How to help a friend?

Postby KnowLittle » Thu Aug 02, 2018 9:24 pm

All,

I am close to someone who is suffering depression. Some complaints:

Work: All my projects are failing and nobody knows why. I am going to get the sack.

Home: House prices everywhere are going up except here. This is the worst investment ever. It is so depressing to come back here every day.

Relationships: You bore me. Everyone bores me. It is not safe to go outside. There is nothing outside except bored low-lifes. I am completely bored all the time.

Purpose: Everyone dies. This city will die. Earth will die. The solar system will die. The galaxy will die. The universe becomes nothing. Life is the most pointless thing ever.

Sleep: I suffer insomnia and cannot sleep without alcohol.

The cycle is getting worse because recently the crying has overpowered the words. They have not seen a doctor because they are afraid they will lose their high-powered job if there is any record of them having a psychological problem.

I have a hypothesis about the underlying cause. I think this is the side-effect of women earning high salaries that will stop should they decide to have children. If their partner earns an equal amount, they will suffer a 50% income loss. What can I do?
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#1

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Thu Aug 02, 2018 9:48 pm

Be a friend.

If you are this person’s friend, then your role in this person’s life is not to play therapist, psychologist, doctor, or hypothesis tester. Your role is friend. This means as appropriate, e.g. whenever your friend says they are struggling, you recommend they seek professional help.

Then you leave the friend alone.

Given your friend doesn’t want to see a doctor is irrelevant. This doesn’t by default make you into the person to fill that role. Your role is friend and therefore your role is to simply be supportive but repeat yourself, telling the friend they should seek professional help.

Think of it this way. If your friend thought they had a heart problem you would be supportive and recommend they seek out a doctor. You wouldn’t play the role of heart surgeon, right? This friend might ignore your advice 1, 2, 3...90 times, but what more can you do as a friend? You can’t fix your friends heart problem. That is not your role in their life. Similarly, while you have the best of intentions you are not their psychologist.

You help your friend by being a friend.
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#2

Postby Fellow Traveler » Fri Aug 03, 2018 5:15 am

Sometimes people experiencing depression I think can be helped by a friend through conversation but that depends on the severity of depression and how knowledgeable that friend is about human behavior and the causes of depression. Your depressed friend might be able to come out of their depression through a change of perspective about their life or a change of pace. Most certainly the right questions have to be asked and they have to feel comfortable enough to possibly talk about things they normally don't talk about.

Now if you don't think that you would be comfortable trying this then I agree with what Richard said, you should recommend them seeking professional help because their situation may require a lot of time in therapy and or using medications,

I totally understand why Richard recommended that you not even try to help them through conversation and trying to be there for them to the point where your life is impacted because it may be too much of a burden and be ineffective, most of us aren't psychiatrists or psychologists.
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#3

Postby Candid » Fri Aug 03, 2018 5:40 am

Only a small fraction of psychiatrists and psychologists know what they're doing, too.

Psychiatrists look at symptoms, observed behaviours rather than what the patient is telling them, and reach for their prescription pads. It's laughable what they think they can cure with pills.

Psychologists go in for pep talks. Let's look at what's right about you. Let's list your strengths. There, we got a smile. That's better! $100 and see you next week.

KnowLittle, you you can play amateur psychologist. Thing is, misery attracts misery. I could feel the lurch in my gut reading the kinds of things your friend says to you. This is how very depressed people speak. They desperately want you to convince them there's a reason to go on, so they'll keep nay-saying every response you give. It's exhausting, so first up I suggest you protect yourself and limit the time you spend with this person.

"Everybody dies" (subtext: So what's the point?) seems to be the depressed person's ace. Everybody dies -- you can't argue with that, right?

You might want to consider reverse psychology, or tough love.

"I am going to get the sack."
It happens. So what?

"It is so depressing to come back here every day."
Yeah, it's horrible.

"There is nothing outside except bored low-lifes. I am completely bored all the time."
Yeah, you're better off staying in this shithole 24/7.

"Everyone dies. Life is the most pointless thing ever."
You're right. I never thought of that before.

"I suffer insomnia and cannot sleep without alcohol."
Thank God for booze, eh?
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#4

Postby KnowLittle » Fri Aug 03, 2018 6:32 am

I have been listening to their complaints for several years with the view that depression is temporary. I agree that "misery attracts misery" but depression is not misery.

Depression seems to me a conscious rejection of happiness (or at least a rejection of the escapisms that society uses as a coping strategy).

The last time I heard my friend laugh was an episode of "Life is goodish", so that must be where their natural sense of humour sits. They now view comedy as being exclusively for "shallow people with no depth of understanding". To laugh at a broadcast comedy (or say something silly) will attract angry comments along the lines of "you are too stupid".

