I've got the post-crazy crazy blues!
June 2, 2011 6:52 PM   Subscribe

Four months after a depressive meltdown, how do I help get past it? How do I prove I'm not crazy now, and how do I get others to forgive me for things said when I was?

After months of escalating depression, I had a bit of a depressive / manic episode a few months ago, and fucked up two of my (at the time) close friendships. I said some things -- mean things -- and accused them of not caring about me, and basically blew up the friendships. Very soon after, (like, IMMEDIATELY) I started going to therapy regularly and have begun to take an antidepressant, took two weeks vacation visiting my folks, and have since laid low and feel much much better.

I was in a really bad way when all this happened. since then, I've tried really, really hard to be a good, kind person, to try and make it up to myself. i've avoided the people who I assumed wouldn't want anything to do with me. i've apologized, explained the circumstances and what I've done since to make myself better. i've assumed that living without two very, very important friendships was punishment enough. Now, one of these people has started publically bringing up things I said then -- even though I've tried to apologize and admit how wrong I was.

I'm still really distrustful of my own emotions and responses and thoughts...at the same time, it seems totally unfair to quote out of context things I said during a time of psychological turmoil. Do I have a right to be upset that this person is throwing that all back in my face?

Also, what more can I do to make amends? I'm really trying to take responsibility for how shitty a friend I was. How can I put this all in the past? I've tried to avoid both these people, yet I do want to make amends and at least achieve forgiveness and civility, given that I see these people around regularly ( and have to work with one of them). Help!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Call them up. Apologize. Explain what was wrong and that you're getting treatment. Thank them for their support and friendship. Don't ask anything of them. Let them call any shots about renewing their friendship with you. You may be surprised at how happy they are just to know you're okay.
posted by katillathehun at 7:01 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, you can't ensure you get forgiven. Forgiveness is something freely given, not a requirement once you say you're sorry.

And part of taking responsibility for what you did, regardless of your psychological state, is that you have to live with the repercussions of your actions. You've asked for forgiveness, you've put it out there that you want to make things right, but those things DID happen and they were very real to them.

So the bottom line is that you have a right to be upset at the situation, but that person has a right to be upset at you. Sure it's shitty what she's doing, but it was probably pretty shitty what you did to her.

So, try to forgive yourself and move on with other, more supportive and understanding friends.
posted by inturnaround at 7:02 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm still really distrustful of my own emotions and responses and thoughts...at the same time, it seems totally unfair to quote out of context things I said during a time of psychological turmoil. Do I have a right to be upset that this person is throwing that all back in my face?

So the bottom line is that you have a right to be upset at the situation, but that person has a right to be upset at you.

Yes, I completely agree with this. I've pissed people off when depressed and they've forgiven me, or some haven't forgiven me, I've had depressed people piss me off and I have and haven't forgiven them ( in this one case they didn't give me a real apology, just kept saying "my brain makes me do this, sorry if you take it personally" type stuff, which, as said above, is crap because you still have to take responsibility for your actions, even if you were depressed). If you feel like you did the best you could and this person is still not being responsive to that, just let it go and focus on getting better. The fact that you're still distrustful of your emotional state is totally normal and also a sign that you have more work to do, and honestly it's best to do this work without worrying too much about someone else's frame of mind and what they are or aren't saying out of context. It's just too much noise. This person might be a great person but for whatever reason you're not connecting right now, so just respect that and move on.

Also, and I've seen called out a number of times especially recently in depression/anxiety AskMes, don't put yourself down and call yourself "crazy" and all of that. Respect the very hard time and illness that you had to go through and begin putting it behind you. You can memail me if you want to talk more.
posted by sweetkid at 7:20 PM on June 2, 2011

It still sounds like you have a pretty selfish attitude towards this situation.
i've assumed that living without two very, very important friendships was punishment enough.
The friends you hurt had the "punishment" of living without an important friend, and also felt victimized and attacked by someone whom they trusted. Wounds like that don't and can't heal quickly.

You are not entitled to anything. If you can accept that unequivocally and move forward with your apologies and interactions with these people, I think it will show and they'll be more likely to come around.
posted by telegraph at 7:21 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm still really distrustful of my own emotions and responses and thoughts...at the same time, it seems totally unfair to quote out of context things I said during a time of psychological turmoil. Do I have a right to be upset that this person is throwing that all back in my face?

You have the right to whatever feelings you have, but you did say those things, and I'm assuming that your depressive/manic episode wasn't one that removed your sense of right from wrong. You know that you said things that were hurtful, and though you regret them, it doesn't take away from the fact that you're responsible for your actions.

Being diagnosed with a mental illness isn't a "get out of jail free" card. Some people will be very forgiving of the things you say and do when you're going through this type of illness, and some won't, and both reactions are totally valid.

