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Post Info TOPIC: How to deal when a loved one is depressed? TW: depression


Mookish Deity Most High

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How to deal when a loved one is depressed? TW: depression


My lovely Mooks, I'm so sorry to bring this to you all, but I'm hoping that you'll have some advice for me, since I'm at my wits' end. I'm also relying on all of your confidentiality, since I know some of you know me IRL, and I don't want to compromise my brother's/my boyfriend's anonymity.

My brother has suffered from depression for a long time, but with CBT and a lot of midnight talks we got to a good stage. Until now. He's really struggling to find a job post-graduation, his girlfriend and best friend are both in really good graduate schemes and he feels worthless as a result. He's doing a lot to deal with it, but he's worried about his relationship and his future and he says it all feels so bleak he doesn't know what to do. He's also in the house alone a lot at the moment, since our parents work long hours, and he feels incredibly isolated and lonely. As a result, he phones me.

I can deal with this sometimes, but at the moment it's so relentless I don't know what to do. He's the type of person who needs company and someone to talk to all the time, and I'm the best he can do at the moment, so I've been spending hours on the phone every day with him. This is cutting into my life in a big way. I would happily sit on the phone with him if it would help, but it's impossible - the two phone calls today were almost identical, and no matter what I say I can't help. The complaints are repetitive, and my brother's always been good at talking over me, so frequently it's just a monologue of misery. He's got a bit of a chip on his shoulder about Oxbridge graduates getting all the jobs, and it makes me feel so ashamed of what I'm doing. It's cutting into my own self-worth: I can't tell him what I'm up to, because any success I have with work, friends or just life in general might really upset him. He keeps going on and on about the same things, and I can't deal with it at all. I would love to be the sort of self-sacrificing person who could use her own life to help someone who needs it, but I can't right now. I'm very busy seeing friends who are moving away, I'm celebrating finishing my degree, I'm celebrating being able to see my boyfriend again. And yet, no matter what's going on, I need to be able to drop all those things to sit on the phone with him for several hours at a time. It's doing my head in: how do I take care of him and not ruin my own mental state at the same time?

This questions also feeds into my relationship, since like my brother, my boyfriend is rather needy when it comes to companionship. I love them both to pieces, but they both get rather bored without someone to talk to. I'm the opposite: I'm happiest when alone with a good book, and I don't often seek out companionship because I'm really lonely. I'm currently terrified of living at home this summer, since my brother will want me to be his frequent companion, and I'd rather curl up with a book than play Xbox, and my boyfriend will be bored being back at home and will want me to phone/Skype/sit on Facebook all day just so we can talk, when I'd rather not be tied to my keyboard. This summer, how will I live with one depressive needing my company, whilst there's also another person needing my company who expects me to need them back in exactly the same way? The boyfriend knows that I don't need company like he does, but he does get so bored he'll end up calling me or asking me to come visit constantly anyway. The brother needs people so much he'll want my company no matter what, and will get very hurt if I refuse. This is also on top of the work I need to do for PhD this summer, and the fact that I've promised to cook and garden for my parents to try and help with the housework. How do I take care of my own needs whilst keeping everyone happy? Do I just martyr myself to take care of them, or do I have a right to prioritise myself? How can I be the person everyone wants me to be and still do what makes me happy?

I'm also terrified for next year, when there could be two unemployed men in my life who expect me to entertain them. How do I do my own work and stop them both falling into misery because of it? How the hell do I make any of this work? Should I even do my PhD like this?

I'm so sorry to burden you with my mad ramblings Mookies, but I'm feeling so miserable and confused at the moment. How can I be good enough for everyone like this? Am I being horribly selfish? How can I help my brother through his depression without getting upset and miserable myself, and how do I balance my time between these people who need me?



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Mookish Deity Most High

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Don't feel bad about it Claire- honestly, suffering from the same kind of depressive thoughts as your brother, I can honestly say that very little anybody else tells you can make a difference to how you think because you mind simply rejects it. What usually works for me is a distraction; something good to balance the bad. But I think this is something he has to find himself; as you say, you have a lot going on in your life and you can't always be around to break the fog. xx



-- Edited by Lady Misery on Wednesday 20th of June 2012 08:01:06 AM

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Runic Mook of the North (mod)

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I'm perhaps a cold bitch now, but I've been severely depressed and I'm really sure that constantly telling your loved ones how miserable your life is isn't going to help. What helps is a regular daily rythm, exercise, therapy and medication. I remember that even a slight change in tone of voice by people talking could be enough to send me to panicky horror, so I'm sure that trying to care for someone who is depressed is quite awful and quite a balancing act. Nevertheless, to truly help I think it is necessary to also gently push the depressed person to do stuff that is helping.

