Posted by: Jill Potts Jones | December 12, 2017

How to Share About Your Depression With Your Loved Ones

(The following post was written by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, author of “Hope Prevails” and the “Hope Prevails Bible Study”.  Depression is a growing issue in our society.  Dr. Bengston is not only a neuropsychologist she also suffered from depression. Her book is an authoritative look at how God’s Word can pull you from the dregs of despair into the joy of hope.)

[Dr. Michelle Bengston} I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how I’d gotten to this place. I was the doctor. I was supposed to have the answers. I was supposed to be immune.


That’s just it, no one is immune from the possibility of depression. It attacks regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic status.


I avoided his eyes, as I stared out the car window, my body frozen in place by fear. Not sure I wanted to go on living, but not really wanting to die either. I just wanted the pain to end.


“Honey, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do to help…” my husband declared upon hearing my desperate condition.


If my life was going to be this painful and bleak, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue enduring more of the same, and I told him so.


He was scared, and I was scared. I just wanted someone to tell me everything was going to be all right, and for that to be the truth. He just wanted me to promise him that I was going to be all right, and yet I could make no promises at that point.




Depression.  It cuts to the core and shatters lives. Yet it can’t be seen from the outside and it’s often misunderstood.


By the year 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide. It already is our greatest cause of disability worldwide. In the United States alone, nearly 20 million Americans are diagnosed with depression every year…that amounts to one in ten adults being diagnosed every year. And in their lifetime, one in four people will be diagnosed. So if you have not suffered from this painful, debilitating condition, chances are, you know or love one who has or does.


But what about when you’re the one who is suffering?


Trying to adequately describe depression to someone else who has never had the misfortune to suffer its torment, is like trying to describe a circus to a blind person. And yet, when we suffer in depression’s darkness, we rely on the love and compassion of friends and family to help traverse to the other side—the very ones who, although they try, may not understand.


One of the best descriptions of depression to which I ever related was, “Depression is like drowning—except you can see everyone else around you breathing.”


When you’re depressed you just want others to understand. Here are a few things you can explain to aid in their understanding:



  1. Depression is a medical condition. It’s classified as a “mental illness” because it is impacted by the neurotransmitters in the brain, but the brain is an organ just like the heart or the lungs. As such, someone suffering with depression can’t just “snap out of it” or “think positively” any more than they could “snap out of it” or “think positively” to cure their diabetes or epilepsy.


  1. While depression is a mental illness that affects our emotions, it has physical consequences as well. When most people think about depression, they think about someone with a sad mood, who cries, and perhaps stays in bed too much. But depression can impact a person physically too. It brings with it considerable fatigue, decreased energy, concentration difficulty, sleep and appetite changes, and sometimes even aches and pains. Little things like taking a shower or brushing teeth can feel like weighty, monumental tasks. Please adjust your expectations accordingly.


  1. Depression doesn’t fall along the normal continuum of emotions, and it’s much more than sadness—it is outside the realm of what would be considered normal for the situation. It isn’t a case of the Sunday night blues, or reasonable frustration when things don’t go as planned. It’s far more serious—that’s why it’s categorized as an “illness.” As such, we can’t be expected to “feel better in the morning.” It can take weeks or months or years to overcome, especially without adequate treatment.


  1. Nobody chooses to be depressed—it is a painful, debilitating condition. Yet sometimes the treatment to get well invokes fear in those who suffer. Research has shown that sometimes, we are motivated by fear to stay in our known misery rather than face the misery of the unknown—regardless of how good the ultimate outcome might be.


  1. Success is irrelevant—when one is depressed, prior successes and accomplishments to date are irrelevant and do nothing to buoy spirits. At any other time, I believe gratitude is a very important character trait. But when someone is depressed, encouraging us to remember “how good we have it” or “how far we’ve come” does nothing to minimize the suffocating pain we feel. I can almost guarantee we’d trade those successes in for a guaranteed life of peace and joy in a heartbeat.


  1. Comparison is the thief of joy—in your attempt to try to encourage and motivate a depressed loved one, it isn’t helpful to compare our situation to how much worse someone else is suffering. It won’t make a loved one feel any better about our situation, nor will it lessen our darkness. It will only induce guilt and prompt frustration and anger, further intensifying the magnitude of our despair when we are now convinced you don’t understand or empathize with our pain.


  1. We just need to be heard. Depression can feel lonely and isolating, and even a bit frightening. While you might be worrying about having the right thing to say, we just want the opportunity to be together, to share, and to be heard without needing you to say anything or try to fix it. We don’t want to be anyone’s project. Sometimes we just need to be validated that we are still cared about and found worthy even when we don’t feel it.


  1. We need your presence–When a loved one is navigating the pain of depression, your presence means more than perfect words. The gift of your presence lends strength when they feel weak. It offers togetherness and community when they feel scared and alone. It provides acceptance when they feel worthless and rejected. Don’t search for the perfect words, just be a sustaining presence and you will be remembered for your role in the journey to the other side of the dark valley.


As one who is struggling with depression, we have to extend grace to those who haven’t walked that road and who don’t understand. It’s not their fault. Let’s help educate and be part of the solution.


But most of all, when it feels like your closest friends and loved ones don’t understand, remember that God does. You aren’t alone—He promises to never leave you or forsake you. He also promises that he is close to the brokenhearted and rescues those who are crushed in spirit. Lean on Him—He’s the best source of comfort and support you could ever have!


Because of Him, #HopePrevails!



For a Free eBook on How to Help a Depressed Loved One, click here:


For more helpful information about what you need to know when you have a depressed loved one, read here:


For more about what not to say to a depressed loved one, read here: while here are suggestions about supportive things you can say to a depressed loved one:


Dr. Michelle BengtsonDr. Michelle Bengtson (PhD, Nova Southeastern University) is an international speaker, and the author of best-selling “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the newly released companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study.”  She has been a neuropsychologist for more than twenty years. She is in private practice in Southlake, Texas where she evaluates, diagnoses, and treats children and adults with a variety of medical and mental health disorders. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She and her husband of 30 years have two teenage sons, and reside in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She blogs regularly on her own site:


For more hope, stay connected with me at:

To order Hope Prevails:




Twitter: (@DrMBengtson)






To order Hope Prevails from Amazon:









  1. […] Here are a few things you can explain to aid in their understanding…. read the remainder of the article here: I Am Believing God. […]

  2. Thank you for your post. I care for loved ones with a mental illness and I find I do say, “Look how far you have come.” I appreciate knowing that is not helpful. I have reposted to a closed facebook group I host called, Embracing Faith and Mental Illness from a Caregivers Perspective. I know this will be helpful to many.

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