This one is all from you–from the brilliant comments on Part I, Part II, and Part III of the Friend Manual series. You made me think of new things, put into words things that had been percolating in my mind, and in the case of this comment from tolladay, reduced me to unexpected tears over my laptop.
So here you go, the advice of your co-commenters:
15. Unsolicited Advice is Awful
(From Ashley, herself!)
Please don’t tell me what kind of medicine is good/bad, what kind of therapy is good/bad, and how I should cope with things UNLESS I ask you for that advice. If I complain of depression, a headache, an allergic reaction, a panic attack, or PTSD, the correct response is not “Why aren’t you taking [MEDICINE]?” or “Why haven’t you dealt with that yet?” or any other attempts at help that read like you think you know more about my life and conditions than I do.
Even if you have the best possible intentions, just don’t do this. It always manages to sound like the worst mix of unsympathetic and nosy. If you simply can’t contain your medicinal Holy Grail, start with “I might have a suggestion–are you interested?”
16. Just Listen
What helps me most is to have someone just simply listen. You don’t have to solve my problems for me, you don’t even have to understand them, but if I work up the courage to actually speak about what’s gotten me into my latest spiral, all I need from you is that you care enough to really listen to me. That alone helps me more than all the therapy in the world and all the meds there are.
17. Don’t Make Comparisons
The biggest thing I ask from friends is that they don’t make that comparison, unless they actually have depression/an eating disorder.
It’s like… no, your temporary sadness does not have any meaningful comparison to the suicidal ideation that has plagued me for 15 years. Have your down days ever led you to be sequestered in a locked ward against your will? Has your diet ever led you to burst into tears in a grocery store because the thought of dealing with food was too overwhelming? No? Then I think we have very little in common in this regard.
18. And Another Thing About Not Being A Therapist…
I’d add one more point (although it’s in a sub-class of trying to be a therapist), and that is: Don’t suggest new therapies that you read about in a magazine/on the news/in a pamphlet at your local health food shop. Most people think they’re helping when they do this, but they don’t understand that people with chronic illnesses (and not just in mental health) get bombarded with crappy information from well-wishers who know nothing about the illness or the evidence (or lack thereof) for the treatment they are enthused about. Essentially what they’re saying is “I know nothing about your condition or this suggested treatment, but if I pressure you to put in the effort of researching and/or trying it, then I get to feel good about myself.”