This story was originally published on The Mighty.
You may think you know a lot about depression.
You know people with depression can feel sad and empty much of the time, experience changes in appetite or sleeping habits, be fatigued, have decreased feelings of pleasure in things that would normally bring them joy, and possibly even consider taking their own life.
But the one symptom of depression you may not know about, and one of the hardest ones to deal with, is loneliness.
People thrive on connection. Even most introverts need to be social with small groups or one-on-one. But when I feel depressed, I can’t motivate myself to make or keep plans, to leave the house, or sometimes even to get showered and dressed. This doesn’t mean I don’t want company; I want company so badly it’s actually painful. But I’m afraid to ask. I think I’m a bother to people, and I think I’m not any fun to spend time with because I’m always sad and have a hard time enjoying the things I used to love.
I feel guilty for wanting that company, for needing to have somebody around.
When I get severely depressed, I long for somebody to talk to, somebody who will understand and won't judge me. But I can’t seem to open my mouth and ask for the help I need.
I get trapped in my own brain, and I can hear myself screaming, but unfortunately, nobody can read my mind. The more depressed I get, the more I isolate from the outside world, and the less motivation I have to reach out to people.
But this is the time I most need someone to see me — truly see what is going on — and reach out to me.
It’s sad that depression can drive so many friends away. Maybe it’s because of the stigma surrounding depression or because they don’t understand what it means to live with mental illness. Maybe they’re scared or don’t know how to help. But supporting a friend who is struggling with depression is easier than most people think. Because sometimes the best way to reach a depressed friend or loved one is to simply spend time with them, doing whatever they feel up to doing.
Even if it’s just spending an evening on the couch watching Netflix or bringing over coffee or dinner, showing that you care for your friend can help them start to feel better. Even if your friend doesn’t seem to hear your words of reassurance and comfort, there still can be a benefit to your presence. It always helps to know that somebody else cares, to hear love expressed in a genuine way.
Love expressed by other people can help me so much when I’m depressed.
It reminds me I’m worthy of such love and pushes me a little bit closer to working on the self-love that can pull me out of the depression. If you do have a friend or loved one who is depressed, please remember how important it is to spend time with them.
Depression is a disease of loneliness, and connection with other people can make all the difference in recovery.