Help your friend fight…

Many people with disabilities struggle to get out of bed in the morning each day as I do.  However, this blog is not about the daily physical skirmishes, but instead a discussion of emotional conflicts.  These battles brew beneath the surface many times, carefully hidden from even the best of friends.  If you are willing to watch for a few signals, you might see the silent yet frantic cries for help and save a life or at least help soothe some internal pain.  The indicators could be subtle, but the dire desperation is begging for comfort from a friend.

Three hundred and fifty million people of all ages are impacted by depression.  If you read that line again, you will notice it does not say MS patients or even disabled people.  Anyone can experience depression, feelings of loss, isolation, and despair, making them question everything.  Sometimes this internal inquisition can include the value of their very own lives.  They often hide these feelings behind a painted-on smile that any movie hair and makeup team can only dream of creating. Look for these tell-tale signs to be the friend they need with the care they desire.

Your friend or loved one may have a loss of interest in previously pleasurable things.  Sometimes this loss of enjoyment may not be all activities but merely eliminating things that take the most effort. They may withdraw from friends and family as exemplified by only playing video games, sitting in front of the TV, or surfing the Web for hours and avoiding spending time with you.  Engaging with another person and meet that person’s needs require more effort than surfing the Web and may be an early sign of depression.

Sleep difficulties can easily plague your friend or loved one in several ways.  They may have significant struggles falling asleep or even staying asleep, possibly causing them to experience foggy brain throughout the day and an inability to focus.  Be aware of your friend always looks tired, talk to them, and be that listening person they may need.  It might seem like a simple sleepless night, but it could be that silent cry for help, so be that friend and a listening ear they need.  On the other hand, they may sleep extensively, finding it difficult to get out of bed and engage in normal routine activities.

Eating changes may occur, causing corresponding weight changes in the expected direction.  Eating either too much or too little, along with weight changes, can easily be misinterpreted as merely letting oneself go.  Yet this also could be a signal that your friend or loved one might have melancholy thoughts stirring deep inside.  This red flag could be the perfect opportunity for you to check-in and sincerely ask how they are doing.  Discuss their situation using open-ended questions to help them open up to you about what may be causing them distress.                                                                              

Anger and irritability can quickly come to the surface, making life a bit uncomfortable for anyone close. A depressed person battles to make it through the day, and everyday obstacles can make life downright infuriating. This action is another tell-tale sign of depression that is easy to take personally.  If this is how your friend is behaving, and it is not their typical behavior, you should take the time to help them tell their story.

Expressing negative thoughts can be another example of depression.  You may feel excited about something, yet your friend or loved one might give a downer response.  They could say something like, “What does it matter? It makes no difference” or “I don’t think that will amount to anything.”  Negative thoughts like these are a symbolic symptom of depression, and sometimes they feel almost required to throw a dampener on things.  The depressed person is not trying to make life difficult for others, even though that is often the impact of depressive thoughts and comments.  Negative thoughts and behavior can be a symptom of giving up, not thinking anything is important.

Suicidal ideas may take a passive form, such as, “I don’t care if I live or die” attitude or a more active way, such as “Sometimes I feel like driving the car off the road.”  Always take such statements very seriously.  The common myth says if a person is truly suicidal, they don’t tell others about it; they do it.  By this faulty logic, if the person is telling you about it, you might wrongly conclude that they won’t actually do it.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only are such statements key elements of depression, but they suggest that treatment is urgent.  Those contemplating suicide may want to give you a treasured personal belonging of theirs.  They believe they won’t need it after they end it. 

Now that you have found out how to tell if someone is depressed, here are some things you can do. Once you suspect depression, encourage your friend or loved one to seek consultation and treatment with a qualified person. This decision is not only for his or her sake but for yours as well. Sometimes it can also be helpful and comforting for you to offer to accompany the person to the consultation.

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

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