How to deal w/loved ones with depression?

A few months ago, my boyfriend broke up with me. The breakup and its immediate aftermath were, perhaps, the most frustrating period of my life. Not that I’ve never had a real problem, and not that I’ve never been dumped, but it was that the reasons he gave (or lack thereof) made absolutely no sense, and I’m one of those wacky people who likes things to make sense. Plus I hate it when people I care about are in pain. So I’m hoping some of you guys can help it all make sense and/or provide some coping tips.

The only reason he has ever managed to articulate for breaking up with me was something like: “you’re a wonderful person, and I love you, and I missed you like crazy while I was out of town, and I can’t manage to keep myself from jumping your bones, but something is just, ummmm, I don’t know, wrong. That, and I feel like I’ve been using you as a way of procrastinating on other areas of my life where I feel like I need to get myself together.”

What I really suspect: he yo-yo’ed a couple of times before finally blowing me off for good, and said yo-yoing commenced shortly after he decided to drop his Prozac, cold-turkey. He’s always had mixed feelings about taking meds for depression, and I can certainly understand why (side effects and all, although he didn’t have any to speak of this time around, at least certainly not the lack of libido, which is the main one he’d been worrying about!). I tried to be supportive, saying that a) the drugs might not affect him the way they did before, since it had been quite a while since he’d been on them, and b) if they did, he could always adjust the dosage or try different drugs. Barring that, of course, there’s always the option of talk therapy alone.

He has always acknowledged that he needs to deal with the depression somehow, but when I tried to get him to explain why he quit the Prozac and didn’t replace it with some other form of dealing, he never really responded. The closest I ever got to a response was “you know, you just have to accept that not everything will always make sense.” During this whole period, at least while he was still at least nominally dealing with me, he was also blowing off his family and other friends, and in general behaving quite grumpily and withdrawing socially. Another friend of mine, whose mom has struggled with depression for many years, observed that sometimes depressed people go on and off their meds, maybe because they somehow find it oddly discomforting NOT to feel depressed all the time, because when they’re happy, they feel like they’re not themselves, and so they feel unsettled.

Crazy as it may sound, I care about this guy’s happiness and general well-being, even post-breakup, and hope that someday he will be able to deal with being friends with me, even though the whole episode left me in such a blue funk that I spent a week of what should have been vacation lying on the sofa, staring at my ceiling, and have been seeing a therapist myself for the past couple of months (I’m feeling much better now, though).

So in the event that we ever deal with each other again, a) how can one deal with a person who has depression issues without beating one’s head against the wall on a regular basis, and b) how can it be done without letting him drag me down with him, since I tend to let my friends’ problems/feeling affect me rather strongly? Any other insights into my ex’s bizarre behavior?

It’s hard to deal with people like this. I been in a similar situation. My friend was bi-polar. It was a drain to have everything be fine and then for it to turn so bad. I didn’t know how to handle it. I was trying to rationalize everything and always tallied her life up to be okay. I know what you mean by their depression bringing you down.

People like that are too hard to deal with for me. It somehow ends up that, as with the depression, the selfishness and uncaring attitude wears off. I haven’t seen her in a few years. I hope she’s alright, I doubt it though.

Its important that you don’t make yourself feel responsible for their mental health. Don’t become their therapist.

In college I dated a guy who was depressed and occaisionally suicidal. Unfortunately his family discouraged him from seeking talk or chemical therapy (the former was “only for crazy people,” the latter “would make him a drug addict.” ::sigh::slight_smile: This was a huge weight of responsibility as I felt that I was his only source of support. Eventually, me (and some other concerned friends) managed to convince him to see a therapist. I felt as though a burden was lifted from me: “well, if he offs himself at least its not MY fault.” (sorry if this sounds cold, but I am speaking of months of agonizing phone calls at 4am “I want to die” etc.)

Encourage him (without nagging) to seek therapy with a therapist he feels comfortable with (can be hit and miss). But, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped, and you will never ever “fix” him on your own. Let go of that tempting, romantic, but evil, idea.

I suffer from chronic depression and I know I must be infuriating to deal with. These are important things to remember:

  1. Yes, as someone said, you can’t make them happy. You can’t make them unhappy. You aren’t responsible for them. It’s harsh, but true.