Somewhere along the road there has been a rejection of their own sense of humour. That is not misery. That is something else.
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#5

Postby Candid » Fri Aug 03, 2018 7:21 am

KnowLittle wrote:depression is temporary.


True, and so is happiness. What we call happy people are those for whom misery is fleeting and related to external circumstances, therefore it's usually fixable. A happy person knows this, and knows misery is temporary.

A depressed person has it the other way round. Happiness is fleeting, and the fact that it's based on external factors makes it unreliable. The depressed person knows happiness is temporary and gets cynical about it. He'll be annoyed if someone says "You seem happy today". An observation like that is guaranteed to bring an immediate scowl.

depression is not misery.


I'm inclined to agree, but I'm curious as to how you make the distinction. The way I see it, we're miserable when our dog dies. That's healthy and normal. Depression is not healthy. The worst of it is that depressed people set out to convince 'normal' people that they're foolish to be happy. They challenge you to come up with a "point" to existence, and whatever you come up with, they're going to shoot you down. A lot of them self-isolate because they know they do this and it makes them feel worse about themselves; or they try to appear 'happy', ie. socially acceptable, and that's exhausting for them.

Depression seems to me a conscious rejection of happiness


I agree. Depressives don't believe in it for themselves, so they can't help rejecting it in other people. A good example is your friend sneering at comedy and the people who enjoy it. By his definition, happy people are "shallow people with no depth of understanding". If they weren't so stupid and shallow they would see there's no "point". Depressed people are always on about a "point". That's their very favourite, conversation-stopping argument: We'll all be dead some day, so what's the point?

Somewhere along the road there has been a rejection of their own sense of humour.


Humour is certainly a good antidote to depression, but even depressives will laugh at noir humour. They mistake cynicism for intelligence. If you're smiling, you must be somehow half-witted.

That is not misery. That is something else.


Despite what I've said above, I do think a lot of it is about brain chemistry; it's just that I don't believe synthetic substances can 'cure' it... except in the placebo category, which of course means head drugs can't work for me. A lot of depressives believe no one cares, specifically no one cares about me but also that no one genuinely cares about anyone else, either. This is where the right psychiatrist or psychologist can make a difference, if the patient believes he or she takes a personal interest. Your friend sounds too jaded for that.

If I want to alter my brain chemistry in a positive direction, I know I need to tackle it from the humdrum sleep-diet-exercise angle. That's the foundation, it gives you a fighting chance, from which you can go on to contact a couple of people you trust, get interested in life again.

The long-term depressive actually has an investment in staying that way. It's an ego problem. Depression is all they know, part of their identity, and the unknown is scary. They can't even imagine a state of relative contentment. If they could, they would have it.

Biggest fear: one day they'll get happy, and every sneering comment they've ever made about happy people being in some way mentally sub-par will come back to haunt them. Your friend's greatest fear is very likely that one fine day you'll be in a position to say: See what a silly billy you were all those years?

Depression is usually about self-esteem and ego being out of whack. Self-esteem low and ego high is always going to cause trouble.
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#6

Postby quietvoice » Fri Aug 03, 2018 8:29 am

KnowLittle wrote:Sleep: I suffer insomnia and cannot sleep without alcohol.

Alcohol is a depressant. Every night drinking is a real problem. Don't know how you can help, but this person has to at least get the alcohol out of his/her life and out of his/her system.

They have to want to do it. When they get sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, that's when there's an opening to start healing from their self-abuse.

What a good friend you must be to be hanging around for several years of this. How are you feeling about your life experience?
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#7

Postby KnowLittle » Fri Aug 03, 2018 9:06 am

quietvoice wrote:
KnowLittle wrote:Sleep: I suffer insomnia and cannot sleep without alcohol.

Alcohol is a depressant. Every night drinking is a real problem. Don't know how you can help, but this person has to at least get the alcohol out of his/her life and out of his/her system.


I am not sure it can be fairly described as self-abuse.

The acute drink problem stems from anxiety ahead of next-day decision making meetings where actual billions are at stake. The only way they can bring themselves to sleep ahead of those meetings is to knock themselves out with (a few) shots of "medicinal" hard liquor. Such meetings are a relatively new pressure.

It is not an physiological addiction to alcohol because they go teetotal when the pressure is off, but it is weaker kind of a dependency for which I do not have the right vocabulary.
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#8

Postby quietvoice » Fri Aug 03, 2018 9:27 am

KnowLittle wrote:I am not sure it can be fairly described as self-abuse.

The acute drink problem stems from anxiety ahead of next-day decision making meetings where actual billions are at stake. The only way they can bring themselves to sleep ahead of those meetings is to knock themselves out with (a few) shots of "medicinal" hard liquor. Such meetings are a relatively new pressure.

