It is often very difficult to reach a severely depressed person and by saying the wrong (but often well went) words you might create an even bigger distance. I have listed a few of these well-meant examples that can be differently formulated to help you.
‘Enjoy your baby’. Ohh how I didn’t like it when people said this to me. It took me literally over a year to finally understand what people meant by ‘enjoying your baby’. Severely depressed people can’t enjoy anything. Their baby can cute, beautiful and sweet but if mom is mentally not well, this comment will not be appreciated as she probably can’t enjoy anything. I would have appreciated a comment like ‘try to take good care of yourself’ much more. Especially because it has the word ‘try’ in it. Saying ‘take good care of yourself’ might be appreciated less as it might feel more imperative. If she says ‘yes, I will’ and she fails, she might feel like she is lying which can make her feel guilty (depressed people can feel guilty about anything and everything). If she says ‘yes I will try’ and it does not work out, she at least tried and feel less like a failure.
‘Can I do anything for you?’ This question is also meant so well but as I was mentally so messed up that I couldn’t even make the smallest decisions. I had to answer this question with ‘no’ even though I could use some help. It is better to ask closed questions like:
- Can I make you some tea?
- The sun is shining, shall we go for a walk?
- Do you want to take a shower while I take care of the baby?
- Shall I vacuum/do the dishes/cook?
‘How are you doing?’. This is a question in which the only socially acceptable answer is ‘ok’. You probably won’t get an honest answer. I had to think about a good alternative for this question for a while. You don’t want to skip this question as you are sincerely interested in the persons well being but you also don’t want to make her feel uncomfortable. What could be an alternative is ‘great seeing you again. You look a little better than last time’. This way you skip the direct question ‘how are you’ but you don’t ignore her well being. You also don’t exaggerate as you say ‘a little’. If you would say ‘you look great’. She probably won’t believe that.
Having a severely depressed loved one can be difficult as you often want to help but don’t know how. I hope these examples can help you out a bit.