It is an extremely common thing for people who are around depressed people to feel like they have to walk on eggshells.
People have said this to me many times: ‘oh, we didn’t want to mention it because we thought it would upset you’, or ‘I don’t even know how to approach you about this without upsetting you’, or many other things like that.
I have gotten comments like this from probably a dozen people in my life. I have found out things being hidden from me dozens of more times. And the times I have gotten worried looks, sideways glances, and uncomfortable avoided conversations are uncountable.
It is also something I have heard repeated often in group therapy. It is a common complaint. People treat depressed people as emotionally fragile. Any bad news is likely to push us into suicide.
It is all non-sense.
Yes, stress is bad when you are depressed. That is obvious. And avoiding stress seems like a perfectly fine strategy. However, it almost never works out this way. The reason I have been told dozens of times that people are on eggshells around me is because I found out they weren’t telling me something.
So, think about that, now I have to hear the thing you avoided telling me and deal with the fact that you thought I was too weak to hear it in the first place.
The worst part is that people don’t really keep the big things from you. How could they? But those are the things that generate serious stress. It isn’t like no one ever said to me ‘hey, we were avoiding telling you that you’re an asshole, because we didn’t want to stress you out’. No, something like that they would say, ‘you’re an asshole’.
No, they always avoid pretty mindless stuff; ‘hey, I didn’t want to tell you when you had us over for dinner last week that I don’t eat pork. You went through all the trouble of cooking it so I didn’t want to say’.
I am not emotionally brittle, even at my weakest moments.
Avoiding a fight with me isn’t going to make me feel better about my childhood or my bad relationships or my body issues or my lack of being who I want to be. Those are the issues I think about when I am suicidal.
If you were to stack 100 pound weights onto the donkey’s back before you starting stacking straw up there, no one (especially the donkey) would be blaming that last piece of straw when his back finally broke. It wasn’t the straw that did the damage. And worse yet, when the donkey finds out you are avoiding adding a straw or two to his load, he is going to point to those huge weights he is already carrying and think to himself ‘really?’
The trick to dealing with a depressed person isn’t in what information you share with them, but in how you treat them, how you show them love, and how you care for them. Of course, this is no different than any other person in your life.
I will leave you with these final two thoughts:
- I generally run my mind through every awful scenario imaginable. Whatever you aren’t telling me, I have already probably imagined, and much worse. Usually what you are hiding is actually better than what I assume is happening.
- Some stress is good stress. Having things to accomplish (and I don’t even mean happy exciting things, even mundane or awful things) everyday goes a long way to defeating depression.