What screams i'm depressed
Words I can do without when I'm depressed
If you break a leg and can no longer walk as a result, nobody expects you to walk. But depression is still not taken seriously as a disease. I'm not exaggerating, unfortunately. One in five Germans thinks that chocolate would help against depression. That was the result of a representative study by the German Depression Aid. Almost 80 percent believe that going on vacation would also help. And thirty percent think that the cause of depression is character weakness.
It's all wrong. Depression is a real, serious medical illness with biological and psychosocial causes. As I read these numbers, I realized at least one reason why depressed people have to listen to stupid sayings so often. There is a lack of knowledge about what depression is.
Every time I am depressed myself - on average I get a severe attack every two and a half years - I hear or read comments about my illness from friends, family or colleagues. In many cases it is words that really do me good. However, there is also the other, destructive side. In the best case it is well-intentioned but pointless advice, in the worst case the comments border on hate. This text is about these words.
Answers that 465 people with depression can do without
I did a survey in the Krautreporter community in which I asked people with depression which words hit them particularly in an acute phase of their illness. I received 465 responses and I get more every day. Many of them shocked me so much that I had to take breaks from reading.
Between classics like: “Pull yourself together” and “think positively”, I found sentences that I could only puzzle over how they came about. It is important to read these sentences and understand why they are of no use, why they are even destructive. Because if we want to understand what helps people with acute depression, then we should also understand what bothers them and hurts them. If someone in our environment falls ill, we are better prepared.
That's why I phoned a speech scientist (with e!) Who can explain how people argue and who deals with medical conversations: Kati Hannken-Illjes. And with Christina Jochim, board member of the German Psychotherapist Association. She accompanies the mentally ill in short- and long-term therapy, both outpatient and inpatient in psychiatry. I spoke to both of them about sentences that I myself heard during an acute depressive episode and that the survey participants sent me.
Before I begin, however, I want to make one thing clear: this text is not about guilt. I don't want to point a finger at loved ones and say, you're all stupid - and here's the proof. This text is an offer to talk to. If loved ones want to know how to help people with depression, then there are things that work. And there are things that don't work.
If it were "that easy", I would have chased away my bad thoughts long ago
“You just have to get your negative thoughts out of your head. I can't help you with that either. " Why I can do without this sentence: If a person who is not mentally ill says sentences to a depressed person that start with: “You just have to…”, nothing helpful usually comes afterwards. Because if it were so "easy", I would have chased away all my negative thoughts long ago.
Part of my depression is that I constantly try to banish my dark thoughts, but it doesn't work. On the contrary, that only makes matters worse. In this case, the addition “I can't help you either” goes a step further. Because, first of all, the other person is telling me that they seem to know better than me what to do. And, second, it pulls out of the situation. The worst part of those words was that when I heard them they came from my best friend at the time when I was in the clinic - and he just stopped calling afterwards.
The words sound very similar: "Come on." Besides: “Pull yourself together”, it is the most common sentence that the participants in my survey had to hear in a depressive episode. “There is an important cultural image,” says Hannken-Illjes. “We'll go through with everything. Only the tough come into the garden, sometimes pinch your ass cheeks. This is an important motive that can be productive. It just doesn't fit into this situation. " Christina Jochim says: “People still don't understand very well what depression is. And what I don't understand, I tend to wipe away and avoid. This is how sentences such as: 'Don't mess around, everything is not that bad.' This is a coping mechanism of the relatives who are helpless themselves. "
"Hey, you know what, Jesus loves you." Why I can do without these words: When I wrote about my depression on Facebook a few months ago, I received a message with this sentence. The sender was a staunch Christian and felt that I had to be converted. Even if these words are well meant, they are of no use to me in my situation. Because they introduce a question of faith into my problem that I cannot and will not solve at this point in time. I also have the impression that someone is taking advantage of my difficult situation to do missionary work. What the person did not know is that I myself was a Christian for years - but three years ago I consciously decided against it and completely renounced this worldview. In my depression I can definitely do without these words, because even if it is true that Jesus loves me, why am I then in this difficult situation? I still don't know today.
“That is my imagination”, signals that it is not being taken seriously
The opposite of an invitation to believe in Jesus is the following sentence that Marnie quoted in my survey: "You just make up your mind." The speech scientist explains: “Actually, only you really know what is going on in you. With a sentence like this, the person pretends to know better. “Imagination suggests that someone here is not entirely sane. For those affected, this means: No matter what I say, the person doesn't take me seriously anyway. That destroys the common ground because I, as a victim, can no longer say anything. ”Christina Jochim speaks of invalidation and validation here. “Validation is the ability to convey to my counterpart that their perceptions and perspectives are first understandable. That doesn't automatically mean that I agree to it. However, many of those affected experience disability. They do not feel well and are then directly or indirectly conveyed that their feelings are not in order. "
"Antidepressants? This is how you finance Big Pharma! " Why I can do without these words: Every now and then I hear this sentence on Insta - and that sucks. I have been taking antidepressants since my first stay at the clinic in 2010. They enable me to participate in social life. Since I've been swallowing the medication, my tendency to feel very sad has clearly decreased. So it doesn't help me to be told that I am giving financial support to questionable drug companies if I am on medication that will help me. On the other hand, I cannot answer this sentence anything meaningful, because in a depression I am simply not able to discuss complex topics. In particularly bad times, I can't even speak.
