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Check In On Your Strong Friend: 4 Signs Your Friend Is Going Through Depression

Wellness

When my friend told me about her previous struggle with depression, it was like a punch to the gut. I feel like the first thought is always, "Why didn't you tell me? I could've helped somehow."

But the reality that there's very little I could have done is almost as gut-wrenching as the thought of a close friend having this terrible struggle within herself. This is especially hard to recognize for the ones that are labeled as "the strong friend." They might seem to have it all together, but if you watch closely, there could be a serious struggle that they don't feel like they can talk to anyone about.

Related: I Found Out I Was Suffering From Genetic Depression. Here's How I Overcame It

Despite being a minority group, black people are said to be 10 percent more likely than their white counterparts to suffer from depression. In tandem with that stat, black people are also far less likely to seek treatment for their mental health issues.

Thankfully, depression and mental health is no longer this taboo conversation that we have to try to ignore. With recent celebrities shocking the world with ending their lives and even the amazingly talented Michelle Williams bravely opening up about her struggle and her decision to seek help, now is the perfect time to address it and confront it head-on for those close to us. It's more than having discussions and "raising awareness," but is also about figuring out ways we can truly help and try to make a difference for ourselves and those around us.

If you believe, or are wondering, if one of your close friends, or even yourself, is struggling with depression, take a look at some of the most common warning signs below.

Withdrawing From Being Social

I think we can all agree that adulting is nothing to mess with. And there are countless memes that prove why going out for a fun girl's night isn't what it used to be. (i.e. "I'm sorry I couldn't make but I didn't want to come.") But laughter aside, this could be an indication that your friend is secretly dealing with depression. She might have been the life of the party at one point, but now wants to stay inside with no hope of resurfacing for interactions with friends.

If she seems extra down and you feel like there's very little you can do to help her to leave the house after weeks and months of trying, this is something you can't overlook. A good idea might be to have a girl's night at her place if she doesn't want to go out. Use that as an excuse to seriously check on her and ask her how she's doing.

Open up about your concerns that she's not who she used to be.

You might be surprised at how that effort could make her feel comfortable enough to tell you what's truly going on with her.

She Constantly Criticizes Herself

This is seriously the worst. Hearing a friend who you perceive as amazing constantly belittle herself is one of the worst feelings ever. But imagine how bad she must feel if she's saying these things out loud; not to mention what could be going through her head that doesn't make it into conversation.

While you might not feel comfortable addressing depression upfront, one thing you could do in moments like this is to stop your friend from talking bad about herself, and others around her. When she insults herself, tell her it's not true. And if it is true, give her loving words and tell her something that IS good about her anyway. Help her look in the mirror and see that she has something to offer that no one else can. Let her know that you go through your own issues and even think negative things about yourself at certain times. During these moments, one of the best things you can offer is reassurance. She might not know it, but it could be exactly what she's looking for.

Difficulty Eating And Sleeping

While some symptoms of depression are more hidden than others, not sleeping through the night and a loss of appetite are some of the most open ones. If you notice your friend hardly ever wants to eat, or on the other hand, eats emotionally all the time, there could be something she's going through internally. If she's also having trouble getting a full night sleep, or, on the flip side, wants to do nothing but sleep, this is also a possible indication of depression.

Related: Solange's Health Scare Is A Reminder To Us All To Check On That "Strong" Friend

This one is a little bit more difficult to help with, especially if she lives by herself. You could go as far as bringing her lunch to work to make sure she eats. This would be a good time to have the discussion with her about her possible battle. It's also helpful to ask her in the morning how she slept the night before. If she consistently says she hardly got any sleep, ask her why she thinks that is. It could create dialogue if she doesn't realize she's struggling with depression.

Their Cryptic Conversations

You might be able to discover if your friend is depressed by something that's seemingly as simple as her words. If she hints toward the world being a better place without her, tries to even joke about suicide, says that no one needs her, you seriously have to listen and say/do something. At some point, it can get really discouraging as you realize your encouragement has a ceiling.

Trying to help a friend through depression is scary and we're not professionals.

As much as we want to save the day, there's only so much we can do. Let your friend know that either way, therapy is nothing she has to be ashamed of and encourage her as much as you can to get the help she needs while reassuring her that you're still by her side.

If you or someone you know is currently dealing with depression, check out this list of helpful resources over at Everyday Health.

Featured image by Shutterstock

Jamie Foxx and his daughter Corinne Foxx are one of Hollywood’s best father-daughter duos. They’ve teamed up together on several projects including Foxx’s game show Beat Shazam where they both serve as executive producers and often frequent red carpets together. Corinne even followed in her father’s footsteps by taking his professional last name and venturing into acting starring in 47 Meters Down: Uncaged and Live in Front of a Studio Audience: All in the Family and Good Times as Thelma.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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TW: This article may contain mentions of suicide and self-harm.

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