Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention the things that made it worse. I would categorize anything that makes it worse as “dissmissive.” Anything that dissmisses her experience and perspective (as absurd as they may seem to others, and they WILL seem absurd) won’t help.
So telling a depressed person to “chin up” or “look on the bright side” is horrible. Like, they literally CAN’T. Their brains make it such that they CAN’T. (I’ve a sneaking suspicion you already know this, as you sound quite sensitive to her situation.)
There are all sorts of issues associated with depression, some of which have to do with eating and the body, promiscuity, hygiene, financial responsibility… If she fucks up some of these things, try not to reprimand her for them. She’s already super aware that she’s “acting out,” let’s say, because she doesn’t matter and won’t be around much longer anyway, so why not do it. Depression doesn’t make you dumb, but it sure can make you a hedonist, and it WILL destroy your sense of worth and selfhood. She already knows.
For god’s sake, don’t suggest that she will heal if she takes up hiking or biking or yoga or volleyball or painting or poetry or…. These are all beautiful things that give people their reason for living, that’s very true. But if these were enough to make depressed people flourish again, it would be easy as fuck to flourish in this world. But it’s NOT easy to feel a sense of meaning and value, and as wonderful as exercise and art may be, they’re not (usually) enough to pull a depressed person out of that hole.
[This is different than my gift card suggestion. The dismissive part of the hiking, etc. suggestion is this: “You’d feel better if you did [fill-in-the-blank] every day!” What people really mean when they suggest that is that the person needs a change of lifestyle, and that such-and-such lifestyle is enough to combat the brain’s chemical influence over our sense of inherent meaning in the universe, as well as our existential and phenomenological experience of being-in-the-world. Sorry, no. That’s not true, and it is one of the MOST dismissive suggestions I’ve ever heard for depression.]
Now, that’s not to say that suggesting she put more of her time toward things she DOES love and for which she has hitherto shown passion is the wrong thing! No! One of the things that routinely helped me out of my depression was my particular academic field. When I was studying, I did not want to die. The moments when I stood up in class to teach, I did not want to die. When I wrote lectures and researched, I did not want to die. So if there’s something you know that she’s loved and has stopped pursuing, ask why. Support her in getting back into it. But try not to suggest that returning to that thing will “save” her, because it (likely) won’t. But it WILL help.
Meh, I can’t think of anything else right now and I know this is long as hell (that’s what she said!).