Clinical Depression Doesn’t Make People Incapable of Making Choices or Changes
I don’t frequently feature mental health related topics on this blog, but a friend of mine recently became very angry and “blew her top” at me and basically said she wants nothing more to do with me, and this topic pertains to the reason why.
(I will be doing another blog post or two later about this friend biting my head off this past couple of weeks.
And I will repeat this in the future, but:
The irony is that this now ex friend is someone who spent about a year and a half or two years asking me on Twitter if I could befriend her on other sites and share more about myself with her.
I was hesitant to do that but eventually took a chance. She and I have never met in person – but she initially wanted to befriend me further, not vice versa!)
Despite the fact I informed this (now ex) friend a few times over the last two or three year period that I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was around age 11 by a psychiatrist,
and that this diagnosis was verified as I got older (into my 30s) by about three other psychiatrists (in a total of three different states),
this ex friend, who I shall call “Emma” (not her real name) continued to insist that there is no way I ever could have had clinical depression.
I can’t begin to describe how insensitive and obnoxious I found that.
I was appreciative of the times this ex-friend listened to me describe my anxiety-laced concerns with her, as she did many times, and I made sure to thank her for that several times in the last few years.
I even asked this ex friend, “Emma,” a time or two that if she found my anxiety produced ruminations on the same topics crazy-making that I could back off, but she said it was okay.
But as I told her, I was fighting my anxiety to make changes in my life. I’ve not seen her fight her depression to make changes in her life.
I also told her I realize it’s not good to stay angry at people, which is why I’ve been trying to move past anger at family members of mine. I don’t think she’s willing to let go of some of her issues to move forward, though.
At any rate…
I finally politely yet directly told Emma this past week, when she once more insisted there’s no way I ever had depression, that it was not okay for her to keep denying my medical diagnosis like that.
And she has never apologized for it, and she told me this about three times over a 3 or 4 year period!
But she kept acting angry and incredulous that rather than offer her non-judgmental emotional support recently (which I had done for a few years now), that I dared to change strategy and offer her a few suggestions.
In Emma’s mind, it’s perfectly fine for her to keep denying my previous medical diagnosis (which is really insulting and obnoxious behavior), but God forbid I try to help her by giving her some tips that may reduce her levels of depression, oh that makes me such a platitude-giving, evil, victim-blamer! 🙄
I am 99% sure that “Emma” kept denying that I ever had depression because it conflicts with what she wants to be true and needs to believe about her own life and ability to hold a job or go out and live life again. (More about that later in this post.)
Emma claims that she herself has depression, but she never told me if she was diagnosed by a doctor with it (or if that is a self diagnosis), and if so, for how long; I asked her for how long has she had depression (I asked her about this and never got a reply).
One of several things that set this “Emma” person off in private social media chats with me is that I mentioned that during the years I had depression (from my pre-teen years well into my 40s), I was able to attend school full time (junior high, high school and college), and, I was able to hold part time and full time jobs and do other things.
Emma insists that she learned in psychology courses (which I estimate that she probably took in the late 1970s or early 1980s) that supposedly, people with clinical depression (also known as MDD, Major Depressive Disorder) cannot do things like attend school or hold down a job.
That is news to me, because I was in fact diagnosed with clinical depression and suicidal ideation by psychiatrists, I saw psychiatrists (and one psychologist and one therapist) over the years, I was on doctor-prescribed, anti-depressant medications for years…
And yet, yes, I attended school full time, and I went on to hold part time jobs and a full time professional job or two along the way.
When I was a kid and was diagnosed with clinical depression, even then, my mother would not permit me to stay home from junior high school, even though I begged her to, because I was bullied horribly at that school, and I was deeply depressed.
My mother refused to let me stay at home. I had no choice but to get up each day, shower, and go to school – even though the depression made me feel lethargic and my dream was to stay in my pajamas all day in bed, rather than face life.
After years of having to get up daily and shower and go to school, despite the fact I had depression, I became accustomed to living with the dull emotional aches and emptiness of depression and having to shower and leave the house anyway.
If you have clinical depression, and yet someone in your life is FORCING you to get up, shower, get dressed, and go out (like to school), believe me, yes, you can in fact absolutely get up daily, shower, and go to classes, and I do not care what your 1980s psychology professor told you about this.
My older sister reminded me recently that she was diagnosed with MDD (clinical depression) and PTSD, and yet, she has worked steadily since her teen years, and she earned two college degrees in her 50s – while still having depression.
My sister told me that in all her years of having depression and PTSD, she never once had a psychologist or psychiatrist tell her that her depression rendered her incapable of having a job.
I too attended college (in my 20s and later), and I not only took an entry level psychology course in my 20s (made an “A” in that), but I also took an abnormal psych course.
And in none of those college level psychology courses, or their accompanying text books, did I ever hear in a lecture or read in the class text books that a person with clinical depression is incapable of getting out of the bed in the morning, going to school, or holding jobs.
In all the years I saw psychiatrists for depression (and later for anxiety), I never ONCE had one inform me that because I had depression that I could not and should not go to school or hold a job.
I never once had a psychiatrist I saw tell me that because I had depression that I should just give in to the depression, cave in, give up on life, and just sit at home in pajamas and stay in bed all day napping or watching television all day.
As a matter of fact, when one of my psychiatrists found out I had quit one of my full time professional jobs (due to having been bullied by one supervisor), this psychiatrist got really angry or annoyed with me, and from then on out, every time I came in to see her for my visits (some were every 3 months, some every 6 months), she would keep nagging me about getting employed again!
I was seeing this psychiatrist for clinical depression, she was prescribing anti-depressant medications to me, and yet, she was hounding me to get another job right away.
In all my recent web searches about having clinical depression and employment, all the web pages I found on sites by professional mental health organizations give lists of tips of HOW to hold down a job WHILE having depression – which would be really strange advice if it were impossible for depressed persons to hold down a job!
Depression can make a person lack motivation, and rob them of energy.
A person with depression – especially if it’s severe, and clinical depression is severe – will not WANT to get out of bed daily and do any thing.
A person with depression will not FEEL like getting out of bed daily, bathing, or going to a job, or house-cleaning.
A task that might take a non-depressed person ten minutes to accomplish might take a depressed person twenty minutes (or even longer) to complete.
All of that is very true.
However, the fact remains that…
(and what I’m about to say really offends and angers some people with depression; they really do NOT want to hear this or believe it, especially if they are holding a Victim Mentality – the depressed tend to take the following as an attack, when it’s not intended as such but is merely stating truth and reality)…
Having depression does not make a person incapable of making choices and changes in their lives.
Having depression does not make one incapable of getting out of bed, showering, brushing their teeth, or attending classes or a job.
Does a person with depression WANT to go to a job or FEEL like going to a job? No.
But CAN a person with depression go to a job? Yes. Yes they can.
“Not feeling like doing X” and “Not wanting to do X” are entirely separate issues and categories from “Can or Cannot Do X.”
Is there any thing EASY about going to a job when you have depression? Nope – because your depression is luring you to stay in your soft, warm, comfy jammies and nap all day.
With depression, you want to “check out of life.” You don’t want to have to make decisions or take responsibilities for any thing.
I know. I get it.
I’ve been there. I lived with depression from the time I was a pre-teen all the way to my mid or late 40s.
I’m very acquainted with depression after having lived with it for so long.
I did eventually find my own way out of depression later in life.
It’s hard for me to say if I’m totally clear of depression now, or if it’s at such a low level I don’t notice it any more, but whatever the case, I’m not as in the rut because of it as I was for 30+ years.
A few weeks ago, this now-ex friend of mine, whom I am referring to as “Emma” here on my blog (not her real name), told me her depression had gotten worse lately, and the first thing I told her in response to that was, “I hope you feel better soon.”
(I saved screen shots of some of our private chats before deleting them.)