I'd say don't push the situation. If they were good friends to begin with, they'll most likely come around. If not, then lesson learned on both sides.
posted by xingcat at 7:29 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

it seems totally unfair to quote out of context things I said during a time of psychological turmoil

I'm not dismissing what you went through, but I'm getting a bit of a vibe that you don't feel fully responsible for the "mean things" you said. Kind of like the excuse "it wasn't me talking, it was the booze", except "it wasn't me talking, it was the depression." Although you said you've apologized, is it possible your friends might feel you are making excuses for your actions, that you have not taken full responsibility for the hurt you caused?
posted by asynchronous at 7:32 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

It doesn't sound like these people were close friends. It sounds like these were people with whom you thought you had a deep relationship... but, it turns out you didn't.

You say: Now, one of these people has started publically bringing up things I said then...

Did you say those things? If so, then you have to own it. There is no "undo" in real life. It seems like your acquaintance is doing you a disservice by sharing unflattering stories about you, but they're true stories. it sounds like you logically know that this was your responsibility... but it's emotionally difficult to accept that you said all those crappy things.

As the good friend of a person who recently went through something very similar, you should know that your TRULY close friends do still love and care about you, and don't hold you accountable for the crap that you didn't mean.
posted by samthemander at 7:43 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

How can I put this all in the past?

The Passage of Time helps, a lot. You have to be patient.
posted by ovvl at 7:55 PM on June 2, 2011

Forgiveness and civility may not be possible, depending on what it was you said. It's hard and unfair, because I know how fucked up depression can make you, but some things you just can't take back.

It's hard to know whether this is the case here, because we don't know what you said. But let's just say, for example, that any of the following situations happened:

1. you leaked someone's secret (e.g. about an affair, or about something else that had big consequences)

2. you told someone you didn't respect them because of something they once did

3. you told someone you hated something about them that is fundamental to their personality or sense of self. E.g. you don't think they are very smart, or you don't like the way they dress, or they are a misery-guts and bringing everyone else down, or they are too needy.

Any of these things are problematic, because the person affected knows that there is some truth in what you said. It doesn't help THEM that you would never had SAID these things if you had not been depressed. They will continue to have fallout from what happened, or worry that you believe whatever you said deep down, or whatever. That might make a happily ever after impossible.

In one of his manic episodes, my father told my mother that she had sabotaged his career over the decades, giving specific examples of stuff she had done and how it had affected him. When he was back on his medication and recovered, he tried to "take it back". Sure, she had done these things, but they hadn't had as big an effect on his career as he had claimed, and he didn't really mind that much that his career wasn't that advanced anyway...

Too bad. My mother never got over the idea that my father blamed her for that stuff and that he didn't appreciate the sacrifices she had made. It was one of the nails in the coffin of their marriage. They are divorced now.

Finally one more thing that was mentioned already above, but I want to highlight it again:
you think you are punishing yourself by avoiding these people and assuming the friendships are over. If the things you said and did were not really THAT unforgivable, maybe what's upsetting people is, as much as anything, the fact that you are avoiding them now.
posted by lollusc at 7:57 PM on June 2, 2011 [9 favorites]

If you feel upset, then you're upset. Feelings are feelings and they don't need to be justified.

It's great that you've taken steps to take care of yourself and to apologize. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean you get to demand forgiveness -- it's theirs to give or not to give.

It sounds like you've done everything you can do. Try to step back and be zen about everything and just give yourself (and, I suppose, them) time.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:03 PM on June 2, 2011

I recently ended a friendship of 14 years after she broke from reality and did and said things that were unacceptable and hurtful. (There were other issues and similar events, but it this particular series of events is what killed the friendship dead.) There was a semi-apology and lip service to wanting to remain friends, but alongside these things was more irrationality, extremely inventive word-twisting, blame throwing, defensiveness, disingenuousness, and more. And that was before I ended the friendship and she got really ugly.

It was a very painful thing for me, and to be honest I'm still angry about it months later. It was hard for me to keep my mouth shut about it, partially because it affected me so strongly and partially because she took things public in a blog known by some of my acquaintances, friends, and even my sister-in-law (and ridiculed me there when I sent her an email saying I wasn't happy she was doing so).

If she really, truly apologized now? Really took ownership, really found a way to look at things with clarity? I could accept that, be grateful for it even, but the friendship is not recoverable, and my hurt, disappointment, and anger would not magically disappear.

I wish the best for you. I'm glad you've got help, and that you're on your way to a more satisfying state of being. I hope that you are able to recover healthy relationships, and find mutually supportive ways to connect with your loved ones.

