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Need advice about friend please - depression - possible trigger(13 Posts)
I have a friend whom I've known for more than 7 years. She suffers from severe depression and throughout the years I have done my best to support her. I have 3 young children so my life is very busy, but I've always taken the time to talk to her/see her whenever she needed me. She has tried therapy and takes antidepressants but they don't seem to help.
I have to be honest, it's starting to take a toll on me but I love her and I don't know how else to help her. She relies heavily on me to make her feel better and she gets upset if I suggest that there are some things that only a professional can help her with. She thinks I'm rejecting her but I'm really not. I just don't feel up to it anymore. I'm not a counselor or a professional who would know what to do. But I can't force her to see someone (she doesn't want to, she says it doesn't help + she won't ask her doctor either for same reason). I live about an hour away from her and I can't leave my kids every time she needs me, although I have done that many times. She says she doesn't have anyone else (she never married and family are too far/estranged). I feel like utter crap wanting to take a step back (and I'm scared that if I do, she might hurt herself although I know in my head this isn't my responsibility but I can't just not worry). But I'm exhausted.
Any advice on what to do?
(Sorry for long post)
If her medication isn’t helping, she may need to increase the dose or try a different antidepressant (there are several different ones and the only way to know which is best for you is to try them). Obviously this can only be done through a doctor. Would she allow you to book her a phone call from the GP? Is there a different GP she likes better or could you offer to go with her to a walk-in health Centre? Could she contact some of the mental health organisations via email or phone for some advice, or choose her own therapist from the BACP website? She may feel nervous or suspicious of medical professionals but reassure her that they are all there to provide help and support. If she had a physical illness she would recognise that a medical professional is going to be able to treat it, whereas a friend is for moral support. To look after yourself you need to set boundaries you can manage.
Perhaps you could set a limit that you are comfortable with. For example, one visit a fortnight and two phone calls a month (whatever you can manage). You can't shoulder all of your friend's problems, as you say, you are not a professional and have your own commitments. Make gentle excuses why you can't do more. If she really gives you reason to believe she may harm herself, I think you can get the number for her local crisis team and call them. You sound like a good friend.
Thank you for your reples
Intercom she has physical health issues too and she won't see a GP about them either. I don't think she's suspicious, she just says it's meaningless and it's not going to change anything. I know it's her depression talking and warping her view of the world, but that doesn't help.
Macca I will try. Maybe the crisis team can give me advice on this too.
It is very draining especially when the person can't be proactive into changing their situation.
Can you get her out the house? Take her for a walk to the park with your kids etc.
Please remember as well that your not responsible for her. She must do this for herself and sometimes people being careful and helpful all the time isn't helpful.
Obviously I don't know you or your friend but there are some things that strike me about this. I may be projecting my own situation onto it though! So take the following with a pinch of salt.
She has tried therapy and takes antidepressants but they don't seem to help.
I'm wondering what kind of therapy she had. Quite likely a short-term behavioural intervention rather than a longer term, get to the root of the problem type thing. Perhaps more therapy (probably private) might help. Antidepressants don't work for everyone, or don't necessarily work a huge amount when they do work. They are certainly not the magic pill some people think. (Not you Intercom, just the impression I get from Josephine Public!)
I'm wondering if she really won't try to get profesional help, or if she has been refused any more help to the point where it is soul-destroying to keep asking (yeh I might be projecting here). It's also possible physical symptoms are being dismissed as in her head/she's making a fuss. Not saying this is the case, but just to be aware it might be a possiblility. (I've been described as "refusing to seek help" before, by people who can't see any other reason for not receiving any help.)
she gets upset if I suggest that there are some things that only a professional can help her with. She thinks I'm rejecting her but I'm really not.
Part of me wants to scream in frustration at this. Not at you personally; just the whole situation, the way that society has sectioned off certain things and certain people's experiences and emotions and one just gets a tight-lipped non-engagement and "seek professional help". Actually you don't sound like you're doing this; I'm just explaining the general feelings that can be provoked as a human being who's struggling, when you feel you're somehow not fully human, with human problems, but an unwanted weirdo who must beg for scraps of support from the state/professionals without the time or resources to really help. I suppose what I'm trying to say is, support from friends is invaluable, and can never be replaced by professional help. Sure, some things (eg. therapy) need a professional, but stuff like having a cuppa and being able to have a little cry and say "this is what I'm feeling/remembering" doesn't. And most importantly, the "normal" stuff, eg. a walk in the park as Beer suggests. Actually this stuff is vital to just feeling like a normal person. So I guess make sure (or keep on making sure!) you're clear about the specific things a professional may be able to help with, rather than a more general "seek professional help".