And, I thought, well, if her depression has become worse than usual, maybe I can help her by offering her tips I used to use on myself back when I had depression really bad, or things I’ve read psychologists advise to do.
You see how I was trying to be compassionate and caring there, right?
My motive was not to offer nothing but “emotional support” (which really hacked her off), nor was my motive, as she angrily accused me of, to be “judgmental,” or merely, as she snapped at me later, to give “platitudes” or “pep talks.”
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with pep talks – sometimes in life we need them.
God knows this ex friend is so very, very cynical, excessively negative, and bitter she needs them.
I had previously given “Emma” emotional support, which I reminded her after she started biting my head off – but at this point, as I told her, I was interested in solutions.
I was trying to help “Emma” figure out ways to actually LESSEN her depression, something which you think she would’ve welcomed, but no!
I guess she is actually deriving some kind of benefit, or getting some kind of weird need met, by staying depressed and cynical (yes, this is an actual thing; psychologists have essays online explaining this behavior, which they refer to as “Secondary Gains”).
The type and severity of symptoms help to classify the depression as neurotic or psychotic.
Depressed patients obtain narcissistic gratification because of their disorder; they may exploit the kindness and attentiveness of others, shirk responsibility, and avoid the demands of interpersonal interaction.
Such secondary gains may be so reinforcing to the patient that the original depression cannot be affected by treatment.
— end —-
Emotional Support, Empathy Vs. Enabling
I’ve found you can literally (this is not an exaggeration) spend years to decades giving the perpetually angry or depressed in your life lots and lots of empathy, caring, concern, ‘baby-ing,’ hand-holding, and non-judgmental emotional support, but all that care, concern, and that emotional support will NOT remove the person’s depression (or whatever problem they are frequently complaining to you about).
All of which I explained to this friend after she blew up at me for not giving her nothing but emotional support.
She was really miffed that I was offering her a few solutions, rather than 100% empathy and nothing but 100% empathy. (More on this later.)
How is it that me trying to help her decrease her severe depression is supposedly cold, mean, heartless, or judgmental of me, I do not know.
Unless it made her realize that she would have to work, take steps to change – and she wants to stay in the, “I’m a victim in life, so there’s nothing I can do to actually change my situation” mindset (?)
At some stage, if you are someone with depression, or you’re dealing with a deceased loved one, or a job loss, an abusive marriage, an on-going sickness, or whatever terrible thing you went through years past or are going through now, you must surely realize that receiving nothing but non-stop empathy will do NOTHING to actually stop whatever problem you’re having.
After processing whatever pain in life, and receiving that hand-holding and emotional support from concerned friends, you must eventually make a conscious decision to move on from the problem, and that may include coming up with a list of possible solutions to fix the problem!
Constantly complaining to your sympathetic friend about how gosh darned depressed you are may give you a fleeting, euphoric feeling of five minutes of validation and having been heard – but it’s not going to actually make your depression go away.
I can give “Emma” emotional support for her depression (and other problems) every day for the next ten years, but none of that emotional support will remove her depression or improve her other problems in life.
I am not opposed to giving hurting people occasional emotional support.
We all go through frustrating, sad, or stressful times in life and we can use some emotional support. I understand that.
Only “Emma” can take control of “Emma’s” life and fix her life.
I cannot do that for her, no matter how much emotional support I give her.
If a friend continually gives you emotional support for years for the same problem or two, they end up enabling you in your problem or dysfunction, rather than giving you emotional support.
Yes, there is a fine line between enabling and emotional support.
(As a recovered codependent, I spent years and years enabling people, in part by listening to them rant over the phone, in e-mails, or in person for hours and hours for years about their jobs, marriages, health, or financial problems.
All that emotional support I gave to all these frequently sad or angry people left me mentally exhausted and ultimately didn’t help the perpetually angry or depressed people who e-mailed or phoned me with their same problems over and over for years.
Because after I gave these people a ton of empathy and emotional support, they would call me again the NEXT month to gripe, complain, or cry about the SAME set of problems again.)
I know that depression can distort a person’s thinking to being more negative than usual (which I also reminded this ex friend of), but…
I was never AS negative and cynical during all the years I had depression (even with suicidal ideation!) as this ex friend “Emma” is.
Mental illness doesn’t evaporate the consequences of our actions.
(Link): When Helping Doesn’t Help
Why Some Clients May Not Want to Change
I think “Emma” also has a super big, very entrenched case of what psychologists call (Link): “Victim Mentality” (possibly more on that in a future post), and Victim Mentality further distorts a person’s perceptions and attitudes even more negatively.
I know, after having had clinical depression for approximately three decades, that people with depression do not like to hear that there is any thing they can do to lessen depression, especially if they, like this ex friend, are also nursing a bad case of Victim Mentality – they will feel as though any steps you ask them to take is a case of you judging them, attacking them, being insensitive, and so forth.
But I know, after having had depression myself for 30 or so years (which “Emma” keeps wanting to deny – as my personal, lived experience does NOT bolster her misperceptions, it does not support her idea that depressed persons “cannot hold down jobs,” nor does my personal experience with depression neatly fit with what she read in some psychology book in 1979), what is likely to work and what is likely to not work to lessen depression.
…That said, victim mentality does play a role in depression, which is why it is crucial to identify and manage it.
…In my opinion, victim mentality is when one feels that he or she is at the mercy of people or fate because that person doesn’t have control over his or her own life.
While even someone who doesn’t have depression can feel like a victim, I have personally found that this flawed perspective comes naturally to a depressed individual.
Signs You Have Victim Mentality with or Without Depression
…Feeling helpless — Victims believe they can’t take charge of their lives, and this results in them feeling helpless.
While it is true that we don’t always have the power or privilege to control situations, almost everyone in the civilized world has the ability to make choices.
However, a person who thinks like a victim will feel as if everything is out of that person’s control. Over time, this may develop into what is known as learned helplessness.
— end excerpts —
I’ve been where she is but have largely over come it.
I reminded her of that when she began attacking me. And I was not reminding “Emma” of that to be mean, nasty, or cruel.
I was reaching out to her trying to be helpful.
I wanted her to know that yes, there are ways to diminish or defeat depression, and I figured out a way.
I had to over-come depression on my own, as none of the psychiatrists for years ever got to the core of my depression, and the Christian faith did not remove the depression, either.
I spent years reading books, and later, after the internet came along, articles by psychologists online, about depression. I was able to figure out how to combat depression successfully after re-thinking my life experiences and reading all that mental health material online.
A lot of this took place after my mother died, and my mother dying is the most painful, difficult thing I had to cope with in my entire life so far, and I had to do that alone as well, because most of the rest of my family are verbally abusive, cranky type of people.
I got sick and tired of having depression over the years and did a lot of research on how to over-come it.
I have no interest in staying depressed or allowing depression (or anxiety) to control or limit my life.
I am not interested in staying in pessimistic, depressed, victim mode, where I think I have no choices in life because I feel that life or God are “out to get me” (as Emma feels), because when you allow yourself to maintain this view that you’re a victim, there’s nothing you can do to fix, decrease, or change yourself, your life, your problems or depression.
Staying in that “victim mindset” robs you of taking personal responsibility and makes you feel as though you have no choices in your life – so why bother? Why bother trying any thing new or actually trying advice or tips to decrease depression?
After “Emma” began pitching a fit when I was just sharing two very basic tips with her on how she could possibly decrease her depression(*), I was explaining to her that I’ve been where she is, and I know what works and what doesn’t, she snapped back at me sarcastically (it came across as sarcastic and nasty),
“sorry I just can’t snap out of it and pick myself up by my bootstraps as you were able to”
That was a very dismissive, demeaning, and condescending response. I had clinical depression for around 30 or more years!
I am proud of the fact that I did work my own way out of depression after psychiatrists failed to do that for me, as did the Christian faith.
And unlike “Emma,” I didn’t cave in to the depression, sit around thinking, “Pity me, poor me, there’s nothing I can do about this.”
