As you may have unfortunately experienced yourself, a lot of people don't properly understand depression - and as a result, they often make insensitive, dismissive or judgmental comments like, for example:
“Depression isn’t real.”
“Just get over it.”
“You have a mental illness? Then you must be crazy!”
“I know how you feel” (when that person has never had depression before).
“We all have bad days now and then.”
“You can't be depressed – there are so many people in the world who are worse off than you!”
“You’re just being negative.”
“It’s all in your head.”
“Look how lucky you are.”
“Just do XYZ – then you’ll be fine!”
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
And sadly, as a direct consequence of so many people not understanding depression properly, those who struggle with it are often devoid of the support they need – and as a result, they’re left feeling extremely misunderstood, completely alone, and even more miserable than they already were.
However, along with psychoeducation, the Storm To Sun Framework can be used to help solve this problem.
Step 1: Psychoeducation - To Help Your Loved Ones Better Understand Depression
It’s very important that friends and family of people with depression learn about this illness – and, The Depression Project does a lot to make it easier for them to do so. In particular:
1. Our Social Media Posts
The Depression Project's Facebook- and Instagram posts have been viewed several billion times, and all of them will help your loved ones understand depression much, much better than they do now. To have a look at these posts and pass on the most relevant ones to your friends and family members, we encourage you to visit our Instagram Page :)
2. Our Customisable "Depression Letter"
Secondly, we’ve drafted a letter that you can use as a template to explain to your loved ones exactly what depression feels like, and also, the ways in which you’d like them to support you through it. It’s been really popular in The Depression Project’s community, and if you'd like to download a customisable version that you can edit and use in any way you please, then you can do so by clicking the "Learn More!" button at the top of this page!
Step 2: Using The Storm To Sun Framework!
Psychoeducation is a great first step in helping non-sufferers understand depression, however by itself, it’s often not enough to ensure that people with depression receive the support they need. This is because while psychoeducation helps non-sufferers understand depression in “general terms”, it doesn’t help them understand how depression is affecting a given individual at a given moment in time. This is because as you've no doubt experienced, depression can be different things at different times – for example:
One Day: You can feel so exhausted, so miserable and so completely overwhelmed that you just want to lie in bed all day;
Then The Next Day: You might feel pretty good;
Then The Day After That: You might feel a lot worse, but you still try to carry on by faking a smile and pretending that everything is “fine”;
Then The Next Two Days: You might feel so tired and burned out from pretending to be OK that you just want to sleep and not talk to anyone;
Then The Day After That: You might be feeling so anxious and stressed out that you can’t fall asleep;
Then The Day After That: You might want to talk to a friend and be supported;
Then The Day After That: You might actually feel fine, and not want to talk about or be reminded of your depression at all;
Then The Next Two Days After That: You might just be pretending that everything is fine, when deep down, you’re feeling miserable again.
And, when depression can be so many different things, it’s very difficult to know how a person with depression feels at any particular point in time, and consequently, at any particular point in time, it’s very hard to know how to help them.
Of course, a seemingly simple solution to this would be for you and other people with depression to just say how you feel. However, as you can likely relate to, this is often extremely difficult, because:
You often feel so many different painful, confusing, exhausting symptoms at once – which makes it very hard to put your depression into words.
When you do try to articulate your feelings, language often “fails” you. For example, if you’re consumed with depression and you say “I’m tired”, then that is indeed a correct factual statement. In saying that, though, “I’m tired” also doesn’t do justice to just how utterly exhausted depression is no doubt making you feel. Consequently, if you say “I’m tired”, there’s a good chance it will leave the person you’re speaking to thinking, “but everyone gets tired – so what’s the big deal?”
However, the good news is that the Storm To Sun Framework can help you solve this problem, since it allows you to instantly identify what state (or “Zone”) of depression you’re in. This makes it much easier for your loved ones to understand how you feel at any given point in time, and as a result, for them to know what to do to help.
The Cloud Zone
When you tell someone you're in the Cloud Zone, it communicates that things are presently "OK" – or in other words, that you have mild symptoms, and therefore a relatively high ability to function. This can let them know that right now, you don’t need a lot of support, since you're able to carry on with life fairly well. It can also mean that it's currently a good time to catch up and socialise - since in the Cloud Zone, your energy and motivation levels are at their highest.
The Rain Zone
By saying you're in this Zone, you're letting others know that while you can still complete most day-to-day tasks, doing so will be challenging for you, and may leave you feeling burnt out and exhausted. This helps your loved ones understand that you are likely going to need more support than you would if you were in the Cloud Zone, and that they'll likely need to be more accommodating of your illness (for example, by being OK with you cancelling a meet-up with them on short-notice if you're feeling too drained to go).
The Storm Zone
When you tell someone you’re in the “Storm Zone”, this lets them know that now more than ever, they need to be most accommodating of your illness; decrease their expectations of you due to your severe symptoms and low ability to function; and that you could really use their support. In practice, this support can often mean being there to listen if you feel like talking; watching a movie at home with you; or just giving you space while you "survive the storm", recharge your batteries and climb back into the Rain Zone.
Additionally, The Storm To Sun Framework Can Also Help You Explain Previous And/Or Future Behaviour
Furthermore, not only can the Storm To Sun Framework help your loved ones understand how you feel at present and therefore know what to do to help you, but it can also make it easier for you to explain previous and/or future behaviour. For example:
“I’m sorry I cancelled our dinner date two weeks ago – I was deep in the Storm Zone that night, and so I really just felt like being by myself and watching TV in bed.”
“No, I don’t think I’ll be able to attend the party on the weekend, I’m afraid. I’m currently in the Rain Zone, and to try to prevent myself from slipping into the Storm Zone, I really need to spend a couple of days just relaxing and taking care of myself – instead of faking a smile at a party and pretending I’m OK.”
Want To Learn More About The Storm To Sun Framework?
This blog post is the second in our three-part Storm To Sun Framework Series, and if you'd like to learn more about this framework, then we encourage you to read the other two as well:
- Blog Post #1: A Framework To Help You Better Understand Depression
- Blog Post #3: A Blueprint For How To Fight Depression
We really hope you're finding this framework helpful :)
All our love,
The Depression Project Team.