I don't know if this question really applies to you...but here ya go!
So I have depression, and occasionally I get into a very sad or mellow mood, but my friends usually think I am mad at them so they stay away from me rather than actually try to talk to me and ask me what's wrong. This happened today, when one of my friends asked me if I was mad at them and I said no, after they have proceeded to shun me the entire day. Is it because of my body language or what?
Amber (age 18)
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Thanks for your letter. I am intimately acquainted with the problems associated with depression. Quick question first: are you receiving any kind of treatment for your ailment?
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Yes, I am currently on Lexapro, though it's a really small dosage.
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Okay, Amber, just wanted to be sure, first, that you were seeking some sort of treatment.
There are two basic causes of depression, as you may know: one is physiological, the other is caused by life events. In the former, a person becomes depressed because there is something amiss with their body chemistry. This can result from many factors: thyroid problems, adrenal gland problems, fibromyalgia, viral infections, brain tumors, stroke, Parkinson's disease, and on and on. This is why it can be important to see a good psychiatrist (rather than psychologist) who has medical training. The other cause of depression is a negative life event (death in the family, divorce, bad news about a disease, being bullied in school) or problems with one's behavior (drug or alcohol addiction, bad dietary and exercise practices, sleep deprivation, overwork, and so on).
In the former case, there is really no advice you can get from friends that will help. You have a medical condition. In the latter case, it kind of only works if a friend has been through the same thing you have. Even so, everyone reacts to bad life events in different ways, and what works for one person might not for another. For example, people kept telling me to go to group therapy for widowers, so, finally, I went. Didn't help at all. In fact, it made me feel worse, so I stopped going.
The thing about friends and family of those suffering from depression is that most people don't know how to handle themselves around people like you and me. We make them uncomfortable because they don't know if they can comfort us or if saying something might offend us or make matters worse. Now, in your case, it sounds as if your friends misinterpret your depression for being sullen and angry. Have you actually told them you suffer from depression? Just saying, "No, I'm not angry at you," is not really enough because they still don't know what is wrong. They might think you're lying and really are angry.
So the first step is to tell your friends what your problem really is and that you have medication for it (there's no shame in this; many people are in the same boat as you). If they come up to you and ask if they can do anything, tell them that the best thing they can do to help you is to be with you, keep you company, perhaps some hugs would be nice. If you're like me and many others, getting "advice" from people who might be well-intentioned but seriously do not understand what you are going through can be very irritating and annoying. As I always say, if you don't know what you're talking about, the best thing you can do is shut up.
But you don't need their advice. What you need is some normalcy and companionship in your life. Having your friends shun you and isolate you is going to make you feel worse, as you already know. You need to reconnect to your friends.
To do this, wait until you're in a pretty good mood and not in one of your dark moods. Talk to your friends during this time. Explain to them frankly what you are going through and give them the heads up that sometimes you may be a bit hard to deal with, but that when that happens you hope that they could come and give you a hug and try to lift your spirits by just being there for you. Tell them you don't expect them to try and solve your problems--you are working on that yourself--but you still need them in your life.
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