If you’ve followed my social media for any length of time, you already know I’m a card-carrying member of the depression/anxiety club. I’ve had out-of-whack neurotransmitters since I was a teenager, and at the time of this post I’m 32. You could say I’ve had some practice navigating the depression-nap bed sheets. It’s hard to know what, if anything, can help. I’ve had friends and family ask what they could do for me and at the time, I didn’t have an answer for them. This post has been in the works for a very long time. I see a lot of articles and blog posts about what you can do for a mentally struggling person that you LIVE with… but not many, or any, for those of us that live on our own. This post is long but thorough! If you’re like me and go bonkers for an infographic, I got ya covered.
There are 2 scenarios because many times, I was in a dark place but couldn’t imagine having to see anyone in person. I break down both paths because there are still things you can do to help.
Scenario One: they can handle a small amount of human interaction. (Trust me, it’s SO MUCH HARDER than it sounds, so they’ve already been so strong; a little reminder couldn’t hurt.) Head on over to their depression camp (aka house/room).
- Wipe down all visible surfaces with a delicious smelling cleaner! Open a few windows or turn on a fan to get some air flow going. (This one is quiet and has a remote they can use to operate it from their comfy nest.) This is more about refreshing the space than actually cleaning.
- Can they manage to scoot to the couch for an hour or so? Pop their sheets into the washer and dryer on the fastest cycles. Again, this is more about *refreshing* than spring cleaning. Shake out blankets & comforter – don’t forget some fabric freshener like Febreze! Do the same with any blankets or pillows they squirreled away to the couch with. Vacuum and sweep! Especially the areas of the house they frequent the most. If it’s just 1 room – you’ve already wiped down surfaces so vacuuming should be a cinch.
- Bring a comfy bathrobe with you. I like the waffle knit robes, a notch down from fancy hotel robes, because they double as a towel. Every task is taxing when you’re in the dark cloud, even showering. Make it as easy as possible for them to feel refreshed and renewed. Removing steps involved in each task is helpful. In this case, I always dread showering simply because it takes so many steps: undress, turn on the water and wait for it to get to a normal temperature, shower as usual, get out and dry off, get dressed. With the robe I mention, I just hop out of the shower, throw it on and I’m DONE. YASSSS. Back to my comfy blanket cave.
- Stock their fridge & freezer. HYDRATION: I’m not a plain water person so I usually like to have a few liters of flavored water in the back of my fridge for “off” days. Find out what they like best: Fiji? Tap water? Having it cold and ready to drink eliminates steps and being hydrated is not usually going to be on their mind.
- Pre-made food will knock another thing off their mental checklist. Just the thought of going to the grocery store has overwhelmed me SO many times. Don’t fill their fridge with kale salads. Unless they’re crazy about kale salads! You want them to actually eat. Another thing that is far, far from their mind. Minimal prep, too. Fridge, microwave, mouth. Frozen pizza, chips & salsa or guacamole, pre-made smoothies, Halo Top ice cream (as I was writing this I got a craving for their mint chip so CLEARLY it needs to go on this list!), and Ready Meals are a great start!
- Run a few errands. They might need meds, more TP, or a tank of gas for the next drive to work. Ask them what errands are stressing them out the most: see if you can do those for them.
- Light-hearted entertainment won’t be on their mind, most likely. But any time I’ve remembered to flip on a funny movie or open a new magazine – at least my brain is distracted for a bit. Pop a DVD in, slide a funny comic book under their blanket fort on the couch, or even put some stand-up on Spotify.
BONUS ROUND: Do they have an Amazon wishlist? (Or a wishlist anywhere, really.) Grab something from it for extra feel-goods for you AND them.
SCENARIO TWO: They don’t want to see anyone at all, and don’t want anyone seeing them. (Remember me mentioning how sometimes a shower is hard? Yeah, I don’t want to be seen sometimes. Mental illness is your brain attacking itself and your body is just along for the ride.)
- How will you know they even need anything if you don’t see them??? Establish a secret code! It’s REALLY hard to ask for help so eliminate the actual asking part. Just text a number (or maybe an emoji!) and you both know what it means. Feel free to use mine. (See infographic, look for the big pink brain!)
- Since they don’t want to see anyone you’re about to become a porch angel! Drop off select items starting with hot food. Every article you read will tell you what you SHOULD eat when you’re depressed. It’s never anything you WANT to eat, and that’s the key. Do they like Chipotle? McDonald’s? It’s called a Happy Meal for a reason! In all seriousness, one fast food meal won’t make or break a diet plan. But it WILL be delicious.
- Grab their meds on your way (most pharmacies allow pickup on behalf of another person, you might need them to call ahead and put you on an “approved pick up” list). Get them to leave their keys in the mailbox so you can gas up their car for the next trip to work.
- Load up a bag of goodies to leave at their door too – here are some ideas:
- Food: chips & guacamole or salsa, dark chocolate, fresh bananas, and trail mix with walnuts are not only delicious but have nutrients to help the brain produce more of it’s own happiness. It’s not an instant fix but it sure doesn’t hurt! These Dole Chocolate Covered Bananas are my favorite – find them in the frozen food section.
- Easy, light hearted reading. Gossip mags and funny comics are my go-tos. Like these:
- Don’t forget to stash some air freshener, a scented candle, facial wipes, and a Konjac sponge in the bag. Refresh and reboot your buddy! Konjac sponges are a perfect way to eliminate steps like I mentioned before. It’s a natural sponge that cleanses the face and body by just adding water.
You might feel like you’re not “doing” anything. Trust me, when you scurry away and they can open the door to retrieve your SOS package you’ve just made a bad mental health day into a better one.
BONUS ROUND: Don’t forget a comfy robe like I mentioned in Scenario One. The standard hotel waffle knit robes are the best because they double as a towel.