Inside the Actor's 1 Bedroom
January 3, 2013 6:01 PM   Subscribe

My best friend and roommate is extremely isolated and seems lost. I really want to help. What are some ways that I can?

She works from home and thus has little need to go outside. However, I think she has never really had to deal with the level of isolation that this can bring. She is used to being alone and independent. Adjusting to working from home has been difficult for her.

I want to help her but am somewhat at a loss. How can I support her and talk to her about her increasingly evident depression? It is seemingly draining her resources to even seek help.

The complicating factor is that she has really serious social anxiety. However, she would like to become an actress. The ironic thing is she is extremely beautiful. I could see her easily getting roles in plays or even making a living practicing her craft.

Should I intervene? Would my trying to help her put together a headshot or get her into acting classes be seen as meddlesome? Or does depression make it important to step in?

Should I schedule some social events for the two of us so she can meet new people?

How can I talk her through the doubt that she is prone to about her dreams and ambitions? (Are there any support groups for actors with social anxiety?)

Thank you & any suggestions about beating the isolation of working from home would be welcome.
posted by kettleoffish to Human Relations (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's unclear what the problem is or whether there really is a problem.

Is your roommate happy with her life as it is now? Does she say that she feels isolated, or that she's not happy with her lack of progress in her acting career? Does she say she feels depressed, or down, or unhappy?

How long have you known her, and how long has she worked from home? Have you noticed a change in her behavior or is this just how she is as far as you can tell?

I'm a chronic nester. Especially around this time of year. I have a long history of low grade Seasonal Affective Disorder, and lately my approach is just to give in and hibernate. I'm in no danger. I'm not a threat to myself. I'm just hunkered down for the winter. I'm also a writer, and typically when I'm not working or out doing specific activities, I'm at home staring at a computer screen.

This can all seem weird to people who live in close proximity to me. I know they worry. I know they think it's odd that I have no real desire to go out and do... whatever it is people do. But this is who I am. I need my time to curl up in front of Netflix with a cup of tea, both for my personal sanity and for my work.

I think that if you know people you'd like to introduce her to, sure, do that! You'd do it anyway, right? Similarly if you hear about an acting workshop or a photographer giving discounts on head shots. Or if you want to invite her to hang out, yeah, that sounds good. Because, again, you like her and would invite her to do fun things anyway. Right?

I don't think you should specifically trouble yourself about any of this stuff, though, unless she says something about feeling lonely or stir crazy, or you think she's in real danger.
posted by Sara C. at 6:17 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

you sound like a really good friend. if she is depressed and has social anxiety i'd just try scheduling some social things to get her out of the house at first. personally, i wouldn't make it where she has to meet new people just yet as that might be stressful for her unless she warms up to others pretty quick. maybe do a few social things (movies, dinner, shopping, etc) first with just the two of you and then try introducing other people into the mix. that might help her build her confidence back up first.

i know for me sometimes if someone just goes with me to something i'm a lot less anxious. say, if she wants to check out an acting class before signing up for it maybe offer to go with her to observe the class and then get a bite to eat afterwards.

of course, just asking her how you can help is always good but sometimes when one is feeling rather lost it is hard to know what is even needed.
posted by wildflower at 6:19 PM on January 3, 2013

A big part of both managing depression, and of not letting working from home crush you, is having a routine. This is particularly helpful if it establishes start and stop times for work, provides morning exposure to sunshine, and/or offers exercise. So. Could you make a habit of doing some things with her fairly regularly? Could you two walk to a coffeeshop in the morning and go to the gym after work?
posted by salvia at 6:39 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing that you must ask first if she wants your help before taking action. It's the difference between being an awesome friend and a meddlesome control freak. Invitations to social events are always appropriate between friends, but they should be offered without any implication that you have concluded that there is something wrong with her. I speak as a work-at-home person who would mightily resent anybody's assumption that I should get out more, but who also welcomes being asked to go have fun in what I call the "outside world." (For the record, I feel very sorry for all of you that have to go to an office 5 days a week, because I have been there and I consider it a nightmare.) Also, upon preview, I would also resent anybody who suggests there is something wrong with my routine. A major reason I am self-employed is so that I can do it my way (and that includes not having a fixed stop and start time).
posted by Wordwoman at 6:50 PM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Invite your roomie to do stuff as often as you feel comfortable (with you and with other people). Don't be hurt if she says no, and you may keep asking until she asks you to stop.

