You may think you know a lot about depression.
You know people with depression can feel sad and empty much of the time, have changes in appetite or sleeping habits, be fatigued, have decreased feelings of pleasure in things that would normally bring them joy, and possibly even have thoughts of death and dying. But the one symptom of depression you probably don’t know about, and one of the hardest ones to deal with, is loneliness.
People thrive on connection. Even most introverts need to be social with small groups or one-on-one. But when I feel depressed, I can’t motivate myself to make or keep plans, to leave the house, or sometimes even to get showered and dressed. But this doesn’t mean I don’t want company. In contrast, I want company so badly it’s actually painful. But I’m afraid to ask. I know I’m a bother to people, and I know I’m not any fun to spend time with because I’m always sad and have a hard time enjoying the things I used to love.
I feel guilty for wanting that company, for needing to have somebody around.
When I get severely depressed, I long for somebody to talk to, somebody who will understand and not judge me. But I can’t seem to open my mouth and ask for the help I need. I get trapped in my own brain, and I can hear myself screaming, but unfortunately, nobody can read my mind. The more depressed I get, the more I isolate from the outside world and the less motivation I have to reach out to people. But this is really the time I most need someone to see me, truly see what is going on, and reach out to me.
It’s sad the symptoms of depression can drive so many friends away because of the stigma of depression or because they don’t understand, or are scared, or don’t know how to help, or are busy and can’t be bothered. Because sometimes the best way to reach a depressed friend or loved one is to simply spend time with him or her, doing whatever he or she feels up to doing. Even if that’s just an evening on the couch with Netflix or bringing over coffee or dinner, just showing that you care for your friend can help them start to feel better. Even if your friend doesn’t seem to hear your words of reassurance and comfort, there still can be a benefit from your presence. It always helps to know that somebody else cares, to hear love expressed in a genuine way.
Love expressed by other people can help me so much when I’m depressed. It reminds me I’m worthy of such love and can push me a little bit closer to working on the self-love that will pull me out of the depression. So if you do have a friend or loved one who is depressed, please remember, it is so important to spend time with him or her. Depression is a disease of loneliness, and connection with other people makes all the difference in recovery.
This post originally appeared on The Mighty.