Posted by: Kristy | November 9, 2008

Don’t want to get up in your face. Don’t want to put the pressure on. Don’t want to make you run away. Just want to show you love.*

I started reading “Prozac Nation” a few months ago and had to stop because it made me ache somewhere in the emotional part of my stomach. I recently picked it back up and it has me thinking.

What is the best way to support and care for someone who deals with clinical depression? How about bipolar disorder? I’ve had a few friends who have battled both illnesses, and I’m to the point where I don’t know how to handle it anymore. (By “it” I mean the hurting for them so much and hating to watch them battle while I seemingly stand by and do nothing, wanting to help but paralyzed by fear of doing more harm and, to be honest, fear of rejection.) You can sympathize, but for a lot of us we can’t empathize. We can say “I love you, I’m here for you, what can I do?” over and over … but it doesn’t really do anything. I know I probably could never completely understand … but I’d like to not feel so helpless.

How much do you push and how much to you give them their space? What are the best ways to show them love? How do you avoid always feeling like you’re walking on egg shells … and when do you walk away to protect yourself? If you can’t walk away, how do you freaking protect yourself?

These aren’t things we all tend to think about. But they are things I think are beneficial to learn about. Sometimes even necessary to learn about. Anyone have any suggestions or stories? Or thoughts … thoughts are always good. Those are not rhetorical questions, by the way. If you have suggestions or stories or thoughts, by all means PLEASE share them. This is a pretty scary topic — even scarier for the people who actually deal with these things in themselves — but I’m so convinced more people than we realize deal with sicknesses like this. The question is how to love them through it.

* And yes, that is a Jaci Valesquez reference. Almost as old-school as a DC Talk reference. The other day someone requested an older DC Talk song on YES FM and the DJ said he had to look for it. Really? How could you take DC Talk out of the playlist? That’s almost a crime against Christian radio.

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Responses

  1. I was long in the spot your friends are in now; there is, alas, not much you can do.

    But that not much is not nothing. Stay there. Pay attention. That’s it.

    That’s also a lot (for not much). You have to figure out how to stay when the other person flees, and how to keep your gaze steady while s/he bounces around.

    Translation? You state that the person is your friend, and that’s that. You’re not there to change her or save him or make them over into more perfect people. Tell them that you’ll hang on to them, to the best of them, while they work to bring themselves around.

    And support them in that work. Let them complain about their therapists and their meds, but if you think their therapists are competent and the meds are helpful, say that, too.

    As for the rough stuff, draw your lines clearly. Be blunt in letting them know that you won’t help them hurt themselves or make themselves worse. Tell them you’ll call whoever you need to keep them safe. This will help both of you: you won’t act against your own comfort or principles, and you’ll remind the other person that s/he is not alone, that there is a network of people around her or him who are keeping watch. (And it will remind you, as well, that you are not alone in caring for this other person.)

    Finally, let this person—expect this person—be a friend to you. Reciprocity is at the heart of friendship, and letting this person care for you can remind him or her that s/he, too, belongs on this earth, in your life.

    Hope this helps.

  2. I agree with everything absurdbeats says. I am depressed myself, and I realise in my better moments that my friends really struggle to understand and accept the way I act at times.

    Sometimes you do need to give someone space, definitely. But they also need to know you’re there all along. Sometimes even if it doesn’t seem like it, they need your company, even if you don’t say a word in all the time you’re together.

    Bring cups of tea, glasses of water, whatever it is they drink or eat – because they’ll not necessarily want to themselves, and part of being depressed is extreme physical tiredness and slowness, so that you can be thinking for hours that you really want a cup of tea, but you don’t want it enough that you go and actually make it. Practical things like that are good, but don’t stifle them either.

    Make sure you spend time on yourself, too, make yourself feel OK, because I also know from bitter experience how someone else’s mental weight can drag you down.

    Don’t let them get away with murder. I can be a total bitch sometimes, and I don’t mean to be. If they’ve hurt you, say so, but always come back if you can cope with it. Don’t compromise yourself, though.

    There is no right way, in the end. Hopefully, however they may treat you, they do realise deep down what they’re doing. And remember whatever they say, it isn’t them talking – it’s part of them, but sometimes this depression thing can feel like a possession of yourself by something other.

    Write down all the reasons why you’re friends with the real them, make sure you spend plenty of time with people who make you feel good about yourself, talk about your experiences to someone who doesn’t know the person concerned and who will just be very supportive and who will keep you going, keep you sane. My blog (under this username) is all about my experiences with depression, and you’ve inspired me to write a post about my thoughts on how to deal with me, so, thank you 🙂

    Good luck,
    Love,

    Lucie (having a ‘good’ day right now)

  3. […] Drink, Drunk, Food, Friends, Friendship, Help, Men, Party, Relationships, Tea I was reading a rather good post the other day on how the hell you can be a good friend to a depressed person. So, from my […]

  4. During my worst days, I can remember a good friend of mine, bugging me till I would go to his place, go for a cup, or just watch a funny movie with him. He would camp out at my door till I opened it, or ring my phone till I answered it.

    I realise that this is not something that would work for everyone, but when dealing with a friend, you are the best judge of what exactly to do

    The key for me was not to be left alone with my thoughts. My friend grasped that very quickly and as a result I’m happy to say I am here today, and feeling much better.

    I have tried to educate whomever I can about my experiences. as can be found on my own blog http://progressive-wisdom.blogspot.com/
    I believe the condition of clinical depression has been largely ignored by the general public for far too long.

    So keep up your efforts, I am sure together we might all just cause some good change here.


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