After I blew it, how do I now help a clinically depressed good friend who prematurely ended treatment that was working?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have a friend ("they/them") who has suffered extreme, extended bouts of clinical depression that required electric shock therapy in the past, serious meds, and hospitalization. Over several decades I've been able to support this friend just by showing up regularly as part of the swat team of friends they've needed on site so they wouldn't kill themselves, and to assist exhausted family members.
Always, I just knew to listen to their "crazy talk" without ever denying that these thoughts were as real to them as the color of their eyes. The most I would offer were words about change, e.g. "Nothing stays the same, even this." As part of the help team, I gently guided this person to eat and to get outside even though they didn't want to do anything but sleep. I wrestled with what to say about ECT and meds because this person is an alternative treatment believer big-time, and the conventional treatments are brutal. However, they were the only things that worked, so that put me on "that side" since they know I'm an evidence-based person as is pretty much everyone on the swat team.
Eventually, the episodes would end, the dawn came, and this charismatic, creative wonderful spirit emerged from the cave like a colorful butterfly. The rest of us were grateful, but exhausted, especially family members who had to hear that it wasn't the "bad" Western treatments that ended the depression but this or that potion, expensive quack, etc. Maybe it was all of the above.
Anyway said friend had the longest, most awful bout of depression last year, which lasted six months. Finally, they agreed to some new meds, which seemed to have started working within a few weeks. Whatever it was, the friend stopped taking them. "I feel so great, I don't need them," while the rest of us looked at each other askance. Within weeks, another profound crash followed. The friend blamed everything but the premature cessation of the conventional treatment.
I said nothing about this unwise decision during a recent, difficult conversation. However, I let my squelched frustration out in other ways. Instead of just listening as in the past, I tried to talk them out of their own feelings, using reason and my ingrained practicality to "get them to see" the irrational things they were saying and thinking.
I hate myself for this. I have since apologized. Understandlably, they are now on the defensive, trying to explain, via e-mails since I'm not nearby this time, why their thoughts are rational. Yes, they are . . . to them. This is what they feel. I have to honor that, but I'm faking it. I'm faking it while I listen to the new quack therapies they want to try.
What can I say or do from now on to regain this person's trust in me while they are still depressed? They want to call me to explain how they feel. How do I respond to their paranoia and guilt without the impatience I exhibited? How do I deal with their complaints about (actually stalwart, patient) family members and helpers who aren't helping, according to this very, very depressed person? I usually just say: "Being a caregiver is tough. They're doing their best."
If you've suffered such profound depression, tell me what to say and how to proceed kindly and helpfully.