Where’s the Empathy For Anxiety and Depression?
People tend to act as if they know more than us about our own mental health problems
I’m not going to dwell on the scientific, psychological, or academic ruminations of anxiety and depression. I’d rather speak of it from an in-your-face experience, personal perspective, and how this world, despite admitting that it knows little, still acts otherwise.
A person who deals with anxiety disorder and depression normally gets the following responses:
1.“You should pray more. You should involve yourself in deeper prayer. It helps a lot.”
Depression isn’t just about a lack of prayer life. That’s a rather one-dimensional response. Believe me when I tell you that even the most prayerful, most spiritually-inclined individual may fall prey to this condition. It’s an unfair presumption that someone who is undergoing depression and anxiety disorder is one who has little faith, who has denied or rejected it altogether.
Admittedly, I was asked why my prayers seem to be filled with anxiety. That statement took me aback. People who know me well see me as a man of prayer. I say this without trying to place myself on a pedestal, but to state frequent comments I get from people around me. But this is also proof enough that men of prayer are not automatically immune from this condition. It grants me a better fighting chance, perhaps, with prayer as a coping mechanism, but I’m not necessarily spared from it.
2. “You need to stop looking for affirmation or honor from people around you and start to get to know yourself better. You need to stop projecting your desires and yourself on other people”
Without shooting down the veracity of mental illness, it can still be a one-dimensional response. Anxiety disorder and depression, while maybe a result of one’s insecurities and deeply-rooted issues in life, are not always the means or the end-all. These may be triggers, yes, but it doesn’t automatically mean they are the root causes. Anxiety and depression strike even when one least expects it, regardless of one’s outlook in life.
3. “Why not talk about your problems with someone?”
Talking to someone can help, and its benefits are undeniable. But having an anxiety disorder or depression isn’t always about having a problem in life, so please stop looking at a person with an anxiety disorder or depression as just someone simply loaded with problems in life and can’t seem to deal with them head-on.
4. “Hormonal imbalance? Isn’t that a girl thing?”
One, this statement is sexist. Two, it’s just downright insensitive. Anyone can deal with hormonal imbalance, regardless of sexual orientation. ‘Nuff said.
5. “So, what are you anxious about? What are your thoughts and emotions? Can you identify them?”
We appreciate the concern as friends or family, but we’d appreciate it if you’d refrain from asking us questions in a manner as if it’s a session with a psychiatrist or guidance counselor. It just lacks empathy and simply reeks of fishing for information.
6. “Maybe you should try doing this or that, or try taking this or that. I know of someone who did this or that thing, or tried this or that thing, and it worked. You should, too”
We understand it’s out of genuine concern, but please, we’re not guinea pigs, for one thing. We’re your friends or family.
7. “It’s this person or that person’s fault that you’re having depression and anxiety.”
Believe me, pointing fingers and playing the blame game does not help the person the least bit. It actually puts them in a more compromising position. As I mentioned, these people or situations may be possible triggers, but to put the blame solely on them as the root cause of things does not justify things. Triggers may be root causes, or contributors, or a combination of both. So stop the accusatory response or remarks to anyone in close contact with someone who is dealing with anxiety disorder and depression.
8. “You’re just being overly sentimental or emotional about things.”
One line that’s thrown at people with anxiety disorder and depression over and over without really considering the fact that it’s not about being overly sentimental, or being too emotional. Trust us to tell you that if it were in our power, we would just brush this whole thing off as if it were dust we swept from our shoulders.
9. “You’re just like everyone else, overusing and feeling woke about the words ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’.”
See that’s the problem, we’ve created an environment wherein we just so casually throw the words depression and anxiety as if they’re just your average, everyday, run-of-the-mill emotions that anyone can use to describe a negative thought or response to an event without being really clear of the emotions themselves.
10. “So what, you’d rather end up like so and so who also underwent depression?”
For goodness’ sake, give us a fighting chance!
People tend to say more stuff. People tend to act as if they know more than us about our own mental health problems, and worse, people tend to treat anxiety and depression nonchalantly or indifferently.
Anxiety and depression are no laughing matter, cliché as it may sound, and true empathy is the most potent weapon in walking with people who go through it.
My question is, would you do the same for me?