Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Depression Can't be Cured with a Hug

Of all the illnesses we see and experience, depression is one of the most misunderstood. At least, this has been my experience. 

Imagine you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, or diabetes. A friend comes up to you and says “Oh, there’s no reason for you to have cancer – you have me to talk to and lean on.” Or a family member says “There’s no reason for you to have diabetes – I love you.”

I’ve actually been told these things before in regards to my depression, and have heard these things said to other people as well. And, when the depression doesn’t go away, the friend will get upset with me (or whoever they said it to), or will feel like they’re just not a good enough friend.

The Truth About Depression

Depression is usually like many physical diseases, such as cancer or diabetes. You wouldn’t expect your friendship to cure someone’s cancer. You wouldn’t expect having someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on to cure diabetes. It’s the same with many types of depression. 

Don’t get me wrong – there are some depressions (or extreme sorrow/grief periods) in which having someone to talk to can “cure” it. Depressions which are caused by a traumatic experience (divorce, death of a loved one, rape/abuse) can sometimes be short-lived, and healed with counseling and the support of friends and loved ones. But there are some which are genetically, physically based and are just not that simple.

Support – Not Cure

I’m definitely not saying to not be a friend. I’m not saying don’t be there for someone who’s depressed. You wouldn’t abandon a friend who has been diagnosed with cancer – you’d offer your shoulder to cry on, or your ear to listen to them express their anger, fears, and sorrow. But you’d never expect these things to cure them – only to perhaps comfort them a little bit. This is the same for depression. Be there if the person wants or needs a friend, but understand that it is for the purpose of offering hopefully some temporary comfort, and that it will not cure the depression. 

You’re not a bad friend if you can’t cure their depression. And the other person doesn’t distrust you or dislike you when your friendship isn’t enough to cure their depression. It is simply a fact that friendship cannot cure it. Depression is a serious medical condition that needs more than just a hug.