Hannken-Iljes says: “One strategy that doesn't help is to engage in argumentative exchange. Because as a result, we get further and further away from what the person with depression actually needs. Because I can of course discuss what Big Pharma is. But that's not the point. ”I think she's right. Because I need the feeling of being seen and not involved in a discussion.
I “don't queue up”, I'm sick
Another inappropriate comment is: "That is the lax treatment of the youth, do not act like that." The person who mentioned this phrase in my survey wanted to remain anonymous. But she explained why the sentence hit her so hard: "It came straight from my father after I confessed to him that I had suicidal thoughts." Christina Jochim explained to me: "What those affected need is not to question the disease which has biological and psychological aspects - because that has nothing to do with weakness of character or willpower. ”Unfortunately, this has to be emphasized, because as the study I mentioned at the beginning of this text shows, a third of Germans do not know.
"Mr. Gommel, you are not on vacation here!" Why I can do without these words: In 2012 I was suicidal and had to go to psychiatry. On the first visit the chief doctor shook my hand and said this sentence. I was speechless. Because the man assumed that I was taking the hospital stay on the loose shoulder and did not recognize the seriousness of the situation. How should I react to that? The worst part was that I suddenly no longer felt safe, even though that was exactly what I needed: security. But if that was what the chief of this station thought of me, what should come next? Even today, when I write these words, a slight shudder overcomes me, this sentence is so deep. Because I was dependent on this doctor and needed his help, which I did not get at that moment.
Language has power
This is exactly where a sentence that Sabine submitted to the survey hits: "Well, I would be ashamed if my apartment looked like this." She writes: “I had just brought myself to ask my acquaintance for help. That was a big step that was very difficult for me. After the sentence I was very ashamed and now I prefer not to ask for help. "Hannjken-Illjes explains:" This sentence indirectly says: Shame on you. Actually, the person needs the feedback that it was okay to ask for help - because they had brought themselves to it. That it was worth it and that someone is there now - and that will be ruined here. ”Christina Jochim sees it this way:“ Of course there are also people who do not care about the well-being of their counterparts because they only have limited access to their own Have feelings. Not all people are empathic. "
"There used to be no depression either." Why I can do without these words: This is not the beginning of a conversation about the pros and cons of diagnosing mental illnesses in human history. Instead, people assume that today I sit back and relax on my diagnosis, whereas people used to have poor health but they did not get a convenient diagnosis. In a healthy phase of my life I would ask, "What do you mean?" Or, if I don't feel like having a discussion: "Yes, there was depression in the past too, period." But when I'm depressed, this sentence hurts me because it denies me that I have a real illness. This triggers feelings of shame and confirms my depressive thoughts like: I am exaggerating. Or: I'm a pushover.
A sentence that Uli heard sounds similarly derogatory: "No wonder you feel lonely, you are really unbearable". Hannken-Illjes: “That is devaluation. Nobody likes you anyway, and if you act like that, nobody will like you either. It also resonates: It is in your own hands to have friends and that people are nice to you. And for them to be nice to you, you have to behave in a certain way. They are not just so nice to you - and neither am I, by the way. "Christina Jochim says:" Language has power. What I hear affects what I feel. That influences what I think and that in turn determines what I feel - and that in turn influences how I act. ”I think the psychologist's first sentence is important, so I would like to repeat it here: Language has power. Sometimes more than we realize.
Relatives suffer too
Depression is not only a challenge for the sick and can even lead to suicide. Christina Jochim explained to me that relatives sometimes find it really difficult to understand when a person they find smart, attractive and likeable thinks and speaks negatively of themselves. And who also relates everything very strongly and thinks in disasters, which is more common in a depressive episode. "Sometimes encouraging sentences are a failed attempt to provide comfort if they are not accompanied by validation," says Jochim. That means: relatives should acknowledge the suffering of the depressed person, not just cheer them up.
Does that mean we have to treat people with depression differently? Yes and no, says Jochim. Yes, special circumstances require special handling, attention and empathy. At the same time, however, it is important not to reinforce a stigma. If relatives try to wrap the depressed person in cotton, there is a risk that relatives will overwhelm themselves - and ultimately withdraw. We must be careful when a person is suicidal. Because then a hurtful comment can be life-threatening for the sick person, so Jochim.
Everyone has a right to their feelings - including relatives
What particularly touched me about my survey is how precisely those affected can remember the choice of words - and how clearly they can see what hurt them about it. We all know words that hit us hard many years ago and that still concern us today. Language, we remember, has power. It can support or condemn, help or make life harder.
We sufferers have a right to our feelings. A right to be hurt. But this also applies to relatives. Because in many cases they contribute to our illness, and that is anything but easy. Depression can be terrible. But it can be just as bad to see powerless and insecure as the person you love gets worse and worse. It's not easy to be sick. But sometimes it is not easy to be healthy either.
Editing: Theresa Bäuerlein, final editing: Susan Mücke, picture editing: Till Rimmele, audio: Christian Melchert
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