I have a friend who I suspect is chronically depressed. His depression has been a defining theme since we first began our friendship as he’s usually pretty skeptical and negative, and I’m always trying to get him to look at his life/situations from different perspectives.
This morning he sent me a text telling that he’s depressed and he doesn’t think he can deal with it much longer, so I called him to figure out what was going on. I tried to be empathetic, but after about an hour of listening to him sigh and make excuses for himself I found my patience wearing thin. It wasnt his depression that was annoying, it was the fact that he kept blaming himself for pretty much everything. He complained about not having strong connections to other people, however, when I tried to come up with solution (such as trusting people or actively staying in touch with friends) he would shut me down saying he’d already tried that. He said that when he opened himself up people kept hurting him, and when he tried to stay in touch with people, he was the one who was doing all the work. After a while of talking to him on the phone, I found myself sounding all preachy like a motivational speaker. Telling him how he SHOULD look at this and that… For some reason, that doesn’t feel like the most effective/helpful way to interact with someone who is depressed. Soooooo that’s why I need you alls advice!
Long story short:
1. Does anyone know the best way to be there for someone with depression?
2. What are some strategies I can use when they keep deflecting any/all tips that might help them see themselves in a different light?
3. Also, what should I do when I find myself getting annoyed/impatient with him?
Thanks for your feedback!
1. You can’t help, it is a selfish disease. They are like a child grabbing at your pant leg. ( i bet they say ‘its easy for you’, or ‘what would you know’, or ‘my life is so hard, you wouldn’t understand’)
2. You are not helping, they don’t want to be helped, they only want to be around the same miserable peers, you need to run and find better friends that will love you and want to experience their life with you.
3. See previous answers.
Sorry if i sound harsh but the energy i have waisted myself over the years trying to be the hero saviour friend to depressed energy sapping succubus like so called friends, could fly us to mars i’m sure. The only way i saved my spirit was to have a cull of everything that made me feel less than human. Many people want your love, value the love you have to share.
In my experience, if you don’t have the proper knowledge, experience and education, it can be dangerous to advise a depressed person. Bear in mind that your advise will always follow your own experiences and in order to really understand the other person, it takes training and experience.
Yes sure, we can give each other some general tips and outlines to move forward in life, nothing wrong with that, but I would always advise to seek professional help. Without knowing the person inside out, a lot of advise can get counter results. There is a reason why somebody is depressed, and it did not happen in one day. Usually it is a long history of life events and to interpret these life events is not easy, especially if you are not a professional.
So my best advice to you is to advise your friend to seek professional help
Thanks for replying. The thing is, I have advised him to seek professional help, and he told me that it wouldn’t do any good. He said he “saw a shrink throughout his childhood and it just a waste of money.” He said that his mom spent all of her money trying to help him and he’s the whole reason why she’s in a financial rut now. I highly doubt he’s the sole reason for his mother’s financial state because in the past he’s mentioned that she’s not good with money. Also, she has two other children besides him that she’s had to take care of. Unfortunately, when I bring up points like this he brushes them off telling he to “trust him on this”. It’s hard because I wanna be a good friend, but sometimes I feel like he may be manipulating me for attention.
I understand that a bad past experience with a therapist will cause resistance. Unfortunately therapists are just human beings and it is challenging to find one who really loves what they do and are good in their profession at the same time.
However, it goes both ways and it is not necessarily a fact that the therapist wasn’t the right fit. It is possible that it was not the right time for your friend, or there was too much resistance from his side in order to make the most out of the experience. Though since you say he was a child, I find this less plausible, and probably the therapist wasn’t the right fit and did not know how to approach your friend.
I find it interesting to see when people get bad experiences with physical doctors, they search for another doctor and do not lose faith in the profession of physicians. However, when one gets a not so good experience with a mental doctor, they give up completely. In my opinion, being a therapist is a lot more challenging than being a physician, as you need a lot of practice, experience and understanding of yourself in order to be able to understand the mind of another person. Whereas a physician can often times make assessments based on concrete evidence (e.g. a broken arm, there is not much to argue about that).
