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AIBU?

Mental health issues. Am I being unsympathetic?

170 replies

PurpleSky300 · 02/10/2022 13:51

I feel afraid to say how I’m feeling ‘’in real life’ so I thought I would put it here.
Essentially, there are three young men in my family (aged 25-32) who have long-standing problems with depression. They are skilled, talented people but they have struggled with keeping jobs, have drifted from their friends, rarely leave the house. They are well supported by their parents.

What I struggle with is that somewhere along the line, this has become ‘normal.’ In the sense that nobody expects it to change, it’s the status quo, it has gone on for years and if you ask any of them about things like hobbies / applying for jobs / plans to leave home / friendships or anything that might help them move on, they get angry and you get attacked for not ‘understanding’.

I’ve never had severe depression so maybe they’re right, I don’t fully understand. And whenever I try, it seems I’m always saying the wrong thing or verging away from what’s expected. The truth is what I see from the ‘outside’ is just… complacency, loss of hope, a whole bunch of adults so frightened of saying the wrong thing that they’ve accepted a ‘new normal’ that couldn’t be further from normal.

We are a very plain-speaking Northern family and I don’t understand how supporting someone with MH issues came to mean – tiptoeing around them / never challenging them / never speaking your mind for fear of what they might do. It’s a strange claustrophobic situation and I don’t know what to do for the best. Am I being unreasonable?

OP posts:
OldTinHat · 02/10/2022 14:05

Are they receiving support? On medication? If not, that is the first step.

LifeOfAnxiety · 02/10/2022 14:08

I have had depression for nearly 2 decades. At my worst I was suicidal, at my best I could force myself to attend a meal out once or twice a year with friends.

I currently hold down a part time job but, other than that, I rarely leave the house. I don’t see friends anymore or go anywhere. If you suggested to me about starting X hobby/getting a new job/leaving the safety of my home I would feel agitated, upset & angry because it would be frightening and impossible and all those feelings would make me feel even worse than I already do about my pathetic life. I can barely make it to the local shop for emergency milk these days and I get through work one day at a time, knowing that it may not be long before I’m unable to cope with going completely. Having people suggest massive life changes to me would pretty much tip me over the edge.

LifeOfAnxiety · 02/10/2022 14:10

Btw I am on the maximum dose of medication, have had CBT & ACT therapy -neither of which worked-and am currently waiting for yet another round of some sort of therapy that the GP referred me for several weeks ago.

MilkTwoSugarsThanks · 02/10/2022 14:13

To certain extent I agree with you OP, and I can see where you're coming from.

The tiptoeing around and being scared to ask anything is just wrong.

And yes, I do have mental health issues. They are mine to deal with, not anyone else's - unless they have offered help.

Mischance · 02/10/2022 14:13

Your relative was right to say you do not understand - because you don't. Neither did I till it happened to me and then I realised what true depression is about.

I think that, as you are in ignorance of what depression feels like, it might be worth keeping your opinions to yourself with your relatives.

Chapo · 02/10/2022 14:15

Why do you keep questioning them? They obviously don't want to talk to you about any of that.
Hobbies, friends, job, leaving home, that's a lot of questions and I can imagine they feel like you're nagging/being nosey/judgemental.

I'm not being arsy btw, genuine question from someone who's had long term depression.

ddl1 · 02/10/2022 14:26

It's the same as it would be for any long-term illness: heart disease, severe arthritis, etc. If they are refusing/ not bothering to seek treatment, you are not entirely U. They need at least to explore whether treatment would help before giving up.

However, if they have had/ are having all necessary treatments, but are still unable to function optimally, YABU. And, speaking as someone with invisible disabilities of a different and probably less serious nature, it IS very hurtful to be pressed to make changes that are truly impossible for one in one's current state of health. (I have a job, friends, etc.; but have never been, for example, able to drive, or to travel as freely as most people, or to move to possibly better-paid jobs that would require a lot of commuting, and criticism on these areas hurts me very badly.)

