A Delicate Balance

This is interesting… I often create little conversations between Drunk Me and Sober Me – partly because I never want to lose sight of how bat shit crazy all that stuff is, but also because it’s sort of terrifying and fascinating. It turns out I can’t go and stay with Kitten, my depressed friend, after all – my bosses can’t give me the time off so there’s nothing much I can do. I had everything lined up – flights, trains and everything else – but it can’t be done and it’s out of my control. I feel bad, obviously, but trying my best to be there for her as much as I can when I’m actually thousands of miles away. I’m asking advice from friends who know more about depression than I do, or rather people I know who have gone through what Kitten is going through. It’s so hard to know how I best support her. Part of me just wants to shower her with kind words and encouragement, but I also don’t want to cheer her on when I feel she’s putting herself in potentially really bad situations. The other part of me doesn’t want to make everything much worse by telling her OH HELL NO, GIRL. I’m desperately trying to be gentle and loving, yet honest. It’s a delicate balance to negotiate.

In a lengthy exchange, I found myself asking Kitten to read her own words to me as though it was someone else’s. It was with regards to a recent decision she made and made me think of my conversations with Drunk Me. She agreed that it wasn’t a good thing but of course the illness has kidnapped her brain and what she is trying to solve is actually the Devil’s own fucking equation. In so many ways, there are parallels with alcoholism and I guess addiction in general too. Your reasoning goes out of the window and you’re stripped of all capacity to make sound judgments and good decisions. I immediately felt oh shit did I sound harsh or did I just make her feel really stupid or small or just generally ten times worse than she already did?

I suppose honesty is the best way though, or in any case the only way I know when it comes to this. I explained that my wish is only for her to get well and feel better and if I come across as mean it wasn’t my intention. I also asked her to yell at me if I don’t get it right or support her in a way that doesn’t work for her.

What a frightening, dark and fucking awful bitch depression is though – and from within! Bet Kitten would LOVE to have the choice – albeit difficult one – that I had, i.e. something resembling at least an opportunity to STOP. I’m not at all saying that what alcoholics need to “learn” is that the solution is to stop because clearly it isn’t always as straight forward as that, FAR from it, but I would imagine that Kitten would gladly go through any withdrawal and any number of 12-step meetings if chances were she could recover.

What are your views on depression? How would you support a friend who suffers? Any do’s or don’t’s?

Today I’m not going to drink.

7 thoughts on “A Delicate Balance

  1. Oh golly, this is a big one … how best to help your friend? Crucially, you’ll know her best and how she is likely to respond to what you say and how you say it. Then, laced with depression, times her usual reactions by ten, so go easy. It’s not surprising that she’s making bad decisions, it kind of goes with the territory. I think if I was in your shoes I’d firstly just let her talk, talk and talk some more, and some of it won’t make much sense but try not to interrupt her and find a solution for her worries etc at this point. Just let her ramble. It might completely exhaust her. Once she’s offloaded, I’d then ask her if she wants you to help her find a solution. Chances are she’ll either say”yes” or “I don’t think there is a solution” rather than “no” (and therefore effectively admitting that she doesn’t want to find a way out of this ‘episode’). So if the door is opened a crack so to speak, then I’d suggest that together you make a plan and write it down. Literally. Having a plan gives hope and sets the wheels in motion. If she’s not been to the doctor, it’s probably worth doing even if he/she doesn’t recommend meds, it’s so good to a) talk and b) get out of the house … don’t laugh! It’s true. The problem is that if you tell someone who’s in the throws of a major ‘down’ that they should go for a walk, they’re quite likely to hit you with a shovel. The problem is, that it works. Having a plan and a routine each and every day (and it doesn’t matter how simple it is) makes a huge difference. Yes, pills work, but often only on the surface. For me, I need every, single day to do the following:
    Meds
    Exercise
    Fresh air
    and time interacting with the outside world (this can be as simple as going to a coffee shop … doesn’t matter, but simply to get out of one’s own headspace).
    Other people need daily yoga/Pilates/meditation, CBT, therapy each week etc … the list is endless. But forcing yourself to get up and get out until it becomes a habit is crucial. It’s all too easy to want to lie in bed hiding under the duvet with a packet of crisps, but it’s not really been known to help! The problem is that that is exactly what we want to do. Group CBT is brilliant … suddenly you don’t feel alone and they’re all really understanding. And finally, if you can, ring her lots so that she knows that you’re thinking about her. Not sure if that’s any help, but I guess that’s what I’d like if I was her. Xx

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    • THANK YOU!! This is massively helpful because guess what – I’ve been trying to suggest solutions… I’m going to give her a call tomorrow and just do the listening thing, and if she gives any kind of buying signal once I can ask if she actually wants to find a solution then try the approach you suggest. This is gold, thank you. What a destructive illness, it frightens me more than addiction to be honest. I’m sure I’ll come back to chew your ear lots more on this one….. xxxx

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      • Oh I’m so glad! You’re right, it’s a truly horrible illness … let me know how you get on 🤞🤞 And by the way, the fact that she’s talking to you is HUGE. You’ve got a very special friend there, because to talk about it is the hardest thing to do, so she must trust and value your friendship enormously. Kxxx

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  2. Hi Annastk76, I’m new here, and I’m really enjoying your blog. There are similarities in people’s depression, but like people, there are also many differences. I went through a severe depression for about 4 years. It sucked! I really like everything that howikilledbetty said. Good, good advice all around. One of the hardest things about depression is that it’s exhausting. It was everything I could do to get up, go to work, come home, and go back to bed. Once I found a good psychiatrist and got help, he said that he didn’t know how I was able to function. That exhaustion is a pretty common thing in most people with depression. I was fortunate to find a medication that worked well for me with no weird side effects. That was huge! It helped clear the mental fog which also helped alleviate some of the exhaustion. There are no magic pills. No one thing is a cure all. But the meds were a big step in the right direction. At that point, I could receive help. I had a friend help me identify destructive thought patterns and we came up with a plan to change that. Like howikilledbetty said, I literally wrote it down. I wrote down what I would think about when going to sleep at night, and what I would think about in the morning. I won’t lie, it’s really hard to change those though patterns, but if she can stick with it, they will change. The exercise and fresh air are big deals, too. And getting out of the house! That’s hard, too. Before the meds, any little suggestion that someone would make, like considering meds or going out for coffee, brought on dread and sometimes panic attacks. So try to not get frustrated if you make a recommendation and you get the “yeah, but…”. All the things that a depressed person needs to do to help them, are the things they don’t want to do. At some point in the last few years I started meditating. That has been a huge help as well. It’s good to find others to meditate with at the beginning of a meditation practice. You asked for do’s and don’ts. Every day can be different. Do listen a lot. If you can listen without thinking about what you will say next, that is best. Do stay in contact with your friend. Do something like having flowers delivered to her house with a nice note. Little surprises like that can make a big difference in her day. I can’t think of any specific don’ts. You seem to have a good grasp of what depression is like. Like when you said this in your post: ”In so many ways, there are parallels with alcoholism and I guess addiction in general too. Your reasoning goes out of the window and you’re stripped of all capacity to make sound judgments and good decisions.” Yep. Right on the money. I think you’ll know when and what to do and say, and what not to. I probably said many of the same things betty said, but I hope something was helpful. Thanks for sharing your journey. I look forward to reading more posts.

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