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Hi, all,

I've had problems with depression for about 40 years (I'm almost 60), and I've been having a very rough time this summer.  I'm fairly isolated anyway, more so with the virus. 

A friend recently did/said a couple of things that really bothered me, but I wonder if I'm over-reacting. I don't tell many people how bad things are, and this friend is one of the very few that I thought I could talk to about the depression, and he seemed helpful and willing to listen. I can't think of a way to give any more context without sounding like I'm justifying myself or complaining about him.

Late in July I was in very bad shape and emailed him to say that I was afraid I was going to kill myself and to ask him to please keep in touch. (I'd been googling methods early one morning after being up all night, although I didn't tell him that.) He wrote back the next day and completely ignored that part of my email. He stonewalled me when I said I was upset that he hadn't responded to it. To me it felt like he hurt me and then wouldn't talk about it, and it was never resolved.

Then last month, he told me that there must be something comfortable for me about being depressed, or I'd have gotten better by now. His reasons were that I wouldn't see a counsellor (I can't afford one and have had mediocre experiences in the past), I don't remember what else but basically because I'm not doing things the way he would (he has never been clinically depressed), he thought I must not be trying hard enough. Again, I found this painful, and he was unwilling to talk much about it.

He's been out of touch a lot lately, although it's hard telling what that means because he's kind of erratic in his contact anyway. Part of me thinks I shouldn't respond if he does get in touch, because those things really, really hurt at a time when I was already vulnerable, and he won't try to resolve them with me. But he seems to think I've been very unreasonable, and he's always seemed generous and giving. His avoidance and silence seem punitive to me, but maybe I'm being overly sensitive.

If you've read this far, thank you. Do you have any thoughts? Would you ever be OK with saying or doing those things to someone who was depressed, or being on the receiving end of them?

M

 

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1 hour ago, strawberryfool said:

Would you ever be OK with saying or doing those things to someone who was depressed, or being on the receiving end of them?

 

To answer your questions, Yes I would be ok with being on the receiving end of this because a lot of people don't understand mental illness, No I would not be ok with saying these things myself.

I have heard some very hurtful things from a close friend about my past addictions (I'm in recovery now). I just let it go because he isn't an addict so I think his words came from ignorance. I guess it comes down to how much of your friendship is positive and how much is negative. If you have a positive relationship 90% of the time and negative (he makes hurtful comments) 10%, then I would try to keep up the friendship. If it is mostly negative then I would would drop him as a friend.

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Thank you so much for responding. That's a really good point that a lot of people don't understand mental illness. Maybe it's more about him not knowing what it's like than it is about me (I take things too personally sometimes). Thanks again; take care.

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I second what BostonGirl said.  He was insensitive, yes, but I don't know if it was meant to be.  I get the same types of responses (both about depression and addiction as mentioned above) and it's because people don't understand.  It doesn't make any sense if you haven't experienced it.  I used to get very upset at someone close to me because he'd either tell me "you could get better if you tried" or he would get downright mad and say "it's stupid for you to say you're no good.". Finally we talked enough for him to say the truth, which was that my thoughts did not make sense to him and he would get frustrated because he wanted to help but can't help with something he doesn't understand.  Now I tell him " I am not feeling well" and he knows it is due to mental health but I don't try to explain.  We don't talk about it much. Instead he says "let me know if there is anything I can do" but he also has had to accept the fact he probably can't.  It is possible by telling that he would handle it differently is his backwards way of trying to be helpful by offering what his solution might be.  If you value the friendship, accept this is just one topic you don't connect on.  I have friends who have vastly different views from me in things but I value other parts of the friendship so I accept that we will never agree about those things and keep the relationship focused on what is good about it.

On the other hand, if this person is habitually demeaning to you and says other degrading things, it may be a relationship better let go.  I think you look at whether the person is usually caring, but just doesn't understand depression, or if they are someone that talks down to you all around, and use that as your guidepost for how to move forward.

