Q: I’ve been struggling with depression since I was about 23 yrs. old. I went to therapy for about 12 years and have been on various meds. They don’t seem to be helping much right now. I’m close to my mother and 2 older sisters, yet harbor a lot of resentment toward them for not even trying to understand my depression or even talk with me about it. They dismiss it as just something I need to get over (“everybody gets sad sometimes”).
I recently wrote them a letter trying to explain my inner world and what it is like to be me. It was so hard to write and took so much courage to give it to them. I never got a response from my sisters; they’ll call sometimes but never ask about how I’m doing. They ignore it. My mom’s response was to email me some links to websites about how to overcome depression. I’ve since talked with her by phone, but she just said I should read a book for overcoming depression. I don’t know what I expected for a response, but I’m just heartbroken & angry. I just can’t bring myself to initiate a sit down family talk. I’ve tried it; they stay behind their protective walls. What can I do about my need for emotional support from my family?
I think trying to have a sit down talk is a great idea but if you don’t feel brave enough to do it on your own, why not enlist the help of your therapist? If you aren’t currently in therapy maybe it’s time to find someone who does family therapy and treats depression to help you out on this, even if it’s just a short-term thing.
The other thing to understand is that they aren’t experts on this, you are. You are the one who knows how you feel and what you have already done to try to help yourself. I’m sure in the process you have educated yourself on depression and its treatments. Maybe if you take the approach that you can help educate them and teach them how best to support you, you might not feel so disappointed. Come from a place of empowerment and let them know what you need and what you find helpful.
Talking to your family about your depression can be difficult, but it’s an important step in getting the support and understanding you need. Here are four different ways to get your family to acknowledge your depression and talk to them about it openly and without judgment:
- Educate them about depression: Many people don’t understand what depression is or how it affects people. Sharing information about the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for depression can help your family better understand what you’re going through and how they can support you.
- Express your feelings: Let your family know how you’re feeling and how depression is impacting your life. Be honest and direct about your experiences, and try to communicate your emotions without blaming or accusing your family members.
- Ask for support: Let your family know that you need their support and ask for specific ways they can help you. For example, you might ask them to check in with you regularly, or to help you find a mental health professional to talk to.
- Be patient and persistent: Remember that it may take time for your family to fully understand and accept your depression. Be patient and persistent in your efforts to communicate with them, and continue to share your experiences and feelings in a non-judgmental way. Encourage them to seek education and resources on depression, and let them know that you appreciate their support.
Last but not least, sometimes when we aren’t getting what we need from our loved ones, we just have to accept them as they are (just like you want them to do) and find the support elsewhere. Find the local NAMI or depression support group, lean on your friends, join online groups, start your own support group, etc. Reach out and find what you need, even if it’s not coming from those closest to you. Once you do this, maybe it will free you up to feel close to your family again, even if they don’t seem to understand what your life is really like. Good luck and hang in there.