You’re going to find very quickly that when you’re depressed, nearly everyone’s got advice for you. Everyone thinks they know what’s best and what you ought to do.
It’s well-intentioned, and it’s not all bad—but in that very moment, when you’re in the colorless fog, those motivational one-liners are often tacky, tone-deaf, and untenable.
If depression robs you of your ability to logically comprehend and make sense of life, then any advice or solution is not going to reach into the heart of depression.
Both the church culture and pop culture endorse a sort of “powering through” because it really translates to, “I don’t have time to get involved with your struggle.” What’s really being said is: “Pray more and be positive so I don’t have to deal with you.”
Theology and wisdom have their place, but I suspect that we spout them to rush the hurting past their hurt, because it hurts too much to sit in their furnace. It’s a kind of reverse projecting: I can’t bear to look into my own uncertainty when I see yours.
My urge to offer advice has good intentions, but it’s also a way to offload the hard work of navigating the wound with the wounded. I offer a reason of certainty because it’s easier than traveling with the hurting in the uncertainty. It’s a way to protect myself from answering the unanswerable. I don’t like the silence because it makes me uncomfortable. I have to offer something or else it makes me feel helpless.
It’s the same reflex that happens when some of us see someone cry. “Don’t cry,” we might say, even though very often, crying is the only way to heal through the river of all we have held inside. I’ve found that when I say, “Don’t cry,” that’s about protecting me from discomfort rather than leaning into your hurt and healing.
So all my advice makes your pain, your tragedy, and your depression, about insulating me, instead of moving towards you.
You can do one from the rooftops, but the other means diving into the smells and groans of their misery.
It’s dirty. It’s work. And no one naturally wants to pay the high cost of navigating someone’s pain.
— J.S. Park | How Hard It Really Is
Photo by Chris Wright
One thought on “Everyone’s Got Advice About Your Depression”
It’s true how advice or solutions can sound dismissive when we’re going through this stuff. You use words like navigating/traveling/etc… that sound like going from that place to somewhere else. With that in mind, can you offer some advice on what navigating with someone else looks like?