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Talking honestly about having friends with depression - is it allowed?

(37 Posts)
difficultinnit Wed 07-Oct-09 07:24:34

So first of all, it goes without saying that my friend's need is greater than mine and I would never do anything to make her feel worse.

I have had a friend for quite a few years now and she is lovely, kind, funny, good fun, a lovely mum, hard-working, very caring. She was diagnosed with depression a couple of years ago and is on citaprolam and is having CBT as well. She is doing ok but it's not easy.

In the past year she has started making digs at me. Nothing really outright nasty but enough of a dig for me to feel that underneath she has some frustrations about me. Mostly it's to do with money or education or my attitude towards my children.

The thing is the first few times, I just thought 'oh she's having a hard time, we all do these things to let off steam' and I let it go. Then a couple more and I was tempted to say something but I can't, can I? My hands are totally tied: she's depressed, my life IS easier for the very reason that I am not struggling with that - I'd feel like a real cow calling her on it.

There have been a few more digs recently and now I'm thinking, is she pushing me to react? I don't know what to do. I struggle with normal levels of paranoia and self-esteem just like 99% of people and her comments do upset me.

I would feel bad ending a friendship because of this but I just feel like she honestly doesn't like me any more.

LoveBeingAMummy Wed 07-Oct-09 07:30:55

Its hard having a friend in that situation and you do feel like you have to watch what you say. Can you be more specific about the things she is saying?

ScummyMummy Wed 07-Oct-09 07:45:06

I think you should challenge her, gently. Some kind of rueful "Ouch! That sounds heartfelt. What are you trying to say?" might be a good opener, perhaps. Depression shouldn't be a reason to treat people badly. Equally, depression doesn't automatically negatively cloud people's views on money, education and child-rearing. Perhaps you just have some genuine differences of view here?

belgo Wed 07-Oct-09 07:49:25

Agree with scummymummy, you need to gently talk to her about this.

BonsoirAnna Wed 07-Oct-09 07:50:50

You need to let her know where the acceptable boundaries of good behaviour between friends lie. And you will be doing her a huge favour if you do so.

difficultinnit Wed 07-Oct-09 08:07:45

It's really hard to write out actual comments without context.

So here's an example:
You know how with your friends, you talk about your kids, you are proud of them and find them funny? And everyone understands that, and in general you find your friends' kids quite engaging as well.

Well if I say anything now - just neutral stuff - I get a dig.
DD is at a good nursery. I say I am pleased with the nursery, and they do X with DD. "Well, there are a lot of good nurseries around, they all do that, actually." As if I am trying to boast or something, and I am NOT, I am just chatting. I'm not that sort of person but I am walking on eggshells now trying to almost do myself down and do my life down so as to not set her off.

It's obvious she thinks I am a twat. And I don't know (as scummy pointed out) whether it's a build up of frustration that is only coming out now because of the depression - in which case, well she's not the sort of person I want to have a friendship with and that's clearly mutual! or if it's a warped view of me because of the depression.

And in any case what do I do if she rings up and wants to spend time with me? It is getting to be such hard work and these comments really get to me but I'd hate to be turning my back on a friend; it would be easier if she just came out with it if she thinks I'm a tosser.

foxinsocks Wed 07-Oct-09 08:08:32

yes I agree with Anna. Your hands aren't totally tied and you should call her on it. Perhaps she is trying to provoke you to talk about it, who knows.

The fact that she's told you about her depression in the first place must mean she values you as a friend.

difficultinnit Wed 07-Oct-09 08:10:58

Of course I have just given you the dullest dig she has had at me but I can't think of any others that wouldn't be instantly identifiable.
Lots about finances. She thinks we are well-off. We simply aren't. I either have to let it go, or get right into the nitty-gritty of our financial situation. I have tried saying 'No we don't have money for X' as a factual way of getting it through to her but she doesn't seem to take it in.

foxinsocks Wed 07-Oct-09 08:14:32

I don't know where she has implied you are a twat. I think you are taking her comments very personally (and I can't blame you for that) but tbh, I've spent my life around someone with depression/mental illness and been with people who have moods like this.

