If you really think about it, it’s impossible for any human being who has not suffered from anxiety or depression themselves to genuinely understand what it’s like to try to deal with true anxiety and depression as a person. However, it seems like many people still feel as though individuals who suffer from anxiety and depression are partly to blame for their troubles—and even that they could “make themselves feel better” if they wanted to. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that anxiety cannot simply—or complexly—be turned on or off light a light switch. Indeed, one does not choose to be depressed—so one cannot just choose not to be depressed.
What’s more, there’s often a misconception that someone who suffers from anxiety and depression is easy to spot because they are always down in the dumps; yet, this assumption is also untrue. Many individuals experiencing anxiety and depression can seem 100% OK some of the time, or even most of the time—and sometimes they even feel perfectly fine. But these negative feelings, emotions, and conditions can gradually formulate or they can occur all of the sudden. In fact, it’s usually when someone just starts to think that they might be fully recovered that these negative emotions deciide to envelope them again. And although medication works for some people, others can’t merely “chill out” by taking prescription drugs or by smoking a joint; experiencing peace and relaxation becomes literally impossible.
More specifically, telling someone to “just chill” or to “chill out” has the impact of downplaying a serious illness or illnesses, and if you convey to someone suffering from depression and anxiety that their conditions aren’t serious (or real) then it’s quite likely they will feel worse for feeling the way they do (and can’t help feeling, regardless of your insistence). It’s important to remember that anxiety and depression are as real and as severe as a broken arm or a broken leg—perhaps more so. Just as it’s not wise to tell someone to smile when their broken bone is being re-set, so too is it unwise to tell someone to smile when they are emotionally broken inside. Even if someone could muster a smile when they were fearing for their life in panic, would you really want them to? Would it really help? Who would it help most (or at all)?
It’s important to remember—and to genuinely realize—that anxiety is a mental illness, and that depression is a mental illness. These illnesses are not life perspectives, they are not dramatized, and they are not intentional. Please don’t tell someone suffering from anxiety and depression to “chill,” to “chill out,” or even to “just relax.” Instead, genuinely ask them if there is anything you can do to make their life more enjoyable, or at least easier.