Updated: Jul 23
Many would describe depression as a dark cloud of sadness that hovers over them.
If you have depression…
You want it to go away, leave you alone, but no matter what it follows you everywhere you go.
You become desperate for help but it feels like you can’t get it.
You talk about it to your friends and family but they don’t understand.
You feel disconnected, sad and helpless.
“Nobody gets it”
“No one understands me”
People with depression commonly share feelings of loneliness in addition to feelings of not being understood by the people around them. I wrote a blog post, "What Is Depression? And Do I Have It?", really simplifying what it is and what it is like. Depression is not an easy thing to live with.
Even resenting the people closest to them for not being able to help or be there for them at their lowest.
In retrospect, we shouldn’t accuse our friends and family of not being understanding our own situation entirely. Because depression can be different for anyone and most people who don’t have depression don’t truly don’t understand it.
…and we shouldn’t blame them.
But rather, we should understand our situation and take actionable steps to get the help and emotional support that we need…and you can do this without losing your friends and breaking your relationships.
When You Feel Like Your Friends Don’t Care About You
People deal with their own depression differently and those who have never had depression will not understand it.
It’s not their fault for not having gone through depression nor knowing how to deal with someone who has depression. And really there should be no one to blame.
Generally, we all should recognize that depression is a mental health illness that affects the individual as well as the people around them.
I Don’t Have Any “True” Friends
Can I be honest with you?
I have a lot of friends. Like A LOT.
How I Categorize My Friends
Friends I’ve grown up with. Went to the same elementary school, middle school, and/or high school.
Friends from college. I bonded with them because of our shared hatred for a professor and long nights of absurd studying for an exam that at the time I strongly believed would determine my fate.
Friends from work. We get along at work, take breaks at work but only at work. Occasionally, we may hang out outside of work.
Friends whom I’ve have met through other friends. Usually, these friends are friends because we have similar interests. But it doesn’t get any deeper than that. Just the occasional hanging out just to get out of the house kind of friendship.
Friends with whom I can have deep meaningful conversations.
I know…such an exhausted list of friends.
But honestly, I wouldn’t trust any of these guys to save me from anything. Not even from depression.
…and I’m okay with it.
No matter what, they are all my friends to some degree but they aren’t necessarily friends I would go-to for help. With the exception of a few.
What To Do When Your Friends Can’t Help You: Get New Friends
This doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to ditch the friends we have now to make room for new ones.
(see my blog post "Hey Google! How Can I Make Friends").
You can keep your friends in addition to seeking new friendships.
Who says you can’t?
A few months ago, I started my own MeetUp group where I invite people to come to hang out with me for a cup of coffee.
There was the traditional, getting to know each other introduction that eventually led to a conversation on mental health. Having worked with a mental health start-up (Wellnite) I was all ears. Turns out two of the girls in this meeting were both diagnosed with bipolar…and even high-fived each other for it.
I thought to myself…”Bonding over being bi-polar?… I guess..”
I marveled at the exchange before me. How can these two strangers bond over their mental illness? Isn’t it in fact an illness?
But it doesn’t matter.
What I witnessed before me, was a budding new friendship that had developed due to shared experiences. It was the genesis of a new meaningful relationship for both of them. (See blog post: "The Cure For Loneliness Is Building Meaningful Relationships")
They exchanged stories of how they were diagnosed, how they have dealt with it, what medications they were taking…etc. Such an interesting exchange to see.
It was like another round of the #MeToo movement but for mental illness
…and I was happy for both of them that they were able to connect and share their mental health struggles with each other.
Because sometimes one’s mental health isn’t the easiest topic to talk about.
What To Do When Your Friends Can’t Help You: Join A Support Group
In this case, joining a support group for depression can help you connect with other people going through the same thing.
Support groups are a great way to share personal experiences, feelings, coping strategies, treatments, and more information about the illness.
A person’s relationship with a doctor or other medical personnel may not provide adequate emotional support, and a person’s family and friends may not understand the impact of a disease or treatment (MayoClinic).
Thus, having a support group, for any medical condition such as depression, helps fill the gap between medical treatment and the need for emotional support.
Most of us have this idea that our friends should always be there for us. But in reality, this isn’t always the case.
We should be mindful that the people who are closest to us may not understand the impact of our own depression.
Instead, we can help ourselves receive the help that we need by making meaningful connections and allowing ourselves to receive emotional support from the people also going through the same thing. (Also see blog post, "6 Way To Connect With People")