It's not that she's having a go at you, what she is doing is having a go at herself. She is in such a deep dark hole that she can't bear to hear about someone else doing well. She's taking that bit personally. I may be off the mark here and maybe she thinks you're a twat wink but I doubt it. I don't think this is personal to you. This is personal to her.

If it is affecting you, I would give her a wide berth for a while.

BonsoirAnna Wed 07-Oct-09 08:15:08

Your example was a "small put-down". Obviously as a one-off it isn't worth getting too upset about, but if she responds to anything you say with small put-downs, conversation with her will be immensely tiresome. You need to teach her that the correct response to a friend telling you something about her life is to first agree (be enthusiastic or sorry or whatever, depending on the circumstances) and to gradually broaden the conversation out...

BecauseImWorthIt Wed 07-Oct-09 08:15:31

Well if she is taking medication and having counselling, there is support for her there, so it's not like her depression is being left unattended - therefore the situation should be a lot more stable for you to talk to her about this than if she were not being supported in this way.

I would stop being so nice!

Next time she says something like this, say to her "do you know, comments like that are really hurting me. What do you mean by it?" No need to be nasty or confrontational, just call her on the words that she's used. (Don't say something like "you're always saying things like that" - comment on the specific comment that she's made)

IME depressives can sometimes be very selfish (grew up with a depressive father), and think they somehow have a right to behave like this.

Either way, she's either being unpleasant unintentionally or it's a deliberate thing. She can't behind her illness.

Tee2072 Wed 07-Oct-09 08:24:15

Her having depression is not an excuse to be mean or cruel. I have depression and anxiety disorder and some other things and I do not use that as an excuse to be mean or cruel.

If she is, then she is being unreasonable and you have every right to call her on it.

ImmaterialGirl Wed 07-Oct-09 08:31:56

I've had a serious friendship end because of the other person's depression.

I'd argue that you need to look after yourself before her. Unfortunately, sometimes depressed people can become rather selfish and nasty. It's a little bit taboo to talk about this, as obviously the person is suffering, but the fact is that what you're experiencing is a mild form of emotional abuse. You are wondering if you 'have to' accept this because of her situation, but you shouldn't. It will do no good for your friendship either, and you will end up resenting her. From your post, it sounds as if you already are.

Do talk to her, straight, and say that these digs are unacceptable. If she is unable to stop, tell her that you need to not see her, or see her less, for a while. DO NOT let her make you feel guilty about this.

belgo Wed 07-Oct-09 08:33:32

No it's not an excuse to be mean or cruel, but it could be the reason, and because you are close to her, you are baring the brunt of he anxiety/depression/self esteem problems - and you do need to talk to her about it. She probably doesn't want to behave the way she does, and you need to talk to her otherwise she will just carry on and just get worse.

Littlefish Wed 07-Oct-09 08:37:23

My mum has suffered from depression on and off for most of my life.

When she is depressed, her sense of perspective is somehow warped, and she loses the ability to know whether she is being reasonable or not. During these times, she has said some very thoughtless or hurtful things. These are things that she would never say during the times she is well. I have always tried to tell her when they have hurt my feelings, although it can be very hard to do so. I think it's important to point out to her when she has overstepped the mark, as her depression seems to mask her ability to do this for herself.

slim22 Wed 07-Oct-09 08:37:39

Agree with all of foxinsocks and others have said. She is taking everything you say relative to her. It's all me me poor me.

This may sound harsh but since she IS getting professional help you should just concentrate on being a friend. Gently set boundaries. For your sake and hers.

My mum is like that. am always threading on eggshells. However I've learnt that there are some occasions where you should say hey! stop, that was unnecessary. If you don't you will find that you may eventually just drift apart because she does not know how to be a friend to you. And from what I've read so far, you will be hurt.

difficultinnit Wed 07-Oct-09 08:59:07

Righty-o, I'd better say something then. I am seeing her on Friday and something is bound to come up. Probably best either way to sort it out and if she does just dislike me, then at least we know where we are. Thanks for your input.

