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13 usually unspoken tips if your loved one struggles with depression.

If you love a person who has depression, you'll want to remember these things.

13 usually unspoken tips if your loved one struggles with depression.

1. Depression is not a choice.

Depression is one of the most helpless and frustrating experiences a person can have. It’s sometimes feeling sad, sometimes feeling empty, and sometimes feeling absolutely nothing at all. There are times when depression can leave someone feeling paralyzed in their own mind and body, unable to do the things they used to love to do or the things they know they should be doing. Depression is not just a bad day or a bad mood, and it’s not something someone can just “get over.” Remember: No one chooses to be depressed.


Photo via iStock.

2. Saying things like “it’ll get better,” “you just need to get out of the house,” or “you’ll be fine” doesn't help.

It’s easy to tell someone these things because you think you’re giving them a solution or a simple way to make them feel better and ease their pain. But these kinds of phrases almost always come across as empty, insulting, and essentially meaningless.

In fact, saying these phrases only creates more tension within, making people feel as though they’re inadequate, and like you’re not acknowledging what they’re going through by trying to put a Band-Aid on a much larger issue. They understand you’re just trying to help, but these words will only make them feel worse. A silent hug can do so much more than using cliched sayings. What you can say instead:

"I’m here for you. I believe in you. I believe you are stronger than this, and I believe you’ll get through this. What can I do to help you? What do you think would make you feel better?"

Avoid offering advice, but instead just let them know you’re there for them and ask them questions to help guide them in discovering what could make them feel better.

3. Sometimes they have to push you away before they can bring you closer.

People who suffer from depression often get frustrated with feeling like they’re a burden on other people. This causes them to isolate themselves and push away people they need the most, mentally exhausting themselves from worrying about whether they’re weighing down their loved ones with their sadness. If they become distant, just remember to let them know you’re still there, but don’t try to force them to hang out or talk about what’s going on if they don’t want to.

4. You’re allowed to get frustrated.

Just because someone deals with depression doesn’t mean you have to cater to all of their needs or walk on eggshells when you’re around them. Depressed people need to feel loved and supported, but if it begins to negatively affect your life, you’re also allowed to acknowledge this and figure out how to show them love and kindness without self-sacrificing.

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5. It’s important to discuss and create boundaries.

In those moments of frustration, it’s important to take a step back and look at how you can help the depressed person while also maintaining your own sense of happiness and fulfillment. Be patient. Talk to them about your concerns and explain the boundaries you need to create within your relationship. Find out something that works for both of you.

6. They can become easily overwhelmed.

Constant exhaustion is a common side effect of depression. Just getting through the day can be an overwhelming and exhausting experience. They may seem and look totally fine one moment, but in the next moment feel tired and have no energy at all, even if they’re getting plenty of sleep every night. This can result in canceling plans suddenly, leaving events early, or saying no to things altogether. Just remember that it’s not about anything you did. It’s just one of the prevalent side effects of living with the disease.

7. It’s not about you.

When you have a loved one dealing with depression, it can be difficult to understand what they’re going through and to consider how their sadness is a reflection of your relationship with them. If they need space or become distant, don’t blame yourself and wonder how you could do things differently to heal them. Understand their depression is not about you.

8. Avoid creating ultimatums, making demands, or using a “tough-love” approach.

Telling someone that you’re going to break up with them or not talk to them anymore if they don’t get better is not going to magically cure them of their illness. They won’t suddenly become the person you want them to be just because you’re tired of dealing with their problems. It’s a personal decision to walk away from someone if their issues become too much for you and your relationship with them, but thinking the "tough-love" approach will make them better is unrealistic and manipulative.

9. They don’t always want to do this alone.

It's easy to assume people dealing with depression want to just be left alone. While there may be times when they want their space, that doesn’t mean they want to face their fears alone. Offer to take them on a drive somewhere. Ask if they want to get coffee or a meal. One-on-one time when you can bring them out of their routine and connect with them can mean everything to them.

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Reach out to them unexpectedly. Remind them they don’t have to do this alone.

10. Try not to compare your experiences with theirs.

When someone is going through a rough time, we often want to share our own stories with them to let them know we've gone through something similar and can relate with their struggle. When you say something like, “Oh yeah, this one time I was depressed too...” it only makes them feel like you’re minimizing their pain. Express empathy, but don’t suppress their feelings. The greatest resource you can share with your friend is your ability to listen. That’s all they really need.

11. It’s OK to ask your friend where they are in their feelings.

How are they really feeling, and how are they coping with their depression? Suicidal thoughts are a common occurrence for depressed people. It’s OK to directly ask them how they're practicing self-care and to come up with a safety plan for times when their depression becomes too overwhelming.

12. Schedule time to spend together.

Offer to spend time with them once or twice a week to exercise, shop, or hang out together. Ask if you can cook dinner with them and plan a friend date.

Photo via iStock.

One of the hardest parts of depression is feeling too exhausted to cook healthy meals, so you can really help them out by cooking food they can store in their fridge or freezer for later.

13. Just because someone is depressed doesn’t mean they’re weak.

In his book "Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholia," author Eric G. Wilson explores the depths of sadness and how experiencing mental anguish can actually make us more empathetic, creative people. Although he explains the difference between depression and melancholia, he rejects the idea of inflated happiness that our culture and society is obsessed with and instead explains why we reap benefits from the darker moments in life.

Wilson writes:

“I for one am afraid that our American culture’s overemphasis on happiness at the expense of sadness might be dangerous, a wanton forgetting of an essential part of a full life. I further am wary in the face of this possibility: to desire only happiness in a world undoubtedly tragic is to become inauthentic, to settle for unrealistic abstractions that ignore concrete situations. I am finally fearful over our society’s efforts to expunge melancholia from the system. Without the agitations of the soul, would all of our magnificently yearning towers topple? Would our heart-torn symphonies cease?”

In a similar manner, psychiatrist and philosopher Dr. Neel Burton discusses in his TEDx Talk that some of the most influential and important people in history have experienced depression. He explains the way our culture looks at and treats depression, and how traditional societies differed in their approach, seeing human distress as an indicator of the need to address important life problems, not a mental illness.

It’s important to remember depression is not something that should be considered shameful, and experiencing it doesn’t make someone weak or inadequate.

via KOCO News 5

A story out of Moore, Oklahoma shows the power of what can happen when people look out for strangers in their communities and take action.

Michael Lynn was running some errands on June 15 on a hot Oklahoma day when he noticed a shirtless young man walking down the side of a service road. Sensing that the man needed some assistance he pulled up beside him and asked if he needed a ride.

The young man, Donte Franklin, 20, replied, "Yes, sir!"

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via KOCO News 5

A story out of Moore, Oklahoma shows the power of what can happen when people look out for strangers in their communities and take action.

Michael Lynn was running some errands on June 15 on a hot Oklahoma day when he noticed a shirtless young man walking down the side of a service road. Sensing that the man needed some assistance he pulled up beside him and asked if he needed a ride.

The young man, Donte Franklin, 20, replied, "Yes, sir!"

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."