One of the things not mentioned in the description of people who have depression on a previous article Insights for Parents of a depressed person is low Self Esteem or Self Worth. As a person who struggles with depression, this is a fight almost every day. The sense of feeling worthless. Unworthy of someone’s love or to love someone.
I know I have to be careful as I write this, because if my mind is not in the right place I know I can easily feel unworthy and worthless. It’s too easy to get into the mindset of feeling like a loser. I mean come on…I have to be a loser…I couldn’t get into university because of my marks in high school. I am divorced from a failed marriage. I have lost my job, not once but twice in six years. I’ve struggled with depression at a high functioning state for 34 years. It’s easy to point at all these things and start to feel bad about one’s self. And it may not even have to be that severe for a child to go through depression, because they are much more easily impressed by parents, friends, advertising, television and social media.
Society is hard on kids and I know when I was younger I was like a sponge and just soaked in the environment.
What Not to Say
As someone with depression, one thing that someone once said to me was to “cheer up”!?! I know the person who was saying this and she didn’t understand the severity of my depression . Sometimes, people don’t know what to say and so they say something that is quite silly just to be able to say something that “may be of value” to you.
When I was going through my separation and divorce someone said to me to “suck it up” and “be a man”!?! Now this person was a long time friend who did know me and my circumstances. Ouch! I’m sure as you are reading this you’re saying to yourself, “I can’t believe someone said that”. Well guess what? They can and they did….in the same conversation. Needless to say, we are no longer friends, but did part on peaceful terms.
I guess people feel like they just have to fill the silence gap…and in depression, there is a lot of silence. So filling it up is more comfortable for the person who doesn’t have depression than the one who does. Please, when you talk with someone who has depression, be very mindful of the words you use. They can pierce like a knife into the heart of a person.
One thing I will recommend is that you approach the person with depression with gentleness and a tender heart. What do I mean by that? Like the above, do the opposite of saying “cheer up” or “suck it up”. Show your child love and respect their personal space. This is so difficult as I’m sure you want to just reach out and pull them out of their funk. Gentleness and a tender heart is what is needed though….for the person with depression is hard on themselves and their hearts become hard in that “truth”.
Christians and the Church
I’m going to say something about the church, not because I want to bash the church, but I believe there is an expectation with following Jesus that you are to be without anxiety, fear and depression. So like a bull in a china shop, some people just try and point you to Jesus and say he will set you free…believing that is all that needs to be done and things will be fixed. Well I am a follower of Jesus…and I do pray and give my feelings, depression and anxiety to Jesus more times in a day than I can count…and it doesn’t go away.
A counselor who is a believer once told me that in the state of depression, a person doesn’t feel the presence of God in their lives. And I can attest to that. I don’t “feel” God…but I know He is there. I see Him when I read my devotions or hear music coming in over the radio. I see His hand in things all through my depressive state and over the years I’ve struggled with depression.
What to do and How to Say it
I have received more support from people who are outside the Church than those inside. Why? Because they don’t judge or criticize as much as the church does. They take me as I am and who I am. They may not understand what is going on…but they don’t hold it against me either.
What am I trying to say…some people judge or criticize…and that is not helpful to a person with depression. Remember it’s an illness. Would you say to someone with a cast on their broken arm…just pray and it’ll go away? And then tell them to lift that 50lb weight? Of course not. It is the same with the person who has depression. Although you cannot see it, it is as real as the broken arm of another person. It can’t just be rationalized, prayed or talked away. It is an illness that needs healing and time, lots and lots of time.
Approach the person with gentleness by using a soft and soothing voice. Not a voice that is frustrated or tired or cranky. If you are feeling those things about your child…that is not the time to talk to them. Wait until you can calmly speak to them. Let your heart be open and tender to theirs. And if you are the parent I think you are and you are still reading this, you likely have a tender heart towards your child already.
Use words that build them up, by saying how good they are at such and such. Or how great they did in so and so. Psychologists say it takes five positive words to overcome one negative word. So fill your child’s emotional bank with as many positive words that you can. One because it’s true. And two because it will help with your child’s mindset. Tell them that they are worthy to be loved, that you love them and they are a beautiful and unique creation from God.