The problem with depression is that the magnitude of its depths is often kept secret. Whether due to shame or awareness, often the person who is depressed won’t let on how bad it is. They may just say they’re having a tough day or a rough season but they’re okay. What’s a concerned friend or family member to do?
There are signs, though. Signs you have to look for and look at through the lens of someone who is depressed.
A messy house may just be a sign of a tired mom who’s been woken up multiple times a night for the last week. Or it may be a sign that the woman feels so defeated by her surroundings that she is merely giving up.
A woman who jokes about not having showered for a few days may be totally fine and just choosing to spend her 10 few minutes a day sitting in peace and quiet instead of washing her hair. Or it’s possible she is severely depressed and would rather stay in bed because she feels her body and her life doesn’t matter enough for her to take care of herself.
You have to look for these signs. You have to be vigilant. And you also have to be persistent when you ask “how are you?” That is such an easy question to dodge, to laugh off, to give a one word answer to. It’s easy to brush it off and not truly answer it honestly. If you think someone may be struggling with depression, you have to ask how they are and mean it and be willing to ask follow-up questions and listen and listen more.
It will be difficult. It will be uncomfortable. You will feel like you’re crossing a line and pushing boundaries. You may be tired of hearing them bemoan their life but the annoyance you may feel is nothing compared to the weight of despair they are carrying.
And I am here to tell you that if someone is important to you and you’re worried about them and they are suffering they will be overjoyed to know someone cares about them enough to ask and to listen. But you have to do the work.
The problem with depression is that the magnitude of its depths is often kept secret. You must look closely. You must ask. You just listen.