Thinking about it some more, i would not expect a lot of discussion on the exchange about being suicidal because I know that scares people and they don't know how to respond, it's possible he doesn't want to talk about it because he doesn't want to say the wrong thing.  However the "you must like being depressed" type of comment is one I have gotten and don't like.  I think I'd request that I acknowledge depression doesn't make sense and may not be something we should spend all our time talking about, since it is confusing, but I can still expect empathy for the fact I am dealing with a difficulty.  He doesn't have have to fix or understand, but he can accept that it is part of where I am at and what I am dealing with.

Edited by Complicated toad
Over thinking reply
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I agree with what others have said - even my closest and most well-intentioned and well-informed friends don't really understand my illness, and realistically there's no way they could no matter how much I explained it or they studied it on their own. At this point if I say I'm sick and depressed, they do know what a struggle I'm in and how bad it is, and how my life basically shuts down. I know that it would scare them and they wouldn't know what to do so I never tell them when I'm suicidal, although they do understand enough about MI that they know it's a possibility. 

That's why I love my psychiatrist (pdoc, see you're not a regular so welcome) - I can and do talk freely about suicide with him, and it's a great relief to me to be able to have those conversations. I am just coming out of a multi-year and severe depressive episode, so over the last couple of years the topic has come up frequently. I know you said you aren't seeing a counsellor but you don't mention if you've got a psychiatrist or are being treated medically. I also never had much luck with therapy, but meds and now ECT have changed my life for the better. We're close in age as I'm 61. If you're in the U.S. sometimes it's easier/cheaper to see a psychiatrist over a therapist because a pdoc is a regular medical doctor and can bill as an M.D., so typically there's no limit on the number of visits. I think that in some instances some insurance plans limit the number of therapy sessions per year. 

If the rest of the interactions with your friend are generally good, I would just pass this last unfortunate incident off as ignorance and stay friends. It sounds like he does care about you, but doesn't understand enough to express himself in a non-hurtful way. If it comes up again, you could always say it's not something you want to discuss right then and change the subject. You could also say that you just want to vent and aren't looking for advice on how to get better. Lots of people mean well and want to try to fix things, when really what you're looking for is just some non-judgmental support. I have a few friends that are a 180 degrees away from me politically and religiously, so we agree to disagree and talk of other things. I hope you can find some relief and get to feeling better soon. 

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My point of view is that friends are hard to come by at this point so I will just avoid certain topics with certain ones. Currently none of my friends know about my MI and I see no reason to go into it. I’ve heard some similar things in the past and I just don’t want to deal with it. I would probably keep someone as a friend if things were mostly good. Even my best friends over the years have had downsides at times. Maybe that’s just the nature of friendship, I don’t know. 

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Complicated toad, catnapper, and sugarsugar, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. You gave me a lot to think about.

I wish I could talk about this with my friend, at least a little bit, as it sounds like you did with yours, Complicated toad. I think I’d be OK with avoiding the topic or agreeing to disagree, as long as I knew that he felt sympathetic and was willing to keep in touch. (I agree, sugarsugar, about friends being hard to come by, and I really don't want to lose a friendship.) But he has seemed impatient or offended when I tried to talk about it, and that bothers me more than what he said. 

One of the worst things about depression for me is a feeling of being pushed back inside myself because I feel like I don’t fit anywhere and I’m worried about upsetting or irritating other people. I wonder if my friend and I misunderstood each other, but I feel shut down because we can’t talk about it. Which also feeds into my feelings of shame and not wanting to be seen. I feel like I must have been a terrible nuisance and burden to him. I wish he would just tell me that (if that's the case) and we could work something out.

He’s a problem-solver by nature, and I’ve told him that I’m not asking him to save me or fix me but just to please keep in touch (that non-judgmental support you mentioned, Catnapper). In fact he’s been in touch less often since I asked that. I’m really confused, but part of it seems to be that if I’m not doing all that he thinks I can do to help myself, and specifically I’m not doing the things he recommended, he’s done talking to me about it. He's always helping people with things, and I'm starting to think he's most interested in providing practical/physical support rather than emotional support. 