I hope that you can find it in you to forgive yourself after you've made reparations. I hope you can find it in you to also let your friend feel the way she does, and let her go.
posted by moira at 8:31 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Accept that some people will forgive you and some won't. You cannot have any more than that.
posted by mleigh at 8:41 PM on June 2, 2011

Apologies given to me have always meant more when the apologizer tells me plainly and fully what they did that affected me deeply.

Not "I'm sorry I got aggressive", but "Last night when I purposefully tried to run you over with the station wagon I displayed what I've come to realize was an appalling lack of self control in response to your having eaten the last ice cream sandwich. What I did could have seriously harmed you, and I am so thankful that didn't happen. I hope you can find a way to forgive me but I will totally understand if you don't".
posted by mcbeth at 8:49 PM on June 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

It sounds like you maybe made some disparaging remarks that struck a nerve. I have seen people respond to those kind of remarks, especially when they fear that the things you said are true, by bringing them up in public in the hopes of everyone around them reassuring them that they aren't true. If that's the case, while it's understandable for you to be upset, you also need to be really mindful of how insecure your friend is feeling. You could try saying something like "I'm so sorry I said [X]. It's not true, it was very hurtful, and I know it's hard to get something like that out of your head. I'm gonna keep telling you it's not true, but I'd really appreciate if you wouldn't bring it up in public because when it comes up, I feel embarrassed [or whatever you feel]."

If you are thinking that these people are bringing up the comments you made as a punishment, that's a bit different. None of your friends has the right to "punish" you by throwing things you regret saying in your face. It's completely reasonable for you to confront these people in a gentle, still apologetic way. "I'm so sorry that I said those things, and I hate that they made such a lasting impression on you. I am gonna keep saying how sorry I am, and will keep asking for your forgiveness. But when you repeat these horrible things in public, I feel ___________. If you want to keep talking about [whatever it was], we can, but I really hope we can do so in private."
posted by violetish at 8:53 PM on June 2, 2011

it seems totally unfair to quote out of context things I said during a time of psychological turmoil.

Honestly, I think this is an attitude it might be best to lose, because as others have said above, it comes off as an attempt to deflect some responsibility for what you said. And I don't think it's something many people will be sympathetic to -- have you ever come across the proverb, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle"? Many people themselves as struggling with psychological turmoil just as you do, so they might not have sympathy for the idea that your turmoil makes it more understandable that you hurt them.

I think the best thing for you to do is take 100% responsibility. Here is an example of an apology that I think would be good for you to follow.

The cartoonist Lynda Barry made this cartoon about her relationship with a man who was pretty mean to her and said a lot of hurtful things.

The man's reply: “I was an idiot. I was in the wrong. About the breakup. About the haircut story. About so many things with her. Anything bad she says about me I can confirm.”

I think that's a really good way to react, OP, when you hear that your friend has been talking about the things you said. It's taking the high road, which I think people really respond to.
posted by Ashley801 at 8:56 PM on June 2, 2011 [9 favorites]

True friends will meet you half way.

You need to acknowledge that while you may not have been in control of your actions at the time, those actions caused hurt to people you care about. Sounds like you've done that.

They need to recognise that you weren't in control of your actions at the time and that while you hurt them, you didn't mean to.

I've lost friends because of my actions during manic or mixed episodes. But those friendships that I managed to keep / get back are so much stronger as a result. I love those friends even more for being willing to forgive me and work through the aftermath, with me, to get our friendships back on track.

All you can do is acknowledge and apologise for the hurt you caused, and make it clear that your psychological turmoil was the reason for that (reason, not excuse). What those people do with that information is up to them.

Good luck.
posted by finding.perdita at 8:56 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I've been in a similar situation, I found that handwriting an apology (not an excuse or explanation-a heartfelt "I am so sorry I behaved/said xyz, etc) has gone a lot longer towards showing my own investment in mending the relationship. There's just something more concrete about a written, honest apology than one that is spoken over the phone or emailed.

Also, it's key to be consistent in your new behaviors-just like you feel you can't trust your own feelings-the other people in the dynamic can't trust your behavior. It takes time, but consistency and authentic apologies are the only tools you have to use.

Also, consider that maybe some of these people might not be the best friends for you at this particular time in your life.
posted by hollygoheavy at 9:24 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

It depends so much on what you said. There's a saying about words spoken in anger being like a nail hammered into wood--you can pull out the nail, but the scar remains. You have the right to feel what you feel right now--and so do they.
posted by uans at 10:32 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

in my experience, people who talk shit about others who are not there reflect more poorly on themselves than they do on you. To combat gossip simply get the word around mutual friends that you were unwell and are now in treatment. Do not address it directly. Even better is modelling good behaviour around mutual friends and ignoring the gossip.
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:33 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Your friend is probably talking to others about what you said because it happened to her. She is the protagonist in her own story just as you are in yours.