ImmaterialGirl, it is a bit taboo, that is the right word. I wasn't sure how it was going to be received at all so thank you everyone for not assuming I am a selfish cow (I have felt that I am at times).

BonsoirAnna Wed 07-Oct-09 09:01:23

I doubt she dislikes you. It sounds as if she dislikes anyone having anything she doesn't have (which is why she is so good at putting others down) and that is probably one of the root causes of her depression. She probably needs to learn to deal with that fact...

hullygully Wed 07-Oct-09 09:09:01

I have a friend just like this and I've had 25 years of it. (Gets long service medal). What I do is sit down with her every few months when I can't stand it any more, and have a lovely talk about friendship etc etc and then she cries and then things improve for a few months and then gradually backslide and so on...

Prunerz Wed 07-Oct-09 09:11:21

I deal with this too and I thought it was just me!
Nobody ever seems to mention it (but then neither do I).

omaoma Wed 07-Oct-09 09:13:42

I've suffered from depressive episodes and am all too aware that I've behaved badly to people at these times. I don't know if I indulged in the kind of behaviour you describe of your friend -quite possibly! - but can agree with other posters that in depression you are kind of swamped in your own emotions and find it difficult to hear others over that. Occasionally I would find myself massively overreacting to/being hurt by somebody's random comment and would just ignore them for months. Luckily my friends were very patient and would always be there when I returned to normality without holding a grudge, which I hugely appreciated. I think you have to deal with your friend as best you can for YOU - as you are not responsible for her illness - and it's possible there may be a lull in your relationship for a while if she or you need to take a break from it. But as a good friend, be there for her whenever she feels she can cope with the situation a bit better and you can pick it up again then.

Elk Wed 07-Oct-09 09:20:11

I have a relative who has depression and often treats other people badly by saying very hurtful things and basically says she has a right to do it. Her close family members just say she is ill and we have ignore it. She has never been called on it. IMHO it has done her no favours, she now thinks she has the right to behave appallingly and has really hurt some people on both sides of the family.

I say this as somebody who has suffered from depression. I took my, hopefully, last citalopram 2 weeks ago. I always felt that it was my unhappiness not anyone elses and that nobody has the 'right' to hurt anyone else. If somebody had gently pulled my relative up on this years ago our family might still be together.

Frrrightattendant Wed 07-Oct-09 09:34:03

I'm depressed a lot and I don't talk to people like that. At least i fecking hope I don't.

I don't think you should stay friends with someone who talks to you like this - it's damaging to you.

Snowtiger Wed 07-Oct-09 09:37:54

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given is that 90% of what other people do and say is about THEM, not you. This is all about her and how she is comparing herself and her life to you and yours, m'dear. I won't say 'don't take it personally' because it's natural that you do, but I wouldn't think it's anything you've done wrong.

As for her thinking you're a twat, clearly that's not the case - she thinks you've got it all and she's envious.

More important is whether or not you want to spend time with someone who constantly cuts you down and makes you feel like crap. A friendship is a two way street and if you're the one doing all the giving - whatever the reason - then it's worth thinking about how to redress the balance. I'd do as the other ladies have said and just go for an 'ouch, that was a bit harsh' or something, and if she's not willing to recognise that what she's saying is hurting you then perhaps you don't need that kind of person in your life? Just because she's suffering from depression (as I have in the past, so I speak from experience) doesn't give her carte blanche to behave badly.

Thread Wed 07-Oct-09 09:42:32

When you are depressed it is very hard not to see everything good about other people as evidence of your own badness, inadequacy, etc. So I'm guessing that every positive thing in your life is fuel for her self-accusations. The sniping comments against you are her way of defending herself against the accusations, even though those accusations aren't remotely made by you or endorsed by you. They are made by her against herself.

It isn't an acceptable way to behave and I think you should call her on it -- gently and kindly as others have said. She might be helped by your mentioing it (esp if she is having CBT and needing to think about these sorts of charactersitic behaviours). But more importantly you need to protect yourself. You oughtn't to be used in this way by a friend, even though it is very hard for her not to think the way she does.

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