Anyway, I have struggled my whole life with depression and I have tried many different methods of overcoming it, ranging from retreats in Buddhistic monasteries in Asia, to the use of psychedelics, talking with friends, reading about it, studied Psychology myself etc. So far, the best and most conducive experience for me has been the Psychotherapy that I have been following for over a year now, continuously. I must admit though, that I was extremely lucky finding a top notch, nation famous therapist, with over 35 years of experience, studied in many continents of the world, many different types of Psychology etc. If I would have had a bad experience from the beginning, I am sure my resistance would have been huge too, and I may have given up on therapy too.
So unfortunately I do not know what else to advise you other than that your friend should not give up and just persist in finding their way to themselves. It took me more than a decade of searching, and now I still feel that I am just at the beginning. As long as your friend is willing and has enough faith, I am sure the right signs and circumstances will turn up.
From my experience I have found depression to be as a result of stagnation. This can be a vicious cycle as the longer it continues the more the person feels powerless about being able to live their lives.
I don’t feel qualified in giving any sort of magic cure or advice as I don’t believe there is one because each persons mental illness is different but I would like to suggest a couple of things.
1) Ask them to keep a journal
This has many benefits such as being able to write down thoughts or worries and can sometimes help the person see how irrational certain thoughts are when they are down on paper. Secondly it can help alleviate some mental space and stop the continuous loop of negative thoughts/feelings.
Thirdly and in my opinion most importantly for your friend, it can be used to write down simple goals to work towards. Since he has indicated that he is losing hope, it would be of great benefit for him to set daily and weekly goals for himself. This can start very small such as Make contact with a friend/relative today/go for a walk etc. If he can do this and begin accomplishing these small goals they can give him the confidence to tackle bigger things and ultimately start thriving again.
2) Identify a person who he needs to be strong for
Depressed people often hate themselves therefore it can be beneficial for them to identify someone who needs them. This has a few advantages, firstly it gives them a sense of self-worth (I am living not just for myself but for the good of another) and secondly it can give them extra strength to endure this and find a way out. I find that some depressed people give up so easily because they begin to undervalue their own worth but it is a lot harder to give up on another person. Lastly it can give the person a renewed perspective as I find the person may be too concerned with themselves or stuck “in their own head”.
I commend you for having the patience to help your friend and I would strongly urge you to spend as much if not more time with positive people in your life to balance things as it can be very draining. As easy as it is to say, try to not absorb his feelings/emotions, continue to be your own beacon of light. Obviously you can’t go in all happy and lucky when he is clearly feeling low, but remember to keep your inner self pure. This is just as crucial for you as it is for him.
Do keep us updated on what is or isn’t working. I think it would a great resource for others who are in a similar position
Best of luck
There are a few things you can do.
1. Definitely do not treat him like a child, mollycoddling is awful for depression. One of the things that is very empowering is figuring shit out for yourself. Take him camping or something and have him help out building the camp or collecting and starting a fire. Just anything that allows him to have some worth and let him see he can rely on himself. Make sure that you see his worth.
2.Ask him what he values himself on. Our basis for value gives us strength in social situations. One of the mistakes my fellow men fall into is valuing ourselves purely on whether or not we can get laid – this inevitably leads to despair and can stunt our growth.
3.Remind him of the benefits of struggle – from struggle comes empathy and strength. Also teach him that any anger that he has must be used well or else it can be aimed inwards and destroy himself.
4. Teaching him to question what he would regret less. is important. what I mean is that you begin to recognise that at a given time you would probably regret say doing art less than you would regret doing nothing. or you would regret building something less than you would regret sitting on facebook for hours at a time. By having this understanding of regret in this way you usually find energy where you had none before.
5. Remind him not to wait for someone to come along and save him, people with depression often fall into an idea that someone will come along and save them and they expect everyone to be their saviour, they can wait years before they realise it does not work like this and so this only creates more misery. You have to tell him that yes you will be there for him but as his friend.