What NOT to Buy Your Friend with Depression
So, you want to get a holiday gift for your friend with depression. Let’s start with what NOT to buy.
Animal therapy is great. My dog dragged my butt out of the house when I was in the deepest throes of my last major depression. However, the time to become a pet owner is NOT when you are in the bottom of your black hole. This is not the time to become a pack leader. Pets, especially dogs, need affection, discipline and exercise. They need this from the moment they walk into their new home. Most of us in our healthiest state of mind aren’t up for that challenge.
Remember, puppies can read and they are discerning little rascals. Any leather product that says “Made in Italy” is as good as rawhide. I’ve never had a kitten but I hear they’re like having a little shredding machine. Ixnay on the et-pay.
SWEETS, CAFFEINE, ALCOHOL
Have you seen that ride at that fair where they put you in some kind of rubber-bank like harness and then drop you? You jump – you’re almost weightless – and you bounce up and down and up and down. This is what happens to your brain when you eat sugar. You get a spike of energy, then you crash. Spike. Crash. Spike. Crash. If you really want to give something sweet, check the labels and pick a product that has the least amount of sugar. Nuts and fruit are better than food with processed sugars.
On to caffeine. It’s a drug, pure and simple. Yes, in moderation it can be fine but if your loved one is bipolar, the last thing she needs when she is manic is a stimulant. Trust me, I know. I used to drink caffeine, especially coffee. A few cups of Joe on top of even a mild mania and I was pawing at the ground like a racehorse in the start gate. Yes, it gave me a badly needed jump start when I was down. Still, it is a drug. Don’t believe me? Try quitting. The headache is a doozy.
Alcohol? Double-ixnay. Alcohol is a depressant, even the comfy drinks like spiked egg-nog and apple cider. Champagne for the happy times? No. Alcohol and depression do not mix. Trust me. I’m a dual-diagnosed alcoholic. It took decades of hangovers to figure this out but and I can unequivocally say I know what I’m talking about. Alcohol is a depressant. Period.
Music therapy, like pet therapy is great. However, it doesn’t matter how much your friend loves Pink Floyd, Nirvana or Chopin, check the playlist. For classical music, look for anything in a minor key. During the holidays we think of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and those beautiful little sugar-plum fairies. But he also wrote his Symphony No. 6 in B minor Op. 74 (aka Pathetique). Blink-182′All the Small Things makes me dance but Adam’s Song makes we want to drop a toaster in the tub. I’m just saying, check the lyrics.
Even if your friend loves to read, depression will shorten her attention span to that of a goldfish. As an avid reader myself, you cannot imagine my frustration at not being able to read a book. I couldn’t even make it through a magazine article. I couldn’t focus and I kept forgetting what I had read.
If you must give a book, avoid William Styron’s Darkness Visible or the biography of anyone who committed suicide. Take a good look at a self-help book before you buy it and remember, the shorter the paragraphs and sentences, the better. When I wrote my own book, Hoping for a Happy Ending: A journalist’s story of depression, bipolar and alcoholism, I kept that in mind. In my last major depression I was terrified that I would never be able to write or read a book again. So, short sentences, simple words and easy content are best. Maybe even a coffee table photo book of a place where your friend enjoyed a vacation or would love to visit.
I’m sure there are a lot of other things that don’t make good gifts for our friends with depression. So, please share them with us! Only 15 more days till Christmas…
Stapleton, C. (2011). What NOT to Buy Your Friend with Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 3, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/depression/2011/12/what-not-to-buy-your-friend-with-depression/