10 Things You Should Never Say to Someone with Depression/PTSD

Dez shared a link on Facebook pertaining to things you should never say to a mother of one child. I then found the adoptive parent one, the pregnant woman one, and the divorcee one. These inspired me to write my own. I don’t expect everyone to be able to relate, though. Keep in mind that this isn’t a guide for how to act around someone with depression/PTSD. You’re on your own there. These are honestly in no particular order. I think this mostly applies to depression, though. A vast majority of people in this world treat depression as if it’s some pedestrian happening, and I think that’s the reason so many people are still ignorant (uneducated) about it.

  1. “If it makes you feel any better, there’s someone else out there who has it worse. You’ve got food, shelter and clean water.”

    Telling me this doesn’t make me feel better. Actually, I think this has got to be THE absolute worst thing anyone has said to me thus far. Granted, it ties in with the next thing on this list, but telling me I’ve food, clean water and a roof over my head doesn’t do anything. I know I have it. I can’t choose to not be depressed. I didn’t choose for it to happen to me. People get depressed for various reasons, and this phrase just wants me to switch lives with a homeless person so you’ll think I have an adequate reason to be depressed. To be honest, any reason is an adequate reason to be depressed, as depression affects all of its victims differently.

  2. “What are you doing? This isn’t normal. Stop acting like this.”

    You think I don’t know this isn’t normal? If you know about my depression and how I’m feeling on the inside (and I’ve never told anyone the complete details of it), you’ll definitely know not to ever bring normality into a depression/PTSD discussion. Actually, I don’t even think you have to know a lot about depression/PTSD to know this line just makes me feel even worse. This ties first place with #1. I should also probably mention that it’s not an act, it’s a feeling—and depression really puts emphasis on how feelings override facts. It takes a while to get people on the outside1 to understand it.

  3. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

    I’m feeling sorry for myself? You know, that feeling never crossed my mind at all until you mentioned it, and now the thought is there. Look what you just did. You might as well call me out on being overly sensitive as well. I’m going to take everything you say seriously not because I want to, but because I can’t help it. Because I feel so horrible and pointless and whatnot. The way I feel is too much for words. Besides, it’s a mental thing for me. It’s in my head just as much as being ignorant is in your head.

  4. “But you were happy yesterday. You’re bipolar.”

    For your information, my mom was so sure of this as well since she and my brother have it. I’ve been tested for it. However, the psychologists I went to in March said it’s not exactly genetic. I saw two different ones, and they each said that people with depression can have their happy moments. They have mood swings, and it’s normal. The lady psychologist also said that there’s much more to bipolar disorder than people think, and she doesn’t see it too much in me. Now it’s my turn to ask you, “How do you know I wasn’t faking it to make you happy?” Unfortunately, this one is like #2—you are, once again, calling me abnormal. This shows your ignorance even more. If you’re not knowledgeable in depression/PTSD, you have no right to justify anything.

  5. “Try not to ____________.”

    Don’t you think I thought of that before? That’s like telling me to try to be happy. I’ve tried. I’ve tried and faked it just to see if faking it will work. It doesn’t work. Depression is much more than just trying. I can’t try not to think about it, either. I didn’t choose to think about it. If trying worked, I never would have had to quit my job. I didn’t want to, you know. However, a few days of having dreams about how I could kill myself proved to me that quitting my job and getting better is much more important than saving a few paychecks for a new phone since mine is so crappy and turns off all of the time.2

  6. “I know how you feel. I was depressed for several days.”

    Seriously? Depression is more than just feeling sad or blue or down in the dumps. It’s a mental feeling of physically being stuck in a pit with only a shovel.3 Feel free to lay down and watch the people walk around your pit, because you can’t get out without a ladder. Screaming and shouting doesn’t help.

  7. “Have you tried _________?”

    This is like #6. It also implies that you’re still being ignorant, and you still think that I can be cured in a snap! There is no cure for depression, just like there’s no cure for cancer and diabetes yet.

  8. “It gets better.”