(*)The two tips I shared with Emma? Here they are…
I told her, if your tendency is to sit around your home all day in pajamas, not seeing other (non) depressed people often, doing nothing but watching Net Flix or goofing around on Facebook and Twitter all day,
then it may improve your mental health by finding a way to be around mentally healthy people face to face more often and forcing herself to shower daily and put on some pants and a t-shirt.
I even told her that I know with depression that you may not FEEL like showering daily or getting out of pajamas and into daily, regular clothes, but try forcing yourself to do it any way, and it may lessen your depression.
You’re Not to Blame for Having Depression, But You Can Still Make Choices, and You’re Still Responsible for Your Choices
At least two times or more in this last batch of private messages I exchanged with this person, she kept falsely repeating that I “blamed her” for having depression, when I never said any such thing!
I even went out of my way explicitly to say, “Nobody chooses to have depression.”
But I stand by my point that just because a person has depression (and I had it for over 30 years), that while a person is not “to blame” for having depression and does not “choose” to have it, that having depression does not make a person un-able to make choices in life and to make changes.
I lived with depression for 30 or so years, and during that time, I was able to make choices and changes. There are no competent mental health professionals out there who will tell you otherwise.
Depression makes certain things in life more difficult but not impossible!
And as I told this now ex friend, if she were to actually begin seeing a therapist or psychologist for depression treatment, they would all begin helping her see how depression is negatively influencing her thinking process, they would help her correct that, and, many of them would give her small, obtainable goals to achieve – such as get up daily, shower, and get dressed.
There is not a single competent mental health professional who would advise a depressed patient to give in to depression, stop living life, spend all day, every day in pajamas in bed!
One goal of many mental health professionals is to assist their patients to function again in life, whether that person has been diagnosed with depression or anxiety.
This ex friend of mine apparently thinks her depression will magically disappear on its own, or if her circumstances change (i.e., if she can get a job again, etc).
You have to live in reality.
Don’t Make Getting Rid of Depression Contingent on External Factors
I told her, if you are making your joy in life contingent upon external circumstances, such as getting a job again, what do you do when you never get another job?
And how is it, if you usually spend most of your days on Facebook Messenger complaining to people about how awful your life is, that you expect your depression to change or go away on its own?
If you want your depression to go away, you will have to stop it with the inertia and actually start changing things.
Your dynamics won’t change until you change the dynamics.
I told “Emma” other than being around non-depressed people in person more often, and other than wearing regular clothes during the day (if she’s wearing pajamas all day), that she could look into CBT or BA (Behavioral Activation), because her attitude is hopelessly, excessively negative in part because it’s been colored by the depression.
So… if she can change HOW she views and perceives her problems and depression, that will make the depression seem and feel much more manageable.
– which is preferable to living in the hell of depression, one would think, but hearing things like that from me just hacked her off even more.
I was also telling her that with depression, you will have to FORCE yourself to do things you won’t FEEL like doing, but if you force yourself to do those things (whatever they are), your depressed mood will lift.
That was not only a solution I stumbled on to for myself years ago, but it turns out to be a technique that psychologists use on depressed persons called BA (Behavioral Activation).
She replied at one point, “Don’t you think I already know all this.”
No, I sure don’t, because if you know it, it doesn’t show! Or you heard it but never put it in action.
This lady has been depressed for how many years now – 10, 20, 30? And what has she tried to halt the depression? (I asked her, but she would not reply to that.)
If you’ve spent the last 10+ years with depression but have reacted to it by staying in bed half the day napping, then going out to your recliner in the den to watch Net Flix the rest of the day, how has that strategy been working out for you?
When you sit around in a night gown all day, goofing around on Twitter or watching TV, and when you do talk to people online only to commiserate with them about how horrible and unfair life and God are, that only serves to keep a person “stuck” in depression. It prolongs depression.
But this ex friend of mine, Emma, keeps living life along those lines, doing the very things that are keeping her trapped in the hamster wheel of depression. Does she not want off that wheel?
