People living with depression often feel guilty and a burden – why do they feel that way and how can we offer support?
Many people that go through an episode of depression feel like a burden to others. Often individuals who live with depression struggle with feelings of guilt. It seems to be linked intrinsically with depression and how someone with this illness perceives themselves.
They may express how they feel worthless and a burden to the people that are caring for them. Often as carers, we find ourselves saying, “There is nothing to feel guilty for.” “You can’t help feeling ill.” The individual may be aware of this, but they are unable to move past the negative thoughts they are experiencing. Being ‘stuck’ in negative thinking is a major part of depression.
Guilt is synonymous with mental ill health. People that are depressed may often feel they are undeserving of love and happiness. They may feel that they are taking away people’s time and energy needlessly.
It’s important to understand that someone with depression doesn’t want to feel guilty or a burden. They don’t enjoy it or encourage it. There is tremendous pressure put on all of us in society to appear well and to not talk about negative feelings. When someone is depressed, this feeling is exacerbated and they will often hide how they truly feel from people that care about them. There is a real fear that they are burdening people around them with too great a responsibility. Depression causes people to self destruct and to not seek help or support. They may push others away from them and damage relationships; sometimes irreparably.
People with depression may also have had difficult experiences when they have shared how they’ve felt in the past. They may have opened up to someone they’ve trusted and that person hasn’t been able to deal with it. They may have been met with silence or ignored. This can damage future relationships and how much they trust other people to help them when they’re ill. Someone with depression may be surrounded by genuine, caring individuals, but still struggle with trusting them. They might convince themselves that they will be left alone, or what happened in the past may happen all over again.
Feeling like a burden makes many people with depression stay silent. They may feel they’re not worthy of help. They may feel they will just drag people down with them. It’s important we make people feel that they no longer have to be silent. That it’s ok to tell people that they’re unwell and struggling. They need to feel that when they do open up, they will be met with support.
It’s also ok for the people around them to say it is a struggle sometimes to support someone with depression. It’s important for them to acknowledge that it’s not easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Seeing someone unwell is very difficult, especially when they are dealing with very negative thoughts. We want to help someone who is unwell and make them feel better. It isn’t because we see someone as a burden.
What we can do to help someone is to be there for them. We can listen and offer practical support.