Another couple of things here - IME I found it helpful to know I was seeing friends fairly regularly, it helped keep a certain stability rather than trying to manage and eventually crashing and needing obvious support from them. The other thing is about the help/support all being one way. As someone who needed a lot of support I found it very upsetting and frustrating. I'm happy to give as good as I get, in fact I want to. I'd happily do the washing up/paint the bathroom/whatever, to help out a busy mum friend whilst we have a natter and she's feeding the baby or just getting a moment to put her feet up or something! Knowing I am supported in return. I don't know if your friend would do this, but IME people just don't think to ask, as they get used to the dynamic being one person always helping the other.
Sorry this is long, doesn't cover everything but just some thoughts I wasnt sure would be mentioned by other posters.
Does she accept that she hasn't yet tried all that is available by any means? Since not visiting the GP doesn't help either, would she accept that in that case, she has nothing to lose by going to the GP? Would she be prepared to allow you or someone else she trusts to speak to her GP on her behalf, if she feels unable to manage it herself? If you have concerns about her safety you can tell the GP anyway, although they obviously cannot discuss her with you without her consent.
I know that yes, depression does make you feel things are meaningless, and it is very, very hard to argue with the abnormal logic of depression. You may feel you need to tell your friend that you have no more ideas, you have given her all the suggestions and have no more to add.
Have you looked at the website for MIND? They have a lot of information, a section on how to help someone else here, as well as helplines. You could let your friend know of the website and helpline (and even if she won't look at it, perhaps you may find it helpful for your own information).
MIND say that "The Mind Infoline gets over 30,000 calls a year and some issues come up again and again, for example: What can I do if a friend or relative will not seek help for a mental health problem?"
Sorry about the broken link, the section on how to help someone else is here: www.mind.org.uk/information-support/
Since not visiting the GP doesn't help either, would she accept that in that case, she has nothing to lose by going to the GP?
Sorry Intercom but I disagree there's nothing to lose. When you feel utterly shit about yourself, going to see a disinterested GP who can't offer any more help and can only refer you to a team who will reject the referral, is basically a huge amount of energy and effort for no reason, except making you feel even more hopeless and beyond help.
That's IF the friend has sought help repeatedly, of course - it doesn't necessarily sound like she has.
Thank you again all for taking the time to reply, I appreciate it.
Beer Yes, whenever I visit we go out for walks, but I'm not there very regularly and she doesn't go out on her own, maybe once or twice a year only. Over the last 7 years, and because of depression I assume, she has also developed very strong social anxiety.
MissMoney I agree with everything you've said. I'm sorry you've had such a terrible experience with GP, it must be exhausting to have to explain over and over again how you're feeling and not getting an appropriate response.
My friend has been to therapy but I'm not sure what kind. This was years ago before I met her, and what I know about it is that she went to a few sessions and then stopped going because it didn't help. There might be more to it of course, but my impression is that she has a very understanding and supportive GP.
I was in no way suggesting that I want to withdraw my friendship. She's a real friend, not someone I know and try to help. I talk to her about my concerns too and I know that if she lived closer to me and didn't dread leaving the house, she would love to help out in any way she can. It just feels to me that in parallel to friends, professional help can tackle deeper emotions better than I can do, iyswim.
Intercom thanks for the link, I didn't know about MIND and I'll check it out. I have never offered to speak to her GP on her behalf, I guess I could try and see what she says.
You sound like an amazing friend, and you have done so much, but I agree with what you have just said, professional help can tackle deeper emotions better than you can. I say that as someone who has had a lot of therapy so I know what I'm talking about, there is no way I would have talked with friends about what I brought to therapy and no way they would have responded in the same way.
I wonder if there is a way for you to gently step back to allow the space for your friend to find out what she needs from life/professionals/etc that she is perhaps avoiding by clinging onto you. Again I mean that in the nicest possible way, because it has only been by being very isolated during my most difficult times that I had to reach out for the support I needed, even though I absolutely didn't want to! It may be very difficult for your friend, and I guarantee it won't be easy or pretty, but it's kind of her stuff that she needs to work through, I don't think you can make this easier for her.
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