The fact that there are three such people in your family probably means that there is a strong genetic component.

Keyansier · 02/10/2022 14:28

I find that people proudly display their various neuroses and mental health issues on their online profiles and will happily lecture talk about them on their own terms but actually talking to someone about it frankly and suggesting any form of help is met with offence. I liken it to attention seeking.

tickticksnooze · 02/10/2022 14:28

Did they ask for your interference?

PurpleSky300 · 02/10/2022 14:29

Mischance · 02/10/2022 14:13

Your relative was right to say you do not understand - because you don't. Neither did I till it happened to me and then I realised what true depression is about.

I think that, as you are in ignorance of what depression feels like, it might be worth keeping your opinions to yourself with your relatives.

I do contain my opinions, as I said in the OP - I daren't speak to anybody about how I feel these days. I'm not interrogating them either, I'm just trying to make conversation. I am trying to keep some line of connection with people who seem like they are being swallowed up by their mental health conditions.

OP posts:
tickticksnooze · 02/10/2022 14:31

if you ask any of them about things like hobbies / applying for jobs / plans to leave home / friendships or anything that might help them move on

That's not small talk, that's a set of intrusive questions that are very clearly communicating your opinion about what you think they should be doing.

Mischance · 02/10/2022 14:32

Communicate with them in a positive way - have some suggestions as to what you might do to help them. Give them your time and your warmth - tell them you are sorry about their problems and would like to understand these better. Ask them what you can do to help.

TheSimpleLife88 · 02/10/2022 14:33

I agree. I know men that struggle and say they have mental health issues/have tried committing suicide. Yet they don't do anything to help themselves or accept help from others. They push friends and family away, isolating themselves. Refuse to go to the doctor's for medication or talk to a counsellor. I think it's definitely a male thing. But then they claim no one cares...but won't accept any help at the same time. I don't have sympathy anymore and know that sounds harsh.

FamilyTreeBuilder · 02/10/2022 14:33

I hear you op and we have someone similar in our extended family. He was an anxious child, things got worse when he was 12/13 and by a year later he was refusing to go to school. His parents refused to tackle it at that stage, he was not supported to speak to a GP or counsellor or anything. Never sat any GCSEs.

That was 10 years ago and he's done nothing with his life since. No apprenticeship, no training, no job, nothing. No friends, no girlfriend/boyfriend, no social life. Parents get exceptionally defensive when you ask how he's doing.

He's not claiming benefits because that would put him in the "system" of being asked to address his issues, get some qualifications or take a part time job. So he sits in the house all day, every day, apart from taking the dog for a walk. This behaviour is now so deeply entrenched that it will not change unless something drastic happens. His parents are in their 50s, they could potentially have another 30/40 years of him living with them at home.

He's been totally failed by the NHS, schools but most of all by his own parents and it's really sad.

Supersimkin2 · 02/10/2022 14:39

Is it any of your business?

When you’re depressed, it can feel very intrusive to have ‘well-meaning’ outsiders asking questions and making suggestions that they wouldn’t dare make to anyone else.

if you secretly harbour doubts as to how ill
these DS are, meds and therapy are the litmus test. How much and whether they take them. Also, ability to do things they want (attend festival) v inability for things they don’t (wash up).

PurpleSky300 · 02/10/2022 14:40

Chapo · 02/10/2022 14:15

Why do you keep questioning them? They obviously don't want to talk to you about any of that.
Hobbies, friends, job, leaving home, that's a lot of questions and I can imagine they feel like you're nagging/being nosey/judgemental.

I'm not being arsy btw, genuine question from someone who's had long term depression.

I don't bombard them with questions. We were close before they became ill and I just try and talk to them about ordinary things and things they might have to look forward to.

