Depression affects emotions, mental abilities, self-concept, behavior, relationships and the entire body. These core posts describe the full range of symptoms affecting daily life. Read More.
Depression is an illness that affects many levels of health. We tend to think first of the drastic changes in mood and vitality: hopelessness, lost energy, confused thinking, broken self-esteem, paralysis