression, and many types of cure. I tend to approach these people as I do well-meaning non-sufferers. They want to help. They’re doing the best they can. They’ve found something that helps them to feel better, and they want to share it with the world!
One important thing to consider when dealing with such people is how much it matters to you. Is it vital that you correct their mistaken assumption? Can you smile, nod, and move on without it damaging your own self esteem or coping ability? Are you likely to do yourself more harm by engaging them and ending up in an argument? If it’s someone you’re hoping to get to know better then it’s a good idea to let them know that you find such comments upsetting, but if it’s just a stranger on the bus it might be better for you to let it slide.
If you do decide to respond, can you do so without simply saying “you’re wrong”? I generally go with statements like “I’ve tried that approach and it didn’t work for me. I’m trying to find something more effective for my particular case” or “Sadly I don’t find it quite so simple, but I’m glad it worked for you”. People who react negatively to criticism are often more willing to accept an alternate viewpoint if you don’t start off by denying theirs.
Also, consider whether you’re just getting cranky ‘cos you’re annoyed that someone who doesn’t know what you’re going through thinks they can fix your problems. It’s a reasonable emotional reaction, but probably not the best basis for discussion. Especially as these people have at least some first-hand experience with depression.
I know it can be easy to assume that these people “didn’t have real depression” or “don’t actually know what it’s like” but I’d like to challenge that assumption:
Firstly, even people with a less severe form of depression suffer a lot from it, and while techniques which help clear theirs up entirely may not cure yours, it’s generally still good advice and well meant.
Secondly, many forms of depression are situational, or triggered by very specific conditions. These types may well be fixeable by techniques that in other cases only help the sufferer to cope a little better. That does not mean that these depressive periods aren’t just as deep and harsh and miserable as what long-term sufferers go through. The severity of what someone has gone through isn’t lessened by the fact that they managed to deal with it!
And finally, and more personally: I have beaten my depression. All I had to do was believe in myself, build my self-confidence, and learn to trust my friends to be there for me when I need it. If anyone suffers from depression then all they have to do is to read the advice I’ve given and have faith in a new and happier day!
Of course, I know this isn’t true. I know I’m still a sufferer. I know that soon the dark fog will come back, and the brain-gremlins will pipe up, and I’ll lose the happy sense of confidence that comes with the upswing. I’ve even read back over past moods to remind myself that I’ve had phases like this in the past, and that while it’s good to ride the high while it lasts, remembering that it’s just a high can avoid a lot of disapointment when the crash comes back.
So those strangers who tell you how easy it is to beat your depression? Maybe they don’t know what they’re talking about. Maybe they do. Maybe they’re trying to cling onto that feeling that they’re cured for just a few hours more.
I know how annoying it can be to be faced with statements like that, and how deflating it can feel having it implied that there’s an easy answer and you’re just not trying hard enough, and I’m not for one moment telling you that they’re right. I’m just saying that when you tell them it’s not so easy, do it kindly. Treat them gently. They generally just want to help.
*If you’re wondering why I scoffed at this one then check out my deviantART page: http://adreanna.deviantart.com/
Now I’ll admit that art helps me hugely, but it’s by no means an insta-cure! (Well, either that or my depression is worse than I thought and I need to do EVEN MOAR ART!!)