I’ve noticed that now that everyone knows what I’m dealing with and going through that they don’t know how to act when they see me or my family. It’s awkward and people don’t know what to say. So I’m writing this to help you how to interact.
Don’t ask, “How are you doing?” or “How are you feeling?” The reason: I feel worse than you can imagine. There are levels and levels of pain and issues that come up as a result of that. You don’t really want to know and I don’t really want to trap you with a long explanation I don’t even want to tell you the truth… that I feel completely crappy. You can imagine how that would go. No, I’m going to lie to you. I’m going to tell you that I’m just fine. Right as rain. Because I don’t want to drag you down or be rude… and explaining how I am doing would take a while… and you’re not aware of the Pandora’s Box you’ve opened. So I protect you from that with a fake smile and a quick lie, “I’m fine!” Please don’t make me lie.
I understand that this is a natural thing to ask anyone, especially someone that’s ailing… but with depression it’s the worst question you can ask. My wife doesn’t even ask. Asking that puts my brain into a self aware state. In an instant I realize that I don’t feel well, that I’m going to disappoint the person asking with the truth, how awkward the situation is, that my whole life, even silly little human interactions, has been affected by this disease and that the future is most likely going to be filled with more things like this and pretty much my entire life and future is screwed. So yeah. It’s a bad question to ask.
Just say, “Hello”, “Good to see you,” or “Please walk away. You’re depression is getting on me.” It doesn’t require a response and doesn’t force me to lie to your face.
Don’t make a huge fuss aka hugging or saying that you’re praying for me. The reason: I want to be treated normal. Normal gives me hope. Like this mess isn’t going to ruin the rest of my life. If you hugged me before, you’re allowed. But if you’ve been praying… though I do appreciate that… I don’t want it broadcasted to the world. Why? Because I’m embarrassed. I’m ashamed of my depression. Just imagine if you had some problems with your butt. Butt problems. Would you want people hugging you because of and saying they’re praying for your butt? No. You’d want them to act normal and not draw attention to your issue. Your butt issue.
Again, it’s natural for people (especially church people) to want to connect and express their concern. But though it makes you feel better having expressed it, it doesn’t have the effect you would hope it would. Instead just shake my hand or a high-five would be cool. And instead of saying, “We’re praying for you”, you could say something like, “We bought you a gift card for that place you like.” Much better than an awkward hug.