And maybe he's done talking to me, period. I haven’t heard from him in about two weeks. We don't always talk all that often anyway, and he doesn't always see or respond to email or Facebook messages, but the silence is starting to feel more like he's avoiding me than that he's busy. I think I’ve been stuck obsessing over what I did wrong and what I should do, but maybe there's just not much I can do about this and I should try to stop my mind spinning over and over about it. Worrying about it isn't helping me. I really appreciate all your feedback, thank you! 

And I didn’t know that about pdocs, Complicated toad; thank you! That might be useful.

Also I really like that Kurt Vonnegut quote in your .sig, Catnapper!

Edited by strawberryfool

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Well, I hope you can work things out eventually with your friend, but in the meantime you sound like you aren't feeling great and may be pretty depressed. Are you being treated by a pdoc or anyone? We're all living with the fact that there's no real cure, just remission, but it's possible to get a lot better, and I hate to think that you're suffering unnecessarily. And it's also really nice to talk to someone that does understand and never in a million years will say the stupid and hurtful things that we've all heard from others, even (maybe especially) from those who mean well. 

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Thank you so much for your concern! It's been a very rough summer. Maybe things are easing off a bit now though.

I'm not being treated, but my primary care physician gave me some xanax (0.25 mg) in May for use as a last resort when the anxiety gets really bad. I don't take it all that often, out of concerns about addiction, and also it just doesn't work well if I take more than one maybe every week or so. My doctor also offered me a Lexapro prescription, but I'm leery of SSRIs because I suspect I may be bipolar, and I've heard that SSRIs are contraindicated in that case. (Two of my siblings have been diagnosed as BP II.) 

Money is tight, but I'm not eligible for Medicaid. My health insurance plan has a huge deductible. I've looked at some of the sliding-fee-scale counseling options in my city but haven't bit the bullet and contacted anyone yet.

On the plus side, I'm walking more, which I think helps. (Was walking about six miles a day for a good while, but that fell by the wayside this summer. I'm slowly getting back in stride.) I'm keeping in touch with various friends and family members. I'm working with a couple of books that I think might help me to, as a friend put it, self-therapize.

I realize I may be overestimating the extent to which I'm boxed in financially and underestimating how much counseling or meds might help me. Maybe that's part of what frustrated my friend. I get the impression that maybe he sees everything I said above as just excuses for not helping myself. The thing is, I've been just barely able to keep functioning even through the worst of this, and I'm afraid of doing something that would waste money or make me feel worse, threaten my ability to work, etc.

Anyway, I'm sorry, that's probably way more than you wanted to know. Maybe this week I'll try contacting some of the sliding-scale places and see how far down their scales slide. Thank you again for your kind words. I hope you have a good week.

 

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Let me give you my experience and view. I avoided psychiatric care until my mid 30’s despite issues since childhood. In retrospect I suffered for nothing. I tried herbs, vitamins, exercise, affirmations and counseling without sucess. Finally I got on meds and it helped, some more than others. Fast forward years to a change in diagnosis from depression to bipolar—life changing. Getting the right meds has been amazing and I see years of my life were wasted with bipolar depression (and manic times).  
 

So my perspective is, if you are suffering, get help, and explain why you think you’re possibly bipolar. There are lower cost clinics. I know access can be limited but I also know depression can get worse and have serious consequences or just make the work of finding help seem insurmountable. I wish I had gotten correct meds sooner than I did and hate to see anyone else go down the parh I did. I have little faith in therapy alone, I believe meds play a big role especially if someone is truly bipolar, and I don’t know if you are or not, but just saying. However, I also felt really let down by the fact that meds weren’t miracle drugs and took time or weren’t right, so I don’t want to say you’ll instantly feel amazing on the first try because although some say that, most of us here have been on different meds over time. 
 