  2. They can’t just “get over it.” They can’t “choose to be happy.” They can’t. They can’t do it any more than someone with cancer can choose not to have cancer. There is nothing more frustrating to a depressed person than having someone tell them “Just look on the bright side” or “Just decide to be happy.” Imagine telling someone who is hormonally disposed towards obesity to just decide not to be overweight.

  3. Medication doesn’t always work for everyone. I was on Prozac for six months before I gave it up because the only difference it was making was in my wallet. I probably should try some of the other medications.

  4. There’s no easy way out of depression. There’s no magic pill, no wonder therapy, no arcane words that will bring a person out of it. And depression is a nefarious condition that prevents the sufferer from seeking or recognizing a way out. Depression has similar appearances to all people, but is still unique to them. The thing that helped your Cousin Betty come out of her depression may not work for me at all.

  5. As a side note, don’t assume that the depression is at the root of everything to a person. While it’s true that the condition does cloud a person, there are some things that it might not be the cause of. A person in a sucky job has a sucky job, no matter if he is or isn’t depressed - though the depression may prevent him from finding a better one. For example, I’m a skeptic and an atheist. These are two beliefs I have come through after a lot of thought and observation. I know to many people this worldview is depressing. To me, these two things are probably the LEAST depressing things about me. To me things things actually represent a kind of hope and sign of a working brain. I don’t enjoy going to most movies, because theaters are expensive and most movies aren’t very good and I’d rather spend my time doing other things. Again, I don’t think this has anything to do with depression, but I often get, “Well the way you are, you don’t enjoy anything.” (Which is true to a point, but in the case of movies, again, there’s a real conscious decision there that I feel I can defend, not just an irrational mindset brought on by depression.)

  6. By all means express your concern to the person and tell him you feel he should get some help, but rest assured that depressed people KNOW they are depressed. They are aware. As I said above, the nefariousness of depression is that it makes you aware of itself, but refuses to let you see a way out. But the concern is nice. Expressing interest is nice. But again, you aren’t responsible for the mental well-being of another. There’s only so much a friend can do, and so much that should be asked of a friend.

  7. Always remember that while it’s annoying to be around depressed people, at least try to understand how annoying it must be to BE depressed. It’s like wearing heavy chains around you all the time.

Item number 2 above I think is the most important. It is absolutely enraging to hear someone saying, “I just don’t see what the big deal is! Just get over it! Be happy! You have to make that choice!” All it makes me do is want to break that person’s legs and then yell at them to “Choose to walk!”

Hope this helps.

Oh yeah, one more thing.

If you encounter your friend one day and he seems very cheerful and in a good mood, don’t assume that either he’s finally out of it or that he isn’t currently depressed at the moment. Most depressed people go through manic phases where they seem like they’re doing just fine, but it is usually not overly genuine and will usually crash down pretty soon.

Thanks for the feedback, guys. Believe me, I’m all too aware that depression was/is not my ex-S.O.'s only issue, and I’m also not always a walk in the park myself.

I also know that there is no magic wand, pharmaceutical or otherwise, that one can wave and have the depression disappear. The most frustrating part of the whole experience for me, though, was perhaps that although he acknowledged that the drugs 1) were indeed helping the symptoms, and 2) weren’t giving him any trouble with side effects, at least on this go-around, he decided that he didn’t want to keep taking them. The only explanation I managed to get out of him was that since he has to take a bunch of other meds for an unrelated medical problem, he was just tired of having to pop all those pills.

I’m no big proponent of taking drugs as a blanket solution to one’s problems, but to me it was a no-brainer: if there’s something which enables you to lead a psychologically normal life and maintain normal interpersonal relationships, is legal and covered by your insurance, and is having no perceptible side effects, then why the heck not take it? Does anyone have any insights on this apparent disregard for what seemed to me to be some very sensible medical advice?

It sounds to my untrained ear that the drugs weren’t helping him. When I first started on Prozac there were, at the same time, a lot of other changes that helped ease some of the pressure in my life. For a while, it seemed like the Prozac was helping. After a bit, though, it became obvious that it wasn’t.

The drugs, from what I understand, can often elevate you just enough that you can more effectively pretend nothing is wrong. But it’s not true, and after a while you get tired of pretending, especially if you’re paying to do it.