I have my own list. Here are 10 things you definitely DON’T want to say, a collection of the gems that I heard when well-intentioned people opened their mouths and said something really stupid to me the two years I was in sorry shape.
1. It’s all in your head. You need to think positive.
Upon hearing this, I wanted to throw a life-size figure of Tony Robbins at them. Because, while optimism is certainly important in training the brain, studies have shown that people who are severely depressed or acutely anxious only activate their amydalas (fear center of the brain) by forcing positive thinking
2. You need to get out of yourself and give back to the community.
This is one that certainly made bad things worse. Because now, in addition to feeling severely depressed, a person also feels guilty and self-absorbed. Yes, giving back is important, but only when a person is healthy enough to hold a ladle at a soup kitchen.
3. Why don’t you try and exercise?
This is good advice. Exercise has strong antidepressant effects. However telling someone that they need to exercise is a little like telling someone their butt looks fat in those jeans. You need to hint at it, but not put it directly on the table, or else the person may very well take up kick-boxing and practice with you.
4. Shop at Whole Foods and you will feel better.
Why does this get me? Because 1) I don’t have the money to shop at Whole Foods, and 2) although I know that my diet affects my mood, and the more organic the better, I resent your telling me that my Frosted Flakes is what’s causing power outage in the left frontal lobe of my brain.
5. Meditation and yoga are all you need.
Correction: meditation and yoga may be all that people experiencing mild and moderate depression need. Both are important tools to reduce depression. However, acute anxiety and severe depression are different animals altogether. In fact, my suicidal thoughts worsened with yoga.