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How To Support Your Loved One Through A Dark Time

When it comes to depression in regards to your loved ones, you can support them while they attempt to fix themselves.

What About Your Friends?

Watching your loved one go through a hard time can make you feel helpless and confused, especially when they are inflicted with an illness that is not necessarily easy to see or can be measured by an X-ray. To put it simply, depression sucks, and claims the lives of many each year, especially in the Black community where there is a lack of awareness due to the systematic lack of resources.

When faced with your own battle of the blues, it's tempting to attempt to pray it away, party it away, sex it away, or think that shaming yourself out of a depressive state will cure it. If that were the case, there would be no mental issues in the world and no suffering; and if you look at the news, it seems the opposite is happening at an alarming rate. Most of us were taught to treat others the way we would like to be treated, so what happens when we never learned how to treat our own mental issues? How are we supposed to be compassionate towards our sister going through a hard time emotionally when we ourselves did not receive that type of compassion in our darkest hour? The answer is simpler than you think: we vibrate higher.

When it comes to depression in regards to your loved ones, you cannot fix them but you can support them while they attempt to fix themselves. The "saving" part should be left to the professionals who have studied mental health and received the credentials in order to assist patients best. Your job is to support your girl, and supporting is literally holding them up, helping them fight their battle while the professionals do their thing. Here are a few ways how to:

Ask how you can be of support to them at this time.

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I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but I even find myself missing this mark. We can't assume that our version of support translates well to another person despite us having the best of intentions. Simply asking what a person needs at the moment makes it 100% easier to get it to deliver it to them.

The answers may shock you in a pleasant way and is a great point of introspection for you and your loved one. Think about it, how often does someone ask you how they can support you? How often do you ask yourself how you can support yourself emotionally? This supports people, in general, to get comfortable asking for what they need by first defining it and realizing that the universe is not working against them.

Make your supportive presence as palpable as possible.

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We are gifted with technology which means we have the ability to communicate with less commitment, effort, or inconvenience as ever before despite our distance. Check-in in a way that is best for you, as often as you feel comfortable. A little bit goes a long way. A quick "I was just thinking about you, how are you?" could mean more than you could ever imagine. Find a way to not overcommit yourself, but at the same time, be sure that you are there when they need you the most.

Pump up the intensity during this time. Opt for Facetime and phone calls so that they can feel the love in your voice instead of watching their moves on social media to gauge their life. Listen as their energy starts to improve as your conversation goes along. Ask if it's alright for you to stop by every once in a while, not in an inquisitorial way, but to let them know even at their lowest that you enjoy their presence. This will also strengthen your bond.

Let them know it's okay for them to take their mask off around you.

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Shame and silence are deadly. Mental issues are a silent killer because most of the time people get so good at masking their problems from other people, and hell, even themselves. Giving someone the okay to not be okay is a lifesaver. No judgment, no overly critical energy, you are not pulling out the 'Bob the Builder' toolbelt, you are just letting her be. That in itself makes doing the work that they need to do to fight depression easier because they are not resisting depression, they are sitting in it and saying, "I'm a mess and I'm still worthy of love, happiness, and prosperity." Plus, there aren't enough bottomless brunches, girls trips, or memes in the word to help when life gets really real.

People go through real issues. Losing loved ones, jobs, apartments, purpose, and there is no rainbows and sunshine to preach. Sometimes a "girl, this must be so hard for you, I'm here if you ever need to talk" goes a whole lot further than an "everything is going to be okay". It is more than okay not to be okay! By giving someone permission to be a beautiful hot mess, you will start to have more compassion for yourself when you are going through a hard time.

Check-in with you.

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Make sure that while you are supporting others, you are also pouring into yourself. The journey you take with your loved one through the darkness may trigger some emotions in you indicating where you need some healing also. Check-in with your emotional wellness often. You can't put the responsibility of saving or fixing anyone besides yourself on your plate. All you can do is do your best to be supportive while another person does their inner work. You cannot pour from an empty cup or give what you don't have.

All you can do is your best to let your loved one know that you believe in them, that they are stronger than they think, and that you will be there for anything you need. All you can do is be the light.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

The Truth Is, Everyone, Has Mental Health Issues

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Last year, Meagan Good experienced two major transformations in her life. She returned to the small screen starring in the Amazon Prime series Harlem, which has been renewed for a second season and she announced her divorce from her longtime partner DeVon Franklin.

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Mental health awareness is at an all-time high with many of us seeking self-improvement and healing with the support of therapists. Tucked away in cozy offices, or in the comfort of our own homes, millions of women receive the tools needed to navigate our emotions, relate to those around us, or simply exist in a judgment-free space.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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