The friendship that blew up was herfriendship and she didn't see it coming. A good friend of hers "took it out on her". It is now part of her life story.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:56 AM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]

You get past it by forgiving yourself. You have to at some point move forward. You should consider how much involvement you want with these people as the friendships may be irrevocably lost.

If you haven't apologized to these people do so, but watching what you say if you have a feeling they'll repeat stuff you'd prefer they don't, without the expectations of them becoming friends again.

You had a really difficult time and they may not even understand the ramifications of what you were going through.

The best you can do is apologize and try your best to do better in the future and its their choice whether this is good enough or not.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 4:43 AM on June 3, 2011

Can you explain to us exactly how you apologized? The more I think about it, the more I think it's possible that your apology wasn't taken as an apology because it included an "explanation" that your depression made you do it (which I would not buy, if you said something truly hurtful to me, as opposed to just being cranky or distant).
posted by J. Wilson at 5:37 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Always take responsibility.
I've had some (ok, many at times) moments where I've said something out of line or hurt a friend.
Take responsibility, I always think talking in person is good. When I recently offended one of my best friends and his girl friend I couldn't blame her or him for being upset. I made it clear on our shared chat board I was out of line, my behavior was unacceptable and I couldn't be more sorry as this person never did anything to me to deserve what I said.
I made sure when I saw my friends girlfriend that I couldn't blame her if she did not like me, or didn't want to talk to me. Just that I was sorry for what I said as there was no excuse for my behavior.
Things were good (as far as I can tell) after doing so.

Good friends do met you half way, particularly if you have a history.

Be sincere, and also understand if they don't forgive you.
posted by handbanana at 7:03 AM on June 3, 2011

Can you explain to us exactly how you apologized? The more I think about it, the more I think it's possible that your apology wasn't taken as an apology because it included an "explanation" that your depression made you do it (which I would not buy, if you said something truly hurtful to me, as opposed to just being cranky or distant).
posted by J. Wilson at 8:37 AM on June 3 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]

1000% agree. I JUST had this happen to me, there was no responsibility taken by the other person and it was all "this is how my brain works, sorry if that's a problem for you."

You have to acknowledge the cause of the behavior because 1) it is real, depression does cause behavior other people consider selfish/erratic/all other kinds of abnormal and 2) your friends need to understand where it's coming from and that it isn't "you." But to say something like "your brain made you do it" isn't taking responsibility and also makes it sound like you're just going to do what ever your brain tells you to do at any moment for any reason and other people will just have to deal with it. Not saying this is what you did, but the type of apology does make a difference.
posted by sweetkid at 8:20 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mod note: From the OP:
OP here. a couple of things to clarify ---

1. This friend of mine is *male*. not a girl.

2. When i say "awful things", maybe it sounds worse than it is. At the time, i did not think this person cared about me. i told him that i did not think he was a good friend, that he was not being sympathetic to my depression, and that i didn't think I could be friends with him anymore because he was too close to another person I was having severe problems with. i didn't lash out or call him names, i didn't make any personal attacks. He *did* call me some mean names, which i haven't brought up, though it upset me at the time. I think he's upset because I ended the friendship, and things that I did so while blaming him.

2. The thing that sparked my question -- this person posted on Facebook that I called him a name. ( not a bad one, but i'm being vague to preserve anonymity here). i didn't actually call him names…i can see how the sentiment was implied, but i didn't call him names. i still feel awful about it all, but i never made any personal attacks. in the Facebook remark, he also said that it was recently, which it wasn't.

I know I hurt him and said some mean things, but I can't help feeling angry that he's lashing out in a way I do feel is unfair.

3. in my apologies i have tried to take responsibility for it all…not 'the crazy made me do it', but acknowledging that i said some mean and hurtful things and undermined our friendship, which did hurt him. there's no excuse, and i'm still very devastated and embarrassed about it. it came from a place of depression and instability, and i've since gotten help to make sure i don't act that way again. i see now how wrong i was, and i feel deeply terrible about it.

my apologies so far have been met with him bringing up the stuff that i've continuously apologized for…it does feel at this point like he's deliberately trying to make me feel bad about it, rather than just trying to get me to acknowledge that i did things that hurt him. This i'm not sure what do feel about -- i feel super shitty for what i said during my episode, but I am also kind of angry that he's using it to lash out at me now. Is that fair?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:50 AM on June 3, 2011

Given your followup, I don't see how there's much to be done. I'd drop the guy and focus on keeping yourself healthy and happy, and fostering good relationships.
posted by moira at 10:07 AM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

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