How Psychologists Treat Depressed Patients
Here are a few pages by mental health professionals saying a lot of the same things I’ve said to this ex-friend:
(Link): Overcoming depression: How psychologists help with depressive disorders – via the American Psychological Association
Depression is extreme sadness or despair that lasts more than days and affects people in different ways. Fortunately, depression is highly treatable.
…Treatment for depression
…Psychotherapy is also an effective treatment, either alone or in combination with medications. The benefits of psychotherapy may have an enduring effect that protects against symptoms returning even after treatment is ended.
…Seeing a psychologist about depression
…Psychotherapy can help people with depression to:
- Pinpoint life events that contribute to their depression and help them find ways to change, accept or adapt to those situations.
- Set realistic goals for the future.
- Identify distorted thought processes or unhelpful behaviors that contribute to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
- Develop skills to cope with symptoms and problems, and identify or prevent future episodes of depression.
- Two of the most common evidence-based therapies for depression are cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy.
…These researchers believed that depression was a behavioral issue (as opposed to a cognitive issue) that arose from a lack of positive reinforcement, particularly in social relationships.
Since they subscribed to a behavioral model of depression, the authors believed that the best way to treat depression was to “restore an adequate schedule of positive reinforcement for the individual by changing the patient’s behavior and/or the environment”.
…In other words, BA is a type of therapeutic intervention (most often used to treat depression) that focuses on behavioral changes in a client’s daily life.
When we are depressed we become less active. The less active we are the fewer opportunities there are for positive and rewarding things to happen to us. And the fewer rewarding things that happen to us the lower our mood becomes. Behavioral Activation (BA) is one way out of this vicious cycle. It is a practical and evidence-based treatment for depression.
…The relationship between what we do and how we feel
Psychologists have found that there is a close relationship between our activity and our mood.
…People who are depressed tend to do less overall and so they have fewer opportunities to feel pleasure, mastery, and connection – the things we need to feel good [1, 2, 3]. It is easy to fall into a trap:
Inactivity > Depression > Inactivity > Depression
…One way out of this trap is to wait until something external improves our mood – if it does then we might feel more like getting back to our old levels of activity. This approach is passive though, and it can leave you feeling helpless.
One big problem with the passive approach is that you are likely to be waiting for a long time – left to themselves episodes of depression can last for months at a time!
A more proactive way of breaking the vicious cycle of depression is to increase our level of activity even if we don’t feel like it to begin with. This approach is called Behavioral Activation (BA) and it is a psychological treatment for depression with one of the biggest evidence bases to demonstrate how effective it is
How CBT Works
A therapist helps you identify negative or false thoughts and replace those thoughts with healthier, more realistic ones.
…First, CBT makes you aware you have these thoughts. Then it teaches you to swap them for more positive ones. The change in your attitude leads to a change in your behavior. That can help ease your depression.
You may wake up in the morning and wonder, “What’s the point of trying?” With CBT, you learn to tell yourself, “That’s not a helpful thought. Making an effort has lots of rewards. I’ll start by getting out of bed.”
You may need weeks or months of CBT before you start to feel better.
….Your therapist will work with you to set treatment goals, like to feel less depressed or to cut back on alcohol. Usually, you won’t spend much time focusing on your past or your personality traits. Instead, your therapist will help you focus on what you feel and think now, and how to change it.
— end excerpts —
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy. This form of therapy modifies thought patterns in order to change moods and behaviors.
It’s based on the idea that negative actions or feelings are the result of current distorted beliefs or thoughts, not unconscious forces from the past.
…The sessions provide opportunities to identify current life situations that may be causing or contributing to your depression. You and your therapist identify current patterns of thinking or distorted perceptions that lead to depression.
….You may be asked to keep a journal as part of CBT. The journal provides a place for you to record life events and your reactions.
The therapist can help you break down reactions and thought patterns into several categories of self-defeating thought.