Not trying to boss you or preach, but sharing my experience and trying to be encouraging. It’s my perspective and opinion but I hope it helps. 

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I've had a similar experience to sugarsugar. I had my first depressive episode in my twenties, except I didn't realize I was sick. Mental illness wasn't talked about in the popular press the way it is today. I had a few more episodes in my thirties, and went to a therapist for the first time when I was 40.

During my very first visit she said I needed to see a psychiatrist, so I was diagnosed with MDD and began meds. It was life-changing and I finally felt like I was alive. I move every few years for work (construction), and when I saw a psychiatrist at my new location about nine years later, at my first visit he said I had bipolar. He prescribed a mood stabilizer, which I took along with the antidepressant that I was already on, and it was even more life-altering than my first antidepressant.

I'm not a doctor and not at all qualified to diagnose anyone, but based on what you've described, you need to see a psychiatrist, get diagnosed and treated, and maybe start therapy sometime in the future. These are physical illnesses so need to be treated medically. Therapy is useful to give you insight and help you change behaviors, but it won't make you well. It's good you have a GP, but a GP isn't qualified to deal with any significant mental illness. Since you have first-degree relatives that have already been diagnosed, that raises the odds that you have a significant illness and need medical treatment.

You're reading a post from someone who has declared bankruptcy twice, lost one house to foreclosure, and damn near lost another, so I know all about being broke, losing my job, and all the other difficulties depressive episodes cause. I have very few regrets in life, but by far and away the biggest one is that I didn't get treated when I first started getting sick. I've lost years of my life to bipolar, which I experience mostly as years-long depressive episodes. Bipolar and depression have biological causes. No one asks to have a mental illness and you shouldn't feel bad about seeking medical treatment. Keeping up good habits like exercise will help things, but that's not enough to make you well.

I hope you see a psychiatrist soon, and I hope you get to feeling better.

 

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On 9/16/2020 at 1:58 PM, strawberryfool said:

Hi, all,

I've had problems with depression for about 40 years (I'm almost 60), and I've been having a very rough time this summer.  I'm fairly isolated anyway, more so with the virus. 

A friend recently did/said a couple of things that really bothered me, but I wonder if I'm over-reacting. I don't tell many people how bad things are, and this friend is one of the very few that I thought I could talk to about the depression, and he seemed helpful and willing to listen. I can't think of a way to give any more context without sounding like I'm justifying myself or complaining about him.

Late in July I was in very bad shape and emailed him to say that I was afraid I was going to kill myself and to ask him to please keep in touch. (I'd been googling methods early one morning after being up all night, although I didn't tell him that.) He wrote back the next day and completely ignored that part of my email. He stonewalled me when I said I was upset that he hadn't responded to it. To me it felt like he hurt me and then wouldn't talk about it, and it was never resolved.

Then last month, he told me that there must be something comfortable for me about being depressed, or I'd have gotten better by now. His reasons were that I wouldn't see a counsellor (I can't afford one and have had mediocre experiences in the past), I don't remember what else but basically because I'm not doing things the way he would (he has never been clinically depressed), he thought I must not be trying hard enough. Again, I found this painful, and he was unwilling to talk much about it.

He's been out of touch a lot lately, although it's hard telling what that means because he's kind of erratic in his contact anyway. Part of me thinks I shouldn't respond if he does get in touch, because those things really, really hurt at a time when I was already vulnerable, and he won't try to resolve them with me. But he seems to think I've been very unreasonable, and he's always seemed generous and giving. His avoidance and silence seem punitive to me, but maybe I'm being overly sensitive.

If you've read this far, thank you. Do you have any thoughts? Would you ever be OK with saying or doing those things to someone who was depressed, or being on the receiving end of them?

