When you are in a low place, emotionally, people do all sorts of things to try to cheer you up even though you are obviously showing your desire for isolation by being curled into a tight, sobbing fetal position for days on end. Occasionally, very occasionally, the very fact that someone in your life cares about you enough to try to alleviate a depression actually works, and you begin counting your blessings. However, that seems to mostly only work if your depression is revolving around the notion that you are all alone, or otherwise unliked. Maybe it actually helps people very frequently, but I don’t realize that because I seldom feel universally unliked, or, my depressions are so ridiculous that I can take any rainbow and turn it into a SHITBOW. I’m a treat all around.
But, I am going to try to help you, and me, today, by describing some of the methods people use to cheer up a sad sack, and give us all tips on how to handle these actions gracefully, or even at all. Remember, most friends and acquaintances MEAN well, and it is to that intention that you should cling. If you aren’t so sad that you can only ever be rude, thank them sincerely for their efforts and keep your tears inside until you can lock yourself away in another room. Let them think they helped you, if only a little. If you just explode into a weeping jag, they will think you are ungrateful and may never try to help you again (everyone is selfish like that and turns every situation into being About Them, it is how people do. It’s what you are doing right at that moment, too). But you want them to try again and again because you never know when it will be a depression where you need a friend to care and to be kind. YOU NEVER KNOW. So don’t blow this.
“C’mon, Don’t Be Sad! LOOK! BABY ANIMALS!”
the Reasoning: When people are happy, or at least not-depressed, they can actually see the good things in life. That Louis Armstrong song is constantly playing in their minds and they can see what a Wonderful World it is that we live in. They only see sunshine and lollipops. The skies are blue and baby animals are cute, and they forget or don’t even know in the first place why it is that you do not see that too. And what happens when communication breaks down like that? The person trying to help begins speaking louder and with simpler words, as if the other person has become broken or moronic. In the scenario of Mood Miscommunication, what often happens is that the loud happy helpful person just starts shoving cute pictures in your face until you magically understand. (Note: This might happen mostly to Sad Girls when Helpful Boys have no idea what else to do. I have no idea if grown men send pictures of baby animals to each other).
Your Possible Reaction: When people are depressed, they can only see horrible things in life. They only have that Louis Armstrong Wonderful World playing through their mind, which if you don’t know, is the SADDEST SONG IN THE WORLD when you are sad. They don’t see sunshine and lollipops – they see skin cancer and childhood obesity, so when you see a baby animal, you might not see “cute.” Fluffy fur and big eyes might not register to you. No. What you as the sad person might see instead is that baby animal’s transition into adulthood, betrayal, danger, neglect, and eventual and very sad End. Your so-called “helpful” friend just showed you these as a reminder of how cruel life is, to everything, even the cutest things. We all start out as cute and defenseless as these baby animals, and we all endure hardship, and we all die. We all die. Never, ever express these thoughts to that helpful friend.
What You SHOULD Say: “Thank you. How can a world be bad when there exists in it these sweet baby otters? Thank you, thank you.” They are Happy People. They won’t detect the sarcasm, nor how dead inside you sound.
“You Think YOU Have It Bad? Well Let Me Tell You About MY Horrible Life”
the Reasoning: Some people don’t know how to understand anything unless it is Directly Relating to Them, Personally. It is just how they experience the world. If it has happened to them, then they understand it, and they think everyone is the same way as this. They don’t see this as being in any way self-absorbed, so when they answer everything with a personal anecdote, they believe they are showing you that they Really Understand, because See? It Has Happened to Me, Too! They feel it is the most genuine heart to heart they can offer, a mirroring of pain, or if they think you need to feel better, showing you that they have had it worse and lived to tell the tale, and tell it again and again in the face of anything you are feeling.
Your Possible Reaction: In all likelihood, you will think your friend is an ass. Turning despair into a pissing competition?? That is not something anyone should want to win. In fact, why do you even count such a self-centered misery-monger as a friend? This person is scum. This person is annoying scum. These are the things that an Indignant Sad Mind will likely think. Which is still an improvement over straight depression. At times like that, it is nice to know that you CAN feel other emotions than a soul-draining sorrow. Take solace in that as well as the idea that your friend MEANS WELL but is just at the emotional lizard stage of development and so cannot express themselves as a human being older than the age of five. The other possibility, if you are a sap, is that you will get more depressed that your great friend has ever suffered worse than this.
What You SHOULD Say: “I am glad you shared your pain with me. You opening up to me like this and reminding me of your tribulations again puts my situation into perspective. I will be fine, thank you.” Don’t worry, they won’t notice for AGES that you don’t talk to them very much anymore after that.
“Here Let Me List All of the Things About You and Your Life That I Value and Envy; Let Me Hit On You Because You Probably Just Feel Ugly”
the Reasoning: A lot of people believe that a depressed person is sad because of self esteem issues. Maybe these people learned about what depression is during high school when every teen’s every problem was directly related to cripplingly poor self esteem? I don’t know, but it happens that many people for the rest of our lives think that what YOU need is a good old-fashioned Ego Boost! If you are reminded of how good you have it, surely all negative outlooks will instantly evaporate into a pitiful haze of blue. “You’re attractive! You have so many friends! You have these talents, let me list them! In fact, I wish I WAS YOU because your life is genuinely so great! It is SO GOOD! So why would you ever feel sad? Do I need to repeat myself again? You are sooooo great. I know what you need me to do – I need to flirt with you! You’ll get flattered right back to your old self again, you beautiful thing you! I don’t understand why are you being so difficult and repulsed by my conclusions! You must WANT to be sad!”
