Depression affects perception. For example, a person with a neutral expression can be interpreted by a person who isn’t depressed as neutral. Depression tends to shade everything in a negative light, and the neutral expression may end up being interpreted as suspicious, hostile or thoughtless disregard.
The problem isn’t just limited to depression. When a person feels ill or exhausted, they’re more likely to interpret other people’s expressions negatively.
You have the double challenge of depression and a form of empathy that doesn’t spare your emotions or emotional connection to those who may be suffering. I would never discourage someone’s empathy, but it needs to be combined with the kind of strength that allows a person to be supportive while keeping the empathy from becoming overwhelming. If you encounter someone in a pit of despair, it doesn’t help that person if you dive into the pit with them. If that happens, the two of you end up reinforcing each other’s despair.
You indicate that you get nauseous in the presence of those you worry about. I think that’s because your empathy ties your emotional survival to theirs. I also think you’ve tied your identity to theirs, so if they leave, a part of you leaves with them, and that’s scary. The trick is to be compassionate empathetic and caring while at the same time cultivating sufficient emotional resilience that you can be a lifeline for those who need one.
Keep in mind, some people will reject that lifeline no matter how much they need it.
Those feelings are often sensed by a person and it can make them uncomfortable enough that they may start avoiding the anxious person. Paranoia will not help with communication, nor will it improve whatever is happening.
The best way to remain close to another person who’s having problems is to not worry about what that person thinks of you. Instead, listen to them and focus on being supportive. When your focus is turned outward and your mind is occupied with thoughts related to the well being of the other person, there usually isn’t any room left for paranoia.
The significant thing about that is “when I’m depressed.” It’s hard to be good company while being depressed. Things said are taken the wrong way. As I mentioned earlier, people’s expressions and body language may come across as negative. A depressed person often becomes defensive after taking a comment the wrong way.
Here I am talking about coping strategies and ways of thinking that those you’re worried about haven’t even begun to understand. Because of that, your best intentions may be thwarted. That’s when the rubber hits the road when it comes to compassion and empathy, especially when it goes unacknowledged.
Finally, if bouts of depression are hurting your life, look for therapy or counseling. Ask for a referral from your doctor. Despite everything, life does offer opportunities for sharing love and happiness.
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