M

 

As others have said ... what he said was not the most sensitive, but if you value the friendship at all I would consider taking it with a grain of salt. For one, this whole pandemic has put everyone, regardless of mental health, under great stress and even if he hasn't had any mental health issues up to this point, there's nothing to say he doesn't now. Also, to be honest, the way you broached the topic with him — that you were afraid you were going to kill yourself and to keep in touch — provides, at best, no specific, actionable information on their end for ways they can truly help you and, at worst, comes across as a poorly disguised test of friendship. If you need help, ask. That leaves no ambiguity and the ball in his court. Then, if he wants to help, he can help or not. And if he doesn't want to or feels as though he can't, that might be the impetus you need to figure out whether this person is truly a friend or not and if you want them in your life any longer.

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One last comment about insurance - assuming you're in the U.S., even if you have a high deductible, psychiatrists are M.D.s so you'll only have to come up with your office visit co-pay, the same as you do for your GP.

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Psychiatrists have been historically reimbursed the least. MY pdoc who is mainly cash only once actually took my insurance for awhile. The insurance paid him $25.99. For a session he bills at $350. Even my allergist got more from insurance.

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Catnapper, thank you. I am in the US, but I’m not sure I could afford even my copay more often than every two or three months. The copay is $120 for specialists, which I’m guessing includes pdocs. I assume that they mainly prescribe meds and don’t do talk therapy?

Psychwardjesus, thank you for sharing your thoughts. That’s a good point about how it might have looked like I was testing the friendship. I hadn’t thought of that, but I can see how it might have looked that way to him. I wish he’d told me, if that’s what it was. Maybe he thought he couldn't tell me because I was depressed, although I'm pretty sure I've said in other situations that I'd always rather know if someone's upset with me.

FWIW, my friend already knew that I was depressed and suicidal, so that wasn’t the first he’d heard of it. He likes to offer advice, and I’ve tried several times to tell him that I’m not asking for advice and would rather have more frequent contact (not necessarily to talk about the depression, just someone to talk with). He’s hard to reach, and we hadn’t actually talked in a while, just had bits of email. In that context, I think it was pretty clear that I was saying I’d appreciate more real-time contact, which he basically controls because he’s so busy.

Thanks again to everyone for all your feedback.

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10 hours ago, strawberryfool said:

Catnapper, thank you. I am in the US, but I’m not sure I could afford even my copay more often than every two or three months. The copay is $120 for specialists, which I’m guessing includes pdocs. I assume that they mainly prescribe meds and don’t do talk therapy?

 

 

Some pdocs do both meds and therapy and I'm lucky to say I've found one. I've also seen pdocs in other places I've lived that just do meds, which was fine, too. The first visit, no matter whether the pdoc also does therapy or not, will last one to two hours so that you can be correctly diagnosed. It's definitely worth the cost and the effort, although as others have pointed out meds are not an instant cure. But I wouldn't be alive without them. 

In one of your earlier posts you said:

"The thing is, I've been just barely able to keep functioning even through the worst of this, and I'm afraid of doing something that would waste money or make me feel worse, threaten my ability to work, etc."

Not trying to scare you or make you feel bad, but the reality for me has been that my ability to work has been destroyed by this disease on multiple occasions and meds are the only thing that has brought me out of the abyss. 

 

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Thank you for the information, Catnapper! That is all useful to know. 

I think I understand what you're saying about meds; it's a complicated question for me, but my friend Jean used to say pretty much the same things you do about how much her meds did for her. On the other hand, my siblings' experience isn't especially encouraging, and neither is my own experience, long ago and brief though it was.

For a fact I'm scraping by and certainly underperforming in ways that hurt me. Still, I'm afraid that I'd stop even scraping by if I tried a med and reacted badly to (even if it just made me sick to my stomach; I can't tell you how many days I've been laid low by antibiotics or birth control pills), or if I tried one that didn't help after I put some effort and money into finding it. It wouldn't surprise me if someday I do wind up trying that route, but I'm not quite there yet.

Thank you so much!

Edited by strawberryfool

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