Wednesday 26 June 2019

Weepy, Angry, Catatonic: Three Kinds of Depression and How You Can Help

By Julie A. Fast

Depression has many modes. I divide it into a few categories: weepy, angry and catatonic. Knowing what kind of depression your friend experiences is a good place to start when it comes to offering help. Fran and Marty’s book High Tide, Low Tide covers this topic well.

The following examples show what people go through during each of these three kinds of depression. If you are unsure what your friend experiences, I suggest you read this blog together when they are stable. Ask them, “Do you experience what is in this blog? I would like to know more how to help when this happens. We can talk about it now while you are feeling better and I will then know what to do when I see the depression show up!”

I would LOVE a friend to do this for me, so please know that you are needed when we are depressed.

Weepy Depression

If I’m talking with you about things in a weepy, sad way and this is different from how I normally express myself there is a good chance the depression has a hold on me. When I’m sick, the news is simply overwhelming. I will start to talk about how the world is a bad place and how scary everything is now. I will cry over relationships and work and will be unable to hold myself together watching sad movies or when I see any kind of situation where someone is being harmed.

When I’m stable, I have a filter for these things. I hardly ever cry and when I do, it will have a good reason behind it. When the weepy depression hits me, I cry like a baby at everything. The tears are different too. They are like waterfalls. There are no tear drops like with regular crying. Instead, I have waterworks coming out of my eyes! The crying is endless!

If you see me tearing up, turning my head away so you don’t see me cry or I simply cry in front of you because I am so depressed, I can’t hide it, I DO want you to say something. I want you to say, “I can see the nasty depression has a hold of you. You told me the tears come really easily when the depression is around. Let’s talk about your plan and how I can help you get out of this downswing.”

Angry Depression

I’m a right nasty bitch when the irritated depression hits me. No one is safe from my rotten thinking. Everything upsets me! You will notice that while I am normally a pretty good listener, you will say things that piss me off more. I might even snap at you and say something unkind. I want you to know that this is not the real me.

It doesn’t mean that it’s ok. It’s not and I am working on it, but if you notice that I am much more irritated, upset, nasty and downright mean, don’t just take it or walk off or fight with me! Instead, I want you to say this, “You told me that you have depression that makes you really irritated. I see signs of this right now. It is hard on me, but I’m willing to work through it with you. We can focus on getting you out of this downswing. I don’t want depression to affect our relationship. I want to work together on this.”

I know that many of my past relationships would have been saved if my friends just knew what to say. Yes, I am responsible for what I say and I’m working on that. I want to let you know that sometimes the depression is stronger than I am and I do need help sometimes. Let’s work on this together.

Catatonic Depression

When I’m really depressed, you will not know it by looking at me. I simply won’t show it to you. My face will be a mask when we meet. I will do everything possible to hide what I am going through. It’s as though I’m a puzzle I want someone to solve, but I simply won’t give them the pieces! I can’t. The depression is so violating! It gives me thoughts that no one loves me, so how on earth do I break through that and tell you that I am hurting with this illness? It would be like saying I love you to someone I know will never love me back. I can’t feel or see that you care about me when I’m depressed.

For this reason, I need you to look for the other signs of my depression as you won’t be able to read it in my face. Am I talking less? Do I hang back or say no in situations where I would normally participate? Does my phone go to voice mail? Do my text replies get shorter or are all emojis? These are signs I am not doing well. I do want your help, but the kind of depression I have makes me silent. You can always ask me, is the depression rough right now? I will tell you the truth. Then, we can get out and do something together. Something active. This is what I need when I’m catatonic. I need the reminder that my body can still move.

Being friends with someone who has depression takes patience and a willingness to help when the depression is controlling how your friend thinks and behaves. As someone with depression, I wish that I were more able to control how it affects my brain, but I simply can’t. Instead, I need people in my life who will help me get through the down times so that we can go back to enjoying the good times.


About the Author

Julie A. Fast is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, Get it Done When You’re Depressed and The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder. Julie is a board member of The International Bipolar Foundation, a columnist and blogger for BP Magazine, and won the Mental Health America journalism award for the best mental health column in the US. Julie was the recipient of the Eli Lily Reintegration award for her work in bipolar disorder advocacy. She is a bipolar disorder expert for the Dr.Oz and Oprah created site ShareCare.

Julie is CEU certified and regularly trains health care professionals including psychiatric residents, social workers, therapists and general practitioners on bipolar disorder management skills. She was the original consultant for Claire Danes for the show Homeland and is on the mental health expert registry for People Magazine. She works as a coach for parents and partners of people with bipolar disorder. Julie is currently writing a book for children called Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Psychosis and Depression. She struggles a lot due to bipolar disorder. Friendships keep her going. You can find more about her work at and


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