Ask permission to help before trying to do anything else for her.
posted by itesser at 6:56 PM on January 3, 2013

Response by poster: She's definitely clinically depressed... today was a really hard day with her feeling hopeless, lonely, "life has no meaning," etc, crying. I am torn between just validating and trying to ride the wave of her sadness with her and trying to devise and implement a solution. Not really sure what to do because I feel in a way that being independent makes it harder to transition to working alone; she is used to having the apartment be a refuge from work/social life, but now it is too much of a good thing.
posted by kettleoffish at 7:38 PM on January 3, 2013

In that case, I would say something like this: "Friend, the things you are saying are the things people say when they are clinically depressed. It is entirely possible that things are not as hopeless as they seem, and that you simply have a treatable illness. I recommend you get it checked out with a doctor. Would it be helpful if I helped you make an appointment?"
posted by Wordwoman at 7:44 PM on January 3, 2013

She's definitely clinically depressed..

So you mean she has a psychiatrist who has diagnosed her with that? Because if she is clinically depressed, a well meaning friend doesn't mean shit. She needs medical help. She doesn't need acting classes or social events. You can help by helping her make an appointment with said medical professional, and even going with her if she asks you to.
posted by jacalata at 7:46 PM on January 3, 2013

I am torn between just validating and trying to ride the wave of her sadness with her and trying to devise and implement a solution.

Neither of those options is a good option. Validating depression is wrong on every conceivable level, and implementing solutions is her job, not yours.

What I think you need to do instead is draw her attention to the fact that what appears to her as a morass of undifferentiated misery is in fact a well-understood mental health problem and that seeking help for it would be in her best interest. Listen to Wordwoman and jacalata.
posted by flabdablet at 8:09 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

See, here's the thing: if someone is clinically depressed, doing things to change their external reality ('start a night class! Meet new people! Join a gym! Volunteer! Treat yourself to a regular massage!') are pointless without clinical intervention.

When I was clinically depressed, I could have won the lottery and it wouldn't have made a dent. I am not kidding.

Your friend may or may not be 'severely clinically depressed', but sure as heck something is very wrong. She needs to be assessed by a psychiatrist. Anything you can do to help her will be subsidiary to that.

Thanks for being a caring friend.
posted by Salamander at 8:49 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Made appointment. This weekend we are going out. I love my bf. Hope she does better soon.
posted by kettleoffish at 5:26 PM on January 4, 2013

Late to this... If she's not an actor now, I don't know if trying to become one is the best idea while she's in this state of mind.

Would you like to interview for jobs constantly and be turned down over and over and over again? That's a major reason why people stay unemployed for a long time - they can't take the huge amounts of rejection on the path to getting an offer, so they stop putting themselves out there for more rejection.

If your friend doesn't need to audition in order to earn her living, she probably shouldn't bite off more than she can healthily chew right now.

Plus, almost nobody makes a living at acting.

Plus, much of acting training involves tearing down the student's personality and rebuilding it at the whim of the instructor. This is why, apart from financial reasons, I didn't pursue acting training more aggressively, as it seemed pointlessly cultish and emotionally abusive and I had enough people in my life who were obsessed with tearing me down for free. Having said that, there are plenty of short-term classes where the focus is on actually teaching acting skills, so as long as she's careful only to attend these, they'll probably be good for her.
posted by tel3path at 5:18 AM on January 23, 2013

Sorry, didn't mean to be discouraging, you are being a really great friend and overall, I think you're just what she needs right now. I only take issue with the idea that she should pin her hopes on acting.
posted by tel3path at 5:21 AM on January 23, 2013

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