Posted by fxckfeelings on June 16, 2011Share This Post
It doesn’t seem mean or destructive to be convinced you or someone else needs help, but the trouble happens when there’s good reason to believe there is no help to be found, at least none of the kind you want. That’s when seeking can become as futile as the search for the Holy Grail, except nastier, sadder, and with more damage than a flesh wound. Giving up is often a significant act of kindness, and the first step to getting or giving a different, better kind of assistance, with or without nerdy references.
I have a friend who has a history of being diagnosed with depression, self-mutilation and, recently, suicidal thoughts. She was forced to seek treatment with a counselor in HS (now 24-years-old) whom she said was no help, and now she says she won’t ever seek treatment again because it won’t help her. She acknowledges she has issues that need addressing, but she doesn’t believe in mental illness diagnoses, states she just needs to “deal” with it. However, all we talk about is how much she hates her life, hates feeling this way but isn’t willing to do anything about it. I’ve told her she’s an adult, and makes her own decisions and no one can force her to do anything, but I’ve been very honest with my concerns about her, and that she needs help. I don’t want to treat her with kid gloves or enable her but I also don’t know how much I can push her, since I know its her mental illness that’s clouding her view of the world/reality. How can I continue to be a good friend without beating my head into a wall and enabling her?
For many people, “help” and “cure” have become interchangeable words, as if good motivation and proper treatment will always make things better (tell that to the common cold).
Sadly, the help your friend needs, just like a cure for what ails her, may or may not exist, depending on her luck, the severity of her issues and whether she sees them as hers or just a reaction to other people.
Regardless of treatment, the normal course for severe problems like depression, eating disorder, and urges to hurt yourself are the same; off and on, for many years. There is certainly no cure, and very rarely can anyone provide the help to stop recurrence completely.
Don’t then assume that treatment would make your friend feel better if she were “willing to do something about it,” because, unfortunately, this might not be true. After all, she was willing to try something, and it simply failed to take.
Instead, find out what she knows about the various kinds of treatment available to her and what she thinks about their possible benefits and risks. If she lumps them all together as useless because the one didn’t work, you have good reason to warn her against the power of negative thinking when people are in pain and/or depressed.
If you can persuade her that depression-pumped negative thinking has clouded her judgment into fearing and avoiding options that are worth exploring, you’ve also provided her with some excellent cognitive therapy and shown her that she needs it—a beneficial trifecta. If not, you’ve shown yourself that she’s too negative to be logical, you’ve been as helpful as you can be, and you just can’t get penetrate her depressive pseudo-logic.
Never buy the idea, however, that you have to get better to get better. If she has, in actuality, exhausted all likely treatments and nevertheless keeps trying to work and be a good friend, respect what she’s doing, because that’s what beating an illness is all about.
It’s easy when treatment works, but the true heroes are the ones who keep on going when it doesn’t. If you’re there for her during that struggle, that’s the best kind of help there is.
“I hate to see my friend suffer and I’m worried that she could do herself serious harm, but I know that mental illness and negative thinking can brainwash good people and that help, from me or a professional, is not necessarily the answer. I will always insist that there is a hopeful way forward, but accept the fact that she may not agree and that argument is not helpful.”
I can’t stand the way I’ve become a disorganized idiot when I used to be incredibly good at juggling multiple responsibilities. I’m only 35-years-old and, while becoming a father has been stressful, it shouldn’t have destroyed my basic organizational abilities. Admittedly, I ‘ve been through a major depression or two, but I’m in a good mood now, I love my work, I’ve got a great wife, and my life isn’t a lot more complicated than it used to be. Nevertheless, I ruminate over tasks that go nowhere, get distracted before I get important things finished, forget my priorities and miss important meetings. I’m a mess, I’m an incompetent ditz, and I hate it. Medications haven’t helped so far, and neurological tests show nothing. There must be something that will give me back my competence.
If there was some way to restore your mojo, you probably would have found it by now, because you’ve had yourself evaluated and tested, and you’ve tried treatments and nothing has worked. In other words, here lies your mojo, may it rest in peace.
It’s sad, but I’ve seen this kind of acquired ditziness happen to people who’ve had a bad depression or two, as well as to people who’ve been concussed. Things may get better in the long run.
Meanwhile, a part of your brain has shut down, even though you feel normal in every other way and nothing shows up on an MRI. Only a voodoo doctor will notice the missing mojo, and your insurance won’t cover all the chicken blood that likely requires.
On the plus side, there’s lots you can do to help yourself if you stop trying to turn the clock back and substitute your old brain for the one you’ve now got. Yes, it’s humiliating, but so is a colonoscopy. Accept it, and you can keep yourself in the clear.
You can ask your wife and friends for help, take a course on organizational techniques, buy a to-do calendar book to write down priorities and create a schedule. You can also put alarms into your smartphone, and set up habits for checking your book, your messages, and your checkbook. Accept the need to learn simple, dumb-looking methods for doing things you used to accomplish intuitively, and you may be able to compensate 100% for your dysfunction.
Ambitious perfectionists fight this notion, because they want to control their lives in their heads. They get mad at themselves for losing control, then depressed, then more dysfunctional, and then more depressed. They also keep me from becoming unemployed.
Fighting your ambitious nature will not be easy, but remember, your goal isn’t to be who you were; it’s to be organized enough to make a living, run a family, and keep your life together, that’s all. The next step is to accept that what used to feel like “that’s all?” is now “that’s a lot.”
“I feel like a brain-damaged ex-whiz kid, but my real goals haven’t changed. If I can force myself to endure rehabilitation, and become competent enough to keep my major commitments, it will be the biggest achievement of my life so far.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname