What Not To Say

Depression isn’t a war you win. It’s a battle you fight every day. You never stop, never get to rest. It’s one bloody fray after another.
— Shaun David Hutchinson, We Are the Ants

Oh the things I’ve heard. It’s heartbreaking. There’s so many things not to say to someone that is suffering, so many in fact that you are bound to hear them at some point.

“Just smile” I honestly can’t even remember the first time I’ve heard this. Sure, I’ll smile, but it won’t mean anything. A smile won’t make me feel better inside. If you want me to smile it’s only to make you feel better.

“Other people have it worse than you.” This one still burns. These words only produce more guilt and self-hatred. I told a teacher I was having a hard time when she said this to me. It didn’t matter that the next words out of my mouth were going to be “I don’t want to be alive anymore.” No, instead she said that others have it worse and it was the end of the conversation. It was my end to trying to get help. My problems didn’t matter. I went home that night and contemplated suicide with no one there to help.

“Suicide is only for those with a weak mind.” Just no. Why would you even portray me as being weak? I’m still here aren’t I? I fight a battle everyday with my own mind, and everyday that I stay is another battle I won. My mind is far from weak.

“It gets better.” Maybe I’m alone with this one. I absolutely hate it when someone tells me this. Neither of us know the future. There could be something right around the corner that pushes me over that edge again. I’ve been contemplating suicide for nearly 20 years, with maybe a few small breaks here and there, don’t you think I have thought of it getting better?

“Calm down.” Well I’m cured now. Thanks, I never would have guessed that I just needed to calm down. This is frustrating because in a crisis, they may not be able to calm down. You don’t know what is going through their mind. If they are frantic never tell them to calm down. We can’t just calm down.

“It’s okay.” If it were okay we wouldn’t be having a crisis. We wouldn’t be having these thoughts. Don’t invalidate their feelings by saying this. I know the first thing you want to say is that everything is okay, but it clearly isn’t. If it were okay then we would be okay.

Lying to them during a crisis. This one isn’t about one specific phrase. Don’t ever lie to someone to get them through a crisis. It’s not going to help. It’s going to ruin their trust in you and they will be less likely to reach out to you in the future. The truth will come out eventually. I actually just had this happen to me. It’s heartbreaking. The day I was released from the hospital he gave me the truth. My first thought was how I wasn’t good enough for the truth. I didn’t deserve it. It plunged me back into those dark thoughts. It was wrong and extremely dangerous. He had no clue what was going through my mind as I drove away that night.

Honestly this list could go on and on but I neither have the energy or the will power to keep bringing the past into the present. There’s still too much pain there.