Why do you want to help the person to feel better? The obvious answer may be because you care about them. Could any of these be factors too?
- Because it is my job to help them feel better
- Because if I don’t, no-one else will
- Because I care about them so much
- Because I feel better when they feel better
- Because I won’t feel happy until they feel happy too
As you have probably discovered, it is not always possible to make someone else ‘feel better’. We might think that things like buying them something as a treat, or bringing them somewhere nice will ‘cheer them up’. While we might receive a smile in reward, doing things like that for people whose mood is very low tends not to work in the long-term. This is because:
- If someone is experiencing a depressive episode it makes sense that they ‘feel sad/anxious/worthless'
- They cannot ‘feel better’ just to please someone else
- Doing nice things for someone who is experiencing a depressive episode can sometimes backfire as the person may have thoughts such as "I hate being a burden", "Why won’t they leave me alone?" & "I wish they wouldn’t spend so much money on me, I don’t deserve it"
- This might actually make them feel worse and they might beat themselves up, blaming themselves for not ‘feeling better’.
Supporting someone who has depression or bipolar can be difficult, frustrating and distressing, particularly if despite our best efforts, nothing seems to work. We might live in fear of saying the wrong thing or of somehow making things worse. And yet, if we say nothing, we might blame ourselves for not doing enough.
So how can we help someone who is experiencing depression/bipolar disorder?
The truth is that often we actually can’t!
That does not mean that we do nothing however. We just rephrase our question so that it becomes: How can I care for myself as I support the person I care about?
Supporting the person with depression: What significant others need to know - Dr. Declan Lyons