- all-or-nothing thinking: viewing the world in absolute, black-and-white terms
- disqualifying the positive: rejecting positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason
- automatic negative reactions: having habitual, scolding thoughts
- magnifying or minimizing the importance of an event: making a bigger deal about a specific event or moment
- overgeneralization: drawing overly broad conclusions from a single event
personalization: taking things too personally or feeling actions are specifically directed at you
- mental filter: picking out a single negative detail and dwelling on it exclusively so that the vision of reality becomes darkened
— end excerpts —
Hardship is inevitable. But self-pity is optional.
—- end excerpts —
Do you see any thing in those articles by psychologists or psychiatrists telling people to not attempt to make changes in their negative thinking? That say it’s impossible to NOT make choices when you have depression?
Because it’s not in there.
This ex friend of mine accused me of being victim blaming, giving “pep talks” and “platitudes” for telling her some of the very same things that a psychotherapist or psychologist would be telling her!
By maintaining these same behaviors and negative attitudes, this ex friend of mine is contributing to her own depression!
She is her own worst enemy. She could help herself out of this, but she refuses.
Any pointers I’ve given her, links to psychology pages, etc, she takes as betrayal, insult, she dismisses as “pep talks” or “platitudes” or hypocrisy (never mind that I don’t hide behind my anxiety disorder; I’ve been forcing myself to do things I’m afraid of my entire life, especially in the last few years, which she knows.)
You’re never, ever going to get out of depression or decrease it by continuing to do and think the same things.
And yes, you can absolutely make changes in your life and attitude even if you have depression.
The sooner you will acknowledge that, the sooner you will realize you do have power in your life and control over some of your situations and your psychological health will get better.
I went back and re-read the private messages I sent “Emma,” and there was nothing mean-spirited and insensitive about them. I was being polite to her, even as she got increasingly preachy and rude towards me.
I worded things kindly, but I was also to the point (I didn’t do much sugar coating).
My motive was coming from a place of trying to help, but she chose to filter it through a negative lens and find my responses victim blaming.
If you ask someone like her to take responsibility for their lives and choices – (and a lot of depressed people are like this too, not just ones with an over-sized, bad case of Victim Mentality) – it’s interesting that so many of them misconstrue this to be a form of “victim blaming,” when you’re trying to make them realize they can be empowered and there-by escape depression!
I actually told this same (ex) friend a few years ago that I had to take a break from our friendship, as her very sour, negative attitude was (Link): damaging to my mental health (letter by a person in similar situation to me)
I’m largely over depression, but being around people like “Emma,” who have a very negative, bleak, “pity me,” depressive outlook, combined with a victim mentality, can easily suck me back into depressive, negative thinking, and even trigger my anxiety.
This was back a couple of years ago, when “Emma” was telling me her depression was bad, and I told her, ‘well, when my depression was bad, I coped with it by baking, going on walks or bike riding and things like that.’
And do you know how she replied to that?
By shooting down every suggestion I had used on myself.
“Emma” told me how she couldn’t bake because her hands were too injured to pull trays out of an oven, and she listed reasons as to why she couldn’t go on walks or bike rides and do whatever else I said I used to help me get through depression.
You understand that my point sailed right over her head.
I was not saying that she necessarily should bake or go on bike rides; I was merely citing those as activities I had used on myself.
My point was that it would help her to participate in activities that do not involve napping or watching television or sitting on Twitter or Facebook all day.
A lot of depressed people “feed” their depression by staring at a screen all day.
They always claim that they “can’t” go on a walk, or they “can’t” visit a friend, or they “can’t” do this or that, when the fact is, yes, they “can” do whatever, but they choose not to. It always comes down to choice.
You may have depression and not feel like going on a walk, but unless your spine was crushed leaving you paralyzed from the neck or waist down, or you overate to the point you are a bed-ridden 800 pound person, yes, you can go on a walk, or visit a church service, or phone a non-depressed friend, or go knit a scarf, or do some other non-passive activity that will not keep you stuck in depression.
Pitfalls of Befriending People You Meet Online
And file this under another example of why I am so hesitant to befriend people I come across on forums, blogs, and social media.
