Lately, there seems to be an abundance of messages telling people who are struggling with depression to reach out. Reach out to friends and family for help dealing with the overwhelming sadness that plagues their mind. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, part of depression is inhibiting the ability to reach out. People are who are deeply depressed often find themselves unable to leave their house and unwilling to talk to anyone. A common side effect of depression is participating in isolating behaviors. Because of this, it’s important to know that if you see someone struggling, it’s important for YOU to reach out. Sometimes that’s what a person needs- someone to reach out and remind them that someone is there for them. If someone seems depressed or seems to fall way out of touch for no reason; reach out to them. If someone who used to be around a lot is suddenly not around at all, reach out to them and let them know you are there for them. It may take some effort, but it’s important to remember how hard sending a simple text message can be for someone who is deeply depressed.
With that said, there’s another side of reaching out- one that may not be as well known. There are messages telling people to reach out, but what happens when people who are depressed do reach out, and they people they reach out to don’t get the memo? Often times, someone who feels like they are slipping into depression will try to reach out to others because they know what’s coming. People who have suffered a long battle with depression tend to have a better understanding of their symptoms, including when they are dangerously close to isolating themselves. They know that if they put off talking to people, they may be too depressed to even pick up the phone. So, they try to reach out, but sometimes reaching out simply does not work.
Sometimes reaching out is sending messages to five different people within an hour and getting no replies. Sometimes reaching out is sending message after message to the same person day after day and never having them respond. Sometimes reaching out is sending an outrageous picture that made you laugh to someone and waiting hours for a response that never comes. Sometimes reaching out is desperately trying to spark a dying conversation back to life because you can’t stand the silence in your own head. Sometimes reaching out means continuously finding yourself at a dead end. Sometimes, you reach and reach and reach, but no one notices. And when this happens, it can reiterate the feeling that no one cares. All those thoughts about how you don’t matter to others that come with depression seem to solidify with each unanswered message.
This is why it’s important to be aware of the fact that someone may be reaching out to you. Most likely, they won’t say “I’m reaching out to you because I’m starting to feel really depressed again and I’m trying to let you know so you can help me before it gets bad.” They aren’t going to say, “I really need you to respond because I feel unwanted by everyone in my life and your response reminds me that I’m not a burden.” You won’t read the words, “Please don’t let this conversation end because your messages are my life line right now.” It will be much more subtle than this. Reaching out is someone continuously trying to make plans with you, no matter how many times you bail. Reaching out is someone who sends you several messages even though you never respond to them. Reaching out is someone who won’t seem to let a conversation end, despite the fact that you’ve been giving one worded replies for over an hour. When someone is trying to reach out to you, it can be frustrating and just plain annoying.
It’s not your responsibility to help someone who is depressed. It’s not your job to make them feel better and it’s not your job to “fix” them. You do not have to take on the responsibility of supporting someone who is depressed. However, if someone you care about seems to be blowing up your phone for no real reason, you might just want to reply. If someone you know is sending you a boatload of mindless texts or messaging you on a regular basis, they may just need you to respond. They know you can’t take away all their problems and often times, they don’t expect you to save them. More often than not, those who are depressed just want to be reminded that they matter; that people want them in their lives. They just need a little support to help them from spiraling downward into depression. Reaching out isn’t easy for those who depressed, so if someone you care about seems to be reaching their hand out to you, you may want to reach out and grab it.