OP posts:
FamilyTreeBuilder · 02/10/2022 14:48

It's just general everyday chat about what people are up to though - everyday family stuff. Sam's loving his first year at uni, Kate's Saturday job is going well, Lucy's dropped the singing lessons because she thinks she prefers swimming, we're thinking about Majorca next summer and had a lovely cake at the cafe in the high street last Saturday.

This sort of chat about everyday, routine stuff makes the parents of the individual I know very uncomfortable because they have this 25 year old at home, life slipping away from him, while everyone else is getting on with living. Yes depression is awful. But there ARE treatments and things which can be done to help people get better, or at least cope. But at 25 this person is an adult and cannot be frogmarched to the GP if he does not want to go. And he does not want to go, so his parents carry on living as they have for the last 10 years. There was a window between the ages of about 13 and 16 for them to get support and strongly advocate on his behalf and they missed it.

Nobody's saying that these people are choosing to be depressed. Or choosing to be mentally unwell. But sometimes when people are so stuck in a rut they need pushing and support to address that or things will never change.

MrsRuggles · 02/10/2022 14:48

There is a very helpful and realistic answer to the OP on this Reddit page. If you are not the person responsible or closest to any of these people, your appropriate place to challenge is those who would be supporting them. Perhaps saying how much better the people in questions life could be without the depression and possibly learned helplessness.

Have a read of Casscade's response and see if it's something you could do, or show it to someone who could. Quite possibly the parents/partners of these young men feel helpless themselves to help the situation. This is practical guidance for long long long before the the stage of being ready to reach out for professional Mental Health help.

www.reddit.com/r/AskUK/comments/xsvpga/how_would_you_help_a_21_year_old_son_who_stays_in/

georgarina · 02/10/2022 14:49

Other people judging/pressuring them isn't going to help.

FamilyTreeBuilder · 02/10/2022 14:50

georgarina · 02/10/2022 14:49

Other people judging/pressuring them isn't going to help.

And neither is everyone kidding on that everything is just peachy.

pattihews · 02/10/2022 14:51

I can understand where you're coming from, OP and I do sympathise. It's the normalising that's the issue, I think. I made a friend through a group I attend: we got on well. She has a son and two daughters (17-25) who are all so psychologically fragile, and require so much support, that her life is completely dominated by them. The youngest is agoraphobic and has such high anxiety levels that she rarely leaves her room. The second has just gone off to university with a massive support/ care package because of anxiety and depression and self-harm. She phones her mum several times a day and is already threatening to return home. The son is apparently depressed but also angry and destructive and difficult to be around. All have grown up with CYPMHS, all are on various medications, they've all had therapy. Their father left a couple of years ago. He accused his wife of enabling the children, which she was furious about. But as an outsider looking in, it does seem to me that the children have her very firmly under control. When earlier this year she proposed going away for the weekend without them (her first break from them for years) the middle child threatened suicide and the son went round the house smashing things and she had to call the police.

LocusFlower · 02/10/2022 14:52

Long term Adult depression is often actually being undiagnosed neurodivergent. It’s not something people can snap out of or change by going out more. It’s much more complex than that. I’m glad these young men have support in their immediate families.

iekanda · 02/10/2022 14:52

There are lots of things about modern life in the UK that can make it utterly miserable. From "petty" things to more serious things. I should think that a 30yo adult living with their parents due to MH and other issues would really want to smack you in the face if you asked when they were considering moving out. They probably wish that they were "normal" and probably that they could live happily in their own place with a wife/gf.

FamilyTreeBuilder · 02/10/2022 14:52

In the situation I am thinking of, the parents are absolutely enabling this person. 100%.

Signeduptosimplyreplytothis · 02/10/2022 14:53

I say this as someone who has had intensive mental health support in the past, but they have got to want to change and want to get help before anything will improve for them.

Be that seeking therapy for their traumas or getting out and making new friends, changing job etc

It's ironic given the symptom of depression is apathy but they need to dig deep and find the resolve to change and take the baby steps to get there. You can't do it for them.

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