My friend is very troubled and I don't know how to help.
December 3, 2011 10:23 AM Subscribe
Can you give me any advice on how to help my very troubled friend? She seems to be very despairing but I can't convince her to see a therapist.
posted by anonymous to human relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've known my friend M for seven years and we are both 23. We went to high school, college, and university together. We've stayed very close throughout this time despite having different interests and other friends from different groups. We've confided in each other very closely and regularly over the course of our friendship. But I've become very worried about her in the past few months as she seems to be suffering from a lot of despair, and I can’t understand why.
I graduated from our university last May, and before that I was away doing my practicum ( I am a teacher), so since January we have been in different cities, however we have kept in touch online. It seems since the start of the summer she has become very despondent about the state of her life. I’ve always known she was prone to mild-to-moderate depression from time to time, especially when under stress from school, but this was something new. Her parents are worried about her and as she wouldn’t tell them what is wrong, they asked me to try to talk to her and I only last week got her to open up to me.
I found it hard to understand what was wrong since she says she’s not depressed, but this is how she explained it to me. She says that after the winter semester ended and she returned home for the summer, she felt a sense of utter failure. She has been in university for an extra year because of a double major, and for some reason not graduating at the same time as her peers has made her utterly despondent. I tried to reason with her and point out that there are many students who take an extra year, and that 23 really is not old to still be in university. She says she knows that she is not old, but that she feels extremely old and that she has failed. She tried to explain that this feeling of failure is not really a rational judgment so much as a very intense emotion; something she said that really worried me is that she sees no hope for finding fulfillment in the future. I think she is worried about graduating university and working full time, and thinks she will have to settle for a meaningless job, and that thought terrifies her ( she has always been a philosophically-minded person).
To me, it seems like she is suffering from depression. I’ve researched the characteristics of depression, and many of them sound exactly like what she says she’s experiencing: extreme difficulty concentrating, terrible short term memory, feelings of hopelessness, lack of energy, loss of pleasure for normally pleasurable activities, excessive guilt, feeling worthless, etc.
I’ve explicitly told her she needs to see a therapist but she thinks no one will be able to help her at this point. She says she just knows that she has failed and that nothing anyone says can change that. She says she has lost all capacity to feel any emotion, and the way she described it was that she felt her “heart had died.” I felt so sad when I heard her say that. I don’t understand what it means either.
When I told her to see a therapist she said there was no point; she has such a sense of certainty that she is a failure, and that her “heart has died”, that she thinks nothing can be done for her. She says she’s thought of suicide but that she won’t go through with it. I am really worried and want her to be happy. I’m not a therapist, and I don’t know what it means when someone says their heart has died, or what to do when they say that. I’m lucky to be going through a particularly happy period in my life (apart from my friend), and I want to help my friend, but I find it hard to understand why she is so despondent.
tl;dr: How can I convince my friend to see a therapist if she thinks there is no hope and that nothing can help her? Do you think there is ever a point at which there is no hope for a human being (Even if there is, it seems to me it would not be when one is young and physically healthy, and I am utterly perplexed as to why she thinks she has come to this point)? What does it mean if someone says their heart has died????