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Topic: Depressed friend

4 posts, 0 answered
  1. samsara11
    samsara11 avatar
    4 posts
    4 September 2020

    I have a friend who lives in another country who gets depressed.

    When they message me for help, I don't know what to do. If I say, what can I do, they say do I have to tell you what to do? It's not like I can hug them, they don't want to talk, they get irritated when I make suggestions and then they accuse me of not caring enough/not being a good friend/being self-centred/not being there for them even though they've always been there for me. It's very frustrating as there is nothing I can do that seems to help and I am getting abused to boot. In the end it feels as though they just want to pick a fight with me and bash me and I feel worse about myself, then if I say anything about that, they say I am making it all about me. In the end it becomes a character assassination of everything wrong with me and there is nothing wrong with them, and yet before the conversation I was pretty happy and I'm not the one who is depressed. But of course, if I point that out it just goes round in circles again. Of course this does not make me feel any more empathetic and I just want to avoid them, but then that's just more evidence that I'm not 'there for them'. What to do?

  2. Sophie_M
    Community Moderator
    • Works for beyondblue moderating these forums
    Sophie_M avatar
    5948 posts
    4 September 2020 in reply to samsara11
    Hi samsara11,

    That definitely sounds like a difficult situation, and I can understand why you would be feeling so frustrated by this as it feels like no matter how you respond, you can't 'win' with your friend. 

    If you haven't already, you might find it helpful to have a look at our 'looking after yourself' section on the our website on supporting someone with depression, particularly the section around boundaries. I think it is important to try and remember that you are not responsible for curing or 'fixing' your friend's depression, however bad that they might feel, and that no matter what someone is going through it is never okay to insult, belittle, or lash out at other people. You can also read up more about setting boundaries from this article, which talks about how you can start to define and set healthy boundaries to take care of yourself.

    It's great that you want to be there for your friend, but it's important to take care of yourself too. I will open this up for the rest of our lovely community to chime in.
    1 person found this helpful
  3. therising
    Valued Contributor
    • A special award for members who go above and beyond to support others here on the forums
    therising avatar
    2198 posts
    4 September 2020 in reply to samsara11

    Hi samsara11

    You do sound like a good friend, in a deeply challenging situation.

    Personally, I believe you're off to a good start when you ask 'What can I do?' It is a fair question that your friend may simply have no clear answer for. For me, during my years in depression (which finally came to an end some years ago), if someone had have asked me that question, 'What can I do?', I think my general answer would have been 'Save me!' I wanted someone, anyone to save me. I wanted to be rescued from the mindset. I kind of resented people for not being able to save me during those trying years, based on the belief I couldn't save myself. I felt helpless.

    Perhaps your response could be 'Yes, you need to tell me. You need to guide me to understand how you're feeling right now'. Maybe some questions you could offer:

    • 'What do you feel has triggered your current feelings? What or who has led you to...?' Could involve anger, resentment, disappointment, hopelessness etc
    • 'What or who are you feeling deeply challenged by right now?'
    • 'How would you like to manage the challenge you face?' For example, your friend could be upset by the fact they never spoke up when someone degraded them. They wish they'd spoken up. They always wish they'd speak up but never do. So, how could they manage speaking up in the future? What is it that leads them to not speak up? Is it some ingrained mental programming?
    • 'Are you feeling exhausted? What do you imagine would make a difference, leading you to feel less exhausted?' Could involve diet, hydration, healthier sleep patterns, a bit more solar power (a bit of sitting outside on a sunny day, getting some vitamin D) and so on

    Just a few suggestions. From personal experience, looking back, I think what would have made some difference during my depression was having someone there who could lead me to wonder. There were a heck of a lot of statements going on in my head during those dark years but not many constructive questions, leading to helpful revelations. I believed I was hopeless because no one led me to wonder what had me hoping less and less. I believed I was 'a loser' because no one ever led me to question what I was losing. Turned out to be my natural sense of self. I believed life was terrible because no one ever led me to wonder what life was really all about.

    'I am a good friend who is here for you. You need to tell me how you want me to be here, in this moment' may be a trigger for them to begin wondering exactly how.


  4. Juliana 15
    Juliana 15 avatar
    4 posts
    6 September 2020 in reply to samsara11

    I have an interstate friend and am sometimes in a similar situation. It is a tough space to be when you realise you are actively trying to avoid a friend. I’ve thought long and hard about whether to continue the friendship and only did so after putting some boundaries in place (like Sophie has suggested) and changing my approach from trying to obviously and quickly solve problems.

    Sometimes in my case I feel like it’s because my friend is trying to offload responsibility for making decisions onto me and then I take on the extra burden of their problems as well as my own. Over the years I’ve adapted my approach and when asked for my advice eg “should I quit my job” I will say things like “you need to do what is best for you” and then ask open questions like how they feel about the various options they have.

    In your situation if your friend is directly saying “help me” then my approach would be to ask lots of open questions like “tell me how you are feeling” and as therising has suggested, look to weave in some gentle suggestions about what your friend might be able to do. It’s hard without knowing all the details but it’s so important to try and keep yourself for ending up being blamed for the other person’s problems.

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