This “Emma” woman spent around two years trying to befriend me better outside of Twitter, she kept asking for more about me, for me to friend her on Facebook, or what not.
And I was hesitant, because I always attract perpetually negative people who do want me to give them rivers and rivers of exhausting emotional support,
they will complain about their life’s problems but not lift a finger to change those problems,
or they end up getting angry at me and turning on me,
or I run into a lot of crack pots and crazies, and I get burned in the end.
Ex Friend Actually and Astonishingly Believes that Motivational Material is Horribly Pep Talk-y, Horrible, Victim Blame-y, and Platitude-y
By the way, one of the links I sent to this ex friend that especially seems to have pissed her off (I don’t think she even bothered to scroll up to see my other private messages, where I shared with her links by psychologists on how to diminish depression, see links higher up this page for examples of those) was this one:
Here is what I typed to her under that link:
It’s not always your circumstances in your life that hold you back, it’s how you view the circumstances and what choices you make in response to them. That guy doesn’t have legs, yet he entered that race and broke a record.
And those comments are very true.
Your problem is generally not your situation but how you view the situation!
You can keep yourself unnecessarily stuck with and in depression by holding on to defeatist thinking about how you think about your life or problems.
My paradigms have shifted in the last few years. I am not in the same place that this ex friend is in now and has been stuck in the last few years.
I have a better sense now that if you just sit around passively, and you fume and express anger at the world and at God, that your problems will not vanish, nor will your mood improve.
Does this mean that I am opposed to any, or some, amount of complaining or expressing sorrow, regrets, and so forth? No, not at all.
I find that too many Christians engage in equally harmful “polly-anna” thinking and “toxic positivity.”
But going the equal and opposite direction, meaning non stop negativity, can be just as bad and damaging.
I personally found that man’s story I linked to above, the man born with no legs but who entered races, inspirational and motivational, but not my ex-friend, no!
The ex friend, “Emma,” thought it was just horrible of me to send that to her.
She asked me how I would feel if she sent me a link like that, or some of that other content to me, given my severe anxiety disorder?
I laughed when I saw that, because I found it funny because, as I told her, I intentionally on occasion go looking for such material – because it gives me hope and inspiration that if that person could over-come a serious set-back, maybe I could over-come my problems in life too!
That is one of the reasons I sent her the link. I found it hopeful and thought she may too.
But no, she chose to view it as an attack, or as me not “getting” depression, and she just found it flippant, and just wrote it off and dismissed it… but again, that is her choice on how to view content meant to help her.
She seems bound and determined to cling to this very super negative, shitty attitude. She will never, ever heal from depression so long as she refuses to change, or even entertain the possibility that she can change.
Here’s a link I sent this ex friend (she probably didn’t bother to watch it)
– any one who has depression or anxiety will probably find the videos below helpful:
(Link): Catastrophizing: How to Stop Making Yourself Depressed and Anxious: Cognitive Distortion Skill #6
– 14:30 minute long video:
That ex friend definitely could benefit from listening to this:
(Link): Reframe Your Negative Thoughts: Change How You See the World 17/30 How to Process Emotions
– 17 minute long video:
Some individuals who have clinical depression – whether actual or feigned – also have a huge victim mentality.
Nothing you ever do for them will ever heal them or help them. You will be wasting your time if you try to rescue them or cheer them up. You will wear yourself out in the process.
You may be able to offer limited, genuine support for a truly depressed person in some capacity (such as driving them to their first few therapy appointments, for example), but if it’s a depressed person who has a victim mentality, you need to draw back and stand down (this is ten times more true for you if you’re codependent, an empath, or a people pleaser).
(Link): 10 Signs Someone’s Always Playing the Victim (6.05 long video)
(Link): The “Victim” Narcissist | How to tell who is playing the victim (17 minute long video)
Applicable to Emma (and to “Donna Hazel”):
I see more of Emma, an ex-friend I wrote about on this blog in other blog posts, in this (a little over 12 minutes long):
Related Posts, on This Blog:
(Link): Emma Responds – My Comments