    That doesn’t help me right now. This is like telling me to try not to think about/live in the past, but instead telling me to live in the future. Telling me that it gets better doesn’t really help me right now. It’s not encouraging/comforting to me at all, either.

    Update 16 July, 2017: I’ve come to the conclusion things don’t “get better”, but we do adapt and get used to them—and this becomes our “new normal”, which creates the illusion that things get better. Still, it’s a harmful phrase and promises a future where things “will be better”, thus offering false hope from a flat-out lie. What’s more important is focusing on the right now instead of doling out platitudes, because living in the moment is more important than trying to live in the future—especially when/since we’re not promised another day. This isn’t to say living in the past is bad—such a thing cannot be helped much when it happens because of PTSD.

  9. “You can’t have PTSD. That’s only for people in the armed forces. What gives you the right to have that when you haven’t even fought for our country?”

    Yet another proof of your blatant ignorance. Maybe this is why people think PTSD is so pedestrian to people who aren’t war veterans. It can happen to anyone and everyone, and like depression, it varies from person to person. Who gave the people who raised me the right to neglect/abuse me for the majority of my life?

  10. “What’s wrong?”

    This is pretty much the same as telling me I’m abnormal.

To go on with this post, I searched Google for a list of ways to insult someone with depression. It’s so hilarious that some things from my list are on that list as well. Hopefully it’ll give you a greater idea of the point I’m trying to get across.

Other useful links:

  1. AKA people who know zilch about the matter.
  2. I never wanted to quit. Why don’t people get that? They act like I just threw away a paying job that a lot of people in this country are in desperate need of. I didn’t want to do it.
  3. I am not implying that you yourself digs that pit; I’m merely inferring that it’s the way people end up making me feel in the end—as though I’m the one who put myself there. That’s the point I’m trying to make here.

Leave a Comment

Comments on this post

Rae Wright’s gravatar

Thank you for posting this as it is so true. People do not understand it’s what we as individuals face each day and if we are getting knocked down for being in a low, what good is that doing for any of us.
I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2005 and I struggle with it daily, you can’t just get over it like people want you to do.

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Michelle’s gravatar

I hated when people told me I was feeling sorry for myself and stuff.
I was not medically diagnosed, but I knew I had depression. I did not take anything to get over it. It was one of the worst stages of my life and no one knew about it because I felt that no one could help me – it was triggered due to some serious issues from my first high school.
I still have my moments of sadness but it is not as terrible as when I was younger – it lasted for about two years.
It was really hard because no one knew how I felt – I WANTED to be happy, but just could not be.

Thanks for posting this – I really could relate 🙂

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Robin’s gravatar

I especially liked what you wrote for #1. To me, that is the equivalent of parents telling you that people are starving in China or Africa. It is sad, but how is feeling guilty supposed to help them OR you?

From my experience, a person who says “Stop feeling sorry for yourself” really means “I want more attention and I want us to focus on MY problems”.

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Lilly’s gravatar

Thank you! I can’t tell you how much it annoys me when people treat people with depression like they’re being melodramatic or something. Being on Tumblr has really helped me see how many people struggle depression and get offended at stuff like this, too. It’s really messed up that people think PTSD is for veterans only; I haven’t heard that before, but really?? War isn’t the only traumatic thing in life. >_>

I never thought things like “What’s wrong?” were offensive, if it was in a caring way, but it just didn’t really help much. Depression is a mental disorder, after all. I do find myself saying things like, “You can get through this,” when I find other people with depression, but it’s because I don’t know what else to say. Depression makes people feel like nothing will get better, so it’s super hard to try to talk someone out of killing himself.

It’s a sticky situation but people should be more aware that depression is a mental disorder, not something “cool” or “temporary.”

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Liza’s gravatar

Agreed.

I grew up being told there was something wrong with me. I think that’s why that line bothers me.

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Stephanie’s gravatar

I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and can say that there’s nothing wrong with you from what I see!

Also – a tip I just remembered from someone I knew who had a family history of depression, was combating depression constantly, and even had a suicide in the family: put a note in your wallet, or something that you open and see often for short periods of time at once. The note should say something like “I am awesome. I can make yummy enchiladas!”

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