My advise would try to get them both occupied with things that helps, and also get some help helping them. It really shouldn't be all your responsibility to cheer them up, it ought to be a joint effort for all the family. And you should probably sit down as a family and plan together what you are going to do to help.

I'm so tired I can't think straight anymore, I hope this wasn't too muddled. *big hugs and virtual cupcakes*

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Mookish Deity Most High

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Claire, while it's very kind of you to listen to your loved ones, you have make sure this doesn't take over your entire life. As much as it hurts when people you love are unhappy, you're not solely responsible for their happiness. I have an aunt who's a very good listener and people call her all the time to talk about how miserable their life is. As a result, she often feels rather miserable herself but she seems to be unable to say no to them.

When your brother calls you, how about you limit the conversation to, say, ten or fifteen minutes, then somehow push him to do something else? Recommend some books and films, maybe? Definitely try to help him get counselling or something, you're not a therapist and your brother needs professional help as well as his family's support. My boyface has his depressive phases but he's the exact opposite of your brother, he simply refuses to talk about it and sometimes literally disappears for a couple of days and re-emerges when he's feeling better. I think both coping mechanisms are equally bad, haha. These chaps need to think of somethin

Basically, my point is as follows: it's okay to help people but you mustn't lose sight of your own goals. You want to do your PhD, do it. Your own wishes should be a priority, otherwise you're in danger of becoming depressed yourself. Sit your boyfriend and your brother down and explain that you love them BUT that you be there for them at all times. Now, they should already know that and they probably do but sometimes people don't realise they're being too demanding. Hugs and tea and all that xxx

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Booky Mooky (mod)

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Claire, first of all you are an excellent human and your brother is lucky to have such a caring sister.

My first thought is that your brother should really find a hobby (the same could be said for your boy), it seems to be the 'being alone doing nothing' that is what is getting him down and he ends up just sitting there thinking all these sad thoughts over and over again. Remind him that this feeling is not a permanent one, and that he will find a good graduate job - part of job hunting is being in the right place at the right time. Maybe encourage him to get out of the house for a bit every day, even if it's just going to the shop to get some bread or something. Also, Spiggy's recommendation of counselling is good.

You may want to try and gently tell your bro and your boy that you need some time to yourself, and remind them that you have a lot of work to do. They probably don't even realise how much their demands are taking out of you, so do explain that you need to have some Clairetime. At the end of the day, you can't really be there for them if you are feeling downright awful yourself because you aren't doing what you want to. Do your PhD and you can laugh/cry hysterically about it with them.

I hope this makes sense, I didn't sleep much last night xxx

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Mookish Deity Most High

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Thank you so much, you lovely people - I was not expecting a response like this, I was honestly expecting to be told that I'm being rather insensitive, so thank you all. I've had a chat with my mum, and she's very determined that my brother's life should not have a negative impact on mine, so I'm hoping that between me and the rest of my family we can help him in different ways.

The brother is currently going back for CBT, and he's on some meds, but those are all getting him down as well, since the meds have side-effects which also depress him, and both things feel to him like an admission of failure. I've been trying to tell him that getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness, but he struggles with the notion. He's very obsessed with the notion of failure, and for him not getting a job is just the proof of that. I wish I could show him that he's good at so many things, but he's not like me, he does tend to need people for validation. You're all right, he needs things to do and therapy to help, but he's so single-minded it's rather difficult: he thinks meds and therapy are admissions of failure, and he's so obsessed with needing a job for validation that he feels he can't devote time to other things while he's unemployed. I'm going to take him for coffee and try to show him that's not the case, but we'll have to see how he takes it.

Thank you so so much, just letting me talk about it has been incredibly helpful. I'm sending you all a cat/dog/dragon.

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Mookface (mod)

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Claire my lovely, I'm really glad you've had a chat to your mum about this, you shouldn't have to feel like this is all on your shoulders! I don't have anything helpful to say apart from that we all think you're wonderful, and never be afraid to have a bit of a vent - I've learned the hard way that trying to support depressed and needy people can be hellish unless you have a solid support base of your own! xxx

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