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Goals, not wishes-- I'm a doctor, not a genie.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Instability Insurance, Pt. 2

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 7, 2015

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On Monday, we discussed how stress can change people and turn a strong, intelligent woman into a bad-boyfriend addict. While stress can push you to pick up bad habits, it can also push you away from good ones. Whichever happens to you, regaining control begins with an acceptance of the fact that you’ve lost it, but that you’re still the same old person inside. Then invite help from friends, build new habits and be patient, and you’ll eventually bring your behavior into line with your character. Just because stress changes you doesn’t mean careful management can’t change you back.
Dr. Lastname

I worry about the way my daughter stops contacting me for months at a time when she gets depressed. At least when she was in high school, she lived with me, so I could keep an eye on her and force her to stay on top of her work and get out of bed. Now she’s out of school and won’t even answer my texts. I worry, but I don’t want to antagonize her or undermine her independence by barging in on her. Meanwhile, I understand from her brother that she has trouble getting out of bed or even checking her mailbox, so it seems like she needs me now as much as she did when she was a kid. My goal is to help her without making her feel that I’m trying to take over her life.

It’s true that actions speak louder than words when it comes to expressing affection or commitment, but some people’s behavior is really impaired, even when their affection and commitment are genuine. Depression notoriously can prevent people from checking their mail, answering their phones, or even showering or leaving the house. No wonder they get more isolated and depressed.

What you’ve learned from watching your daughter endure prior bouts of depression is that her withdrawal doesn’t reflect specific negative feelings or a lack of independence; just a neurological shutdown.

If that’s the case, don’t take her silence personally or let yourself become paralyzed by feelings of rejection or doubts about the impact of intervention on her self-esteem.

Instead, decide whether, once again, she could benefit from help in structuring her time and activities. If you have time, go knock on her door and let her know you are not there to control or criticize her (even if you have such feelings). You just want to know whether she’s having symptoms that often plague good, strong people who suffer from depression and to help her get her life restarted.

Help her size up priorities and take care of emergencies, and set up a schedule and draw her into healthy habits. Recruit additional friends and relatives to come over and contribute, if possible. In short, provide the services of a psychiatric day hospital, with the advantage of offering them in her own home and with your extensive knowledge of her behavior and character.

As long as your attitude is positive, like a mental health Mary Poppins, you can probably help your daughter much more than you’d imagine. At the very least, you’ll restore your own confidence in the positive nature of your relationship, your own ability to help your daughter with a recurrent illness, and her ability to maintain contact in the future.

“I hate intruding on my daughter when she doesn’t answer my calls, but I know we aren’t in conflict and that her withdrawal is not the result of a personal grievance or desire to be dependent. I will determine whether her behavior has become passively destructive and, if so, will try to help her control it until she is taking good care of herself once again.”

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