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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blog Swap

Today's guest blogger will remain anonymous.

I've never been depressed before. I've never come close to being depressed before. I can't even stay angry at people for more than about 2 hours, much less in a bad mood for any length of time. I've read Dooce for years, though, and thanks to her honest writing about the subject, I feel like I understand more than I used to how depression works. How it must feel, and how helpless people are when tortured by a disease that they don't want, don't understand, and can't adequately treat. I thought I had compassion and understanding and a better grasp of how to react if ever faced with it.

My best friend is depressed, and I don't know what to do about it. I don't know what to do for her, and I don't know what to do for me.

She's actively being treated. She's on medication, and in therapy. It's not doing a lot of good. I found out after the fact that she had had suicidal thoughts for weeks - had an entire plan worked out, in fact, and was days away from going through with it - before she mentioned it to her therapist, who changed her medication instantly. I wouldn't have known if she hadn't told me about it later. If her therapist hadn't asked the right questions, I wouldn't have known until she was dead. How can that be? I should have known.

When I'm around her, she seems fine. When she's not fine, she won't see me. I try to press the issue and force her to keep her plans with me, force her to let me come over and watch bad tv with her. Should I just show up? When she doesn't want me there? I thought it would at least be helpful if someone else was there, to draw her out, make her not sit around thinking awful thoughts by herself.

I want her to know I'm here for her.

But then I wonder.. am I? We've all got a lot of shit going on in our lives. If she needed me to drop everything and help out, would I? I like to answer yes, to myself. But shouldn't I be doing more, in that case? Should I be showing up at her house uninvited, forcing everyone to be cheery? Should I drive by her house every day and pound on the door until she answers, then force her to get out of bed and go to work? What would I do when she doesn't answer the door? Break in? Give up? Try again the next day?

I don't really know where I'm going with this. Getting it all out is nice. Maybe if anyone reading this has suffered depression, you can let me know what your friends did that genuinely helped. Let me know how to be a good friend right now. My previous experience with Being A Good Friend hasn't covered this contingency.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I have no idea! That is so scary. I hope people have some good thoughts for you.

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you, committing yourself to someone like this is quite a lot of work. Assuming they actually get to depend on you... But sometimes, you need to realize, you just can't save them, you can't take responsibility for someone else's happiness. It just doesn't work out in the end. I'm not saying don't try though...

Anonymous said...

Scary. I had a friend tell me she had had suidical thoughts a while back. I think she expected me to know how to react, or maybe I just expected myself to know the right thing to say, since I work with therapists (but am not one), so I felt pretty useless. She wasn't seeing anyone about her problems, so I gave her the number of a 24-hour crisis line which could address immediate suicide thoughts and get her in touch with a therapist, and hoped she believed that I wanted her to come to me if she felt that way again and not that I was passing the buck.

Incidentally, those help lines aren't just for people thinking about killing themselves. They help the ones dealing with those people, too.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to answer your query, not quite understanding the nature of your relationship.

Be there for her, but respect her space. Depression is a disease of isolation. One loses the ability to connect, but in that loss of connection even becomes more disconnected. The emotional pain can be unbearable. The thought of dying becomes "viable."

Don't criticize her for being depressed, but try to help her move. This is not something that one can just "snap out of." Sometimes, when the depression is at it's worst, the physical act of moving can be the toughest thing, but sometimes the momentum may help her get out of the deepest pit. If she can't move, watch bad TV.

Try to find out why she doesn't want to see you. Some hide their depression because they don't want to expose people that they like/care about to the emotional pain. If you can honestly stand with her in those deep, despairing emotions, stand there. However, as a previous person suggested, that will prove to be an emotionally draining place to be. If you choose to be that support, realize that you are not there to fix her and some can not be fixed. If, despite your friendship, her disease worsens that is HER disease and not a reflection of you. Do not have the expectation that by being there she will be better -- over time that may happen, or not.

Don't criticize her for "failing.". Those drugs don't work for everybody, even though the ads suggest that they do. Therapy doesn't work for everybody, despite an honest try.

Ask yourself the question, can you be there for her without an expectation of fixing her? If the answer is yes, I think you are prepared to be the friend of a depressed person.

Jess said...

This post is beautiful, and it's so, so hard to have friends who are depressed because you feel like you should be somehow fixing everything because you are a friend and a good one and you know it and how could you not be able to fix it for them? But even if you were doing all those things it wouldn't solve the problem for your friend, I don't think. Because the depression is beyond you. I think you are good for being there, for letting her know she can talk to you, but at the same time not changing your behavior so that she feels like you're acting weird because she's depressed. I feel like that would make me feel worse, if I were depressed.

lizgwiz said...

My best friend has suffered from depression on and off for years, and it has been incredibly difficult for both of us. All you can do is let her know you're there and try not to take it personally when she avoids you. That's not easy to do, I know, but try. My friend and I have come to something of an understanding--I can tell now when he's starting to head south, and he's comfortable telling me when he feels it coming on, but it's literally taken years to get to this place. Good luck to you both.

Sauntering Soul said...

I don't have any words of advice for you, but just wanted to say I'm sorry you are dealing with this.

Anonymous said...

Here we go. I'll post as the person who's been through the depression.

Though, luckily, not to the extent as your friend. I never had the plan for suicide. I was desperate for someone like you to come along.

Here's where it gets tricky, and my advice/experience becomes useless. Everyone feels differently when they go through this stuff.

I, for one, felt utterly alone and would have loved to have had someone to watch bad tv with. Assuming I would agree to get out of bed.

I don't know if you can ... or should... "force everyone to be cheery." It might not help. But the least you can do... and maybe what might help the most (IMHO) is to just be company. You can't be her therapist, she has one of those. You don't need... and she doesn't need you go get her to talk. It may be too much for both of you.

You can't force her to go to work. Probably shouldn't. But I think ... as I've said... I would have loved to have someone show up at my door. Begging me to watch a movie with them or whatever.

But again. Everyone is different.

Good luck babe.

Elise said...

You are an incredibly kind and generous and gracious friend to even be going this far with what you should do. I don't have any good answers, but I think that because you are searching, you will find them.

Everyone should be so lucky to have a friend as good as you.

nancypearlwannabe said...

It is super hard to deal with people when they are depressed. The knee jerk reaction is to press them, to force the issue, but like you, I'm pretty clueless as to what's the best way to deal. Thanks for putting it so eloquently.

Anonymous said...

As another who went through depression, i was lucky enough to have a friend that had no problem finding a way into my place and pushing me (usually literally) out of bed.
My friend, however, had the time to deal with me since we were both full time students then, and had coinciding schedules.

She would show up early in the morning, much earlier than i would ever be able to get up on my own, pull me out of bed and get me to start yet another day. It was so, so helpful but at the time it annoyed the crap out of me that she was forcing me to eat breakfast, go to class and be a real person. I most certainly did NOT want to be a real person. Some nights she would just show up to 'watch bad tv'.

I think it can be helpful to have someone forced upon you when you're depressed - but of course not for everyone. Your friend might not appreciate it right away, but in time i think she would be glad you made the effort for her.

I don't know how it works as adults with our busy schedules, but i think if you at least try, she'd love the company.

Lara said...

I'm yet another person who has been depressed, but am not sure I can offer much help for you. Everyone's experience with depression is different. For me, luckily, medication and therapy worked eventually - but for a while there, it didn't. I had one friend who would call and invite me to do things with her, and I would apologize and explain that I simply could not get out of my pajamas or leave my house. I will forever be grateful to her because she would say, "Okay. Then I will be over at your house in half an hour with trivial pursuit and a bottle of wine. Do not even bathe or change clothes." She wouldn't be overly-cheery - but she did draw me out of myself for a little while.

Whether this will work for your friend or not, I don't know. Hell, maybe your friend hates board games.

I wanted to say one more thing. It sounds like you have a lot of guilt about your helplessness in the situation, and while I certainly understand how you could feel that way, I hope you know that there really isn't anything someone can do to draw someone else out of a major depressive episode. It simply isn't possible. You can let your friend know that you are there for her; you can do whatever comes naturally to you (I mean, are you the type who would just show up? If so, well, go ahead. If not, don't make yourself) - but you also need to let yourself live your OWN life. This is not your personal responsibility - and it shouldn't have to be. You are VERY sweet to be so concerned for her and to want to help, though.

Anonymous said...

I have been there and back as someone who is afflicted with a mental disease. Since 12 years of age, if not earlier, I was dealing with depression - to the point of wanting to die. I've tried to kill myself three times - at the age of 15, at the age of 19 and at the age of 34. Finally, after my last suicide attempt I received a proper diagnosis and proper treatment plan.

Being the friend is hard. Even as someone who suffers from bipolar disorder it is hard to help a friend who is depressed. There is a fine line between what someone can do to help and what the depressed person can only do on her own.

I found when my depression was at its worst that nothing anybody said would make things seem different to me than what my current view of reality was telling me. I also didn't want to be alone, but I didn't feel worthy enough to accept anyone's offer to stay with me - let alone ask for it.

Caretakers have a very challenging role of helping the person in need, but also making sure they are doing self-care and not jeopardizing their own health for the sake of the one with depression.

There isn't an easy answer to this. My comment is really just a lot of rambling. I guess I just want to let you know, as others have, that you are a wonderful and compassionate person for loving your friend and wanting to help her and at the same time there is nothing wrong with the doubts and frustrations you carry.

Noelle said...

My best friend is depressed, too. She will not seek help. I haven't spoken to her in over a month because there is nothing I can do that will help. I tried to get her to get therapy once, and we just got into a huge fight. I'm afraid I've got more questions than answers on this one.

Stefanie said...

Why do I keep following Noelle around the Internet tonight, ready to type nearly the exact same comment she just typed?

Reading posts (and comments) like this is really helpful. I know from experience that it's hard to deal with depressed people, particularly when they won't get help or even acknowledge there's a problem. My instinct is to press the issue, but I need to remember that's not the right thing to do. I just have no idea what the right thing is.

It sounds like you've got more patience than I have. I'm glad for you (and your friend) for that. Good luck to you both.

Anonymous said...

I once cut myself off from all my friends. I have no idea if I was depressed or not - probably. I really don't think that anyone could have done anything to help me at the time - I was unreachable somehow. But no-one even noticed. So it is good that you have noticed. I would just keep pegging away at it - keep trying to be there for her but don't overdo it. I do not think you can force someone to deal with something or even accept that there is something amiss until they are ready to do so.

The main thing is that when people resurface that you don't ever hold it against them. My friends all forgave me for ignoring them and that was the main thing as far as I was concerned.

You sound like a great friend to have - just bear in mind that depressed people pretty well always try to push those who care away.

lisa marie said...

I've had plenty of those depressing times and my mom would just show up, drag me outta the house for a walk or whatever and it would help bring me back up. I know for a fact I could be there again but am lucky I have such an energetic husband who keeps me going.

So, yeah, pound on the door sometimes, and sometiems don't. She may be withdrawing because she fears she'll loose you if you see her that way. I always retreated during my down times. I feared either bringing my friends down too or loosing them. I did try once and no one knew. If I had succeeded they would have been shocked. I was described as bubbly, yet I wanted to die.

I hope your friend figures it all out and gets it under control. XO