It is not an physiological addiction to alcohol because they go teetotal when the pressure is off, but it is weaker kind of a dependency for which I do not have the right vocabulary.

You had placed it (the alcohol) within the context of several years of complaining.

If they are miserable at their job, and they aren't willing to find a living more suitable to their disposition (which may mean giving up all the goodies coming with said job), that is on them. They need to sort out in their own mind what is important to them. Everyone on this Earth is on an experiential journey, full of ups and downs, twists and turns, for their own development. This person is no exception.
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#9

Postby KnowLittle » Fri Aug 03, 2018 9:40 am

Candid wrote:
KnowLittle wrote:depression is not misery.


I'm inclined to agree, but I'm curious as to how you make the distinction. The way I see it, we're miserable when our dog dies. That's healthy and normal. Depression is not healthy.


Thank you, I learned a some good points from reading your long post.

I am not medically trained and can share only my variant of 'common sense':

We are complex dynamic systems that they consist of ailments, experiences, dispositions, and many other nuances.

The problem with complex dynamic systems (human or any other kind) is that no two systems are identical. The side-effects of making any tiny change inside a complex dynamic system is unknown. One 'tweak' in two different people will have different outcomes.

Misery is healthy because it has net benefits. For example, misery provides us with the ability to consolidate memories of a lost one during the mourning process. This process has a beginning, middle, and end. This process stimulates the physical stresses we know as sadness with tears, headache, etc.

Depression stimulates the same sensations we know as sadness but is unhealthy because it provides no benefit. It is not directly linked to any one source of misery. It has no clear beginning, and no clear end. It seems to me that depression is internal physiological imbalance, perhaps neurological or hormonal. If blood tests suggest no cause, depression might still switch-off as easily as it switched-on (the brain is itself a complex organ).
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#10

Postby KnowLittle » Fri Aug 03, 2018 9:53 am

quietvoice wrote:
KnowLittle wrote:I am not sure it can be fairly described as self-abuse.

The acute drink problem stems from anxiety ahead of next-day decision making meetings where actual billions are at stake. The only way they can bring themselves to sleep ahead of those meetings is to knock themselves out with (a few) shots of "medicinal" hard liquor. Such meetings are a relatively new pressure.

It is not an physiological addiction to alcohol because they go teetotal when the pressure is off, but it is weaker kind of a dependency for which I do not have the right vocabulary.

You had placed it (the alcohol) within the context of several years of complaining.

If they are miserable at their job, and they aren't willing to find a living more suitable to their disposition (which may mean giving up all the goodies coming with said job), that is on them. They need to sort out in their own mind what is important to them. Everyone on this Earth is on an experiential journey, full of ups and downs, twists and turns, for their own development. This person is no exception.


Alcohol has for many years been described by this person as having medicinal value, and has been increasingly relied on as a remedy for insomnia.

I hypothesised in my opening post that equal-pay is contributing to the causes of depression. There seems no way for them to make new life choices (i.e. family) while also providing the life choices they are accustomed to (i.e. the private education that they buy for themselves, and would want to buy for any children). I would cite ageing populations throughout the west as evidence for this being a social trend and not a one-off case.
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#11

Postby quietvoice » Fri Aug 03, 2018 9:56 am

*
Recommendation: Take a Solid Food Vacation. Show your friend how much better life can be when one gives up certain ways of living. If you want to see change in your world, you must be the change.

This person explains over and again how living in this way works, and he includes depression in his repertoire of topics.

(Each link is to a YouTube channel.)
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#12

Postby quietvoice » Fri Aug 03, 2018 10:02 am

KnowLittle wrote:I hypothesised in my opening post that equal-pay is contributing to the causes of depression. There seems no way for them to make new life choices (i.e. family) while also providing the life choices they are accustomed to (i.e. the private education that they buy for themselves, and would want to buy for any children).

Again, they need to figure out what is important to them. There's a heck of a lot of changes and changing going on in this world. It is reality. Resistance to reality makes for unhappy living. Getting clear about inner values cuts through bullsh**.

Edit:
It's getting to the point where I think the person of which you speak is you.
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#13

Postby KnowLittle » Fri Aug 03, 2018 10:26 am

quietvoice wrote:Edit:
It's getting to the point where I think the person of which you speak is you.


Why do you say that?

My experience suggests persons with depression will not entertain holistic evidence-driven speculation about their recovery. As Candid highlights, depressed persons will seek to shoot down positive input with a point that is on a different scale to the problem at hand (i.e. everyone dies).
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#14

Postby quietvoice » Fri Aug 03, 2018 10:35 am

KnowLittle wrote:Why do you say that?

I had somewhat reconsidered, but then it was too late to re-edit my edit.

You seem to be defending their lifestyle arrangement, that is why I said that.
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