Your Possible Reaction: God, maybe your friends who don’t understand this think you are a melodramaqueen who is spoiled and wishing for attention. These are the same people who scoff at celebrities for being rich and famous and powerful and yet are still sad and go into some rehabilitation program for depressions, or who drown themselves in drugs and drink. “Puh, if *I* had everything they had, *I* wouldn’t be sad.” Listen. Sometimes when you logically know that you SHOULD be happy with your life, but still feel sad, it is the worst of all because you cannot logically deduce what you can do for yourself to feel any better. You can’t just get a better job, or get a new romantic relationship. You aren’t dealing with a death via a well-known Steps of the Mourning Process guide. You feel irrationally miserable and as far as you know, there is nothing you can do about it. I wouldn’t recommend trying to explain this to that friend, however. That’s not what they want to hear. They just want to hear:
What You SHOULD Say: “… You know? You’re RIGHT. Life IS great! I DO have it good. And I have it all the better because I have a great friend like you!” Do not go along with their flirtations though, it will only make you feel cheapened afterward.
“At Least You Aren’t Like These Other People”
the Reasoning: This is kind of along the same reasoning as your self-absorbed competitive friend, except this friend here is a little more universally-minded. They are aware of human suffering all around the world. They have read Reader’s Digest. They KNOW suffering. And they have a million anecdotes of specific tragedies for you to mull over. “Your dog died? Well this one guy’s entire family and all of their dogs died in some ridiculously horrendous circumstance. You’re worried about paying your bills? Well did you know that in these third world nations, some people are so poor that they have to live in tree stumps and only own one article of clothing? Shorts granted to them by our government, actually, I think. Any concern you have, I have heard worse because there is ALWAYS worse.”
Your Possible Reaction: “Yeah, thanks. We all know there is ALWAYS worse. There is always better, too. But it is nice to remember that the world is just a big sphere of pain from top to bottom. My personal sadness has just been compounded with the world’s sadness and magnified to never before seen levels of woe and torment.” I have never understood the rationale of “at least I don’t have it as bad as this other guy.” Selfishness on that level doesn’t fly with me. I am not going to derive pleasure from knowing that compared to someone else, I have it great. I would just get more depressed for feeling like a dick if I ever felt better from such. No, instead what I do is just take on that guy’s sadness as well. And if I am being told stories about how these people who have it worse than me also soldiered on and are happy people thankful to even be alive, it just makes me feel inadequate and terrible. But not inadequate in a way that bolstering my self confidence would be welcomed.
What You SHOULD Say: “Yes. I am happy to just be alive. That’s all I need, that’s all any of us need.” Don’t get out your brown paper bag to breathe into until after they leave.
“… You Wanna Talk About It?”
the Reasoning: Some of us have a caring support center of friendship cradling us every day as we live our lives. These friends Actually Care and are sad to see that you are troubled. Some of these friends will actually offer to give you a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to your concerns. They are secretly hoping that you won’t want to talk about it, because those conversations are often Very Heavy Indeed. However, you should be so thankful that they are willing to take that risk. It is the sign of a True Friend. — Or it might be that you know a Gossip who delights in the wretchedness of others and is taking one for the team just to fish you for drama. You really never know with people. It still is a burden to those kinds of friends though.
Your Possible Reaction: You might believe your friend, and really, your friend might be legitimately concerned and really would not mind being weighed down with your troubles just so you can potentially feel better. So you might just unload EVERYTHING onto these poor sweet people. An unloading may or may not work for you, but it will certainly make this person in your life, this treasure of yours, to become sadder themselves. Also, if you become sad frequently, that means hours upon hours of saddening your friend(s). Lord, if you decide that you NEED to talk about it, then be certain that it WILL help – and don’t abuse this privilege. I mean, Talking About It is what psychiatrists are for. Is it any wonder why they charge so much? It is a burden, and they don’t even care about you. Imagine what it does to someone who DOES care.
What You SHOULD Say: “No, no. It’s nothing really. I’m sure I’ll be fine. In fact, you even offering to listen just helped me immensely. :3 Thanks.” Be sure to hide the tears welling up in your eyes, maybe say that you were thinking about slicing onions and it made your eyes tear up. Otherwise, they might insist that you tell them what is troubling you. Those poor, wonderful fools.
So there you go. I believe those are the five most common “helps” you are confronted with in times of pain – or variations and combinations of them. Hopefully, you will be able to walk out of this article with your shoulders back, a smile plastered across your face, and a laugh in your throat. Fool those people out there into thinking you are perfectly fine! Bottle up those Real Feelings, repress them, take them out when you are alone and not going to bother anyone. It is the polite thing to do. It is the RIGHT thing to do.
Amanda lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a complete hermit in many respects, so if you find her out-of-doors, consider yourself lucky, Bucko!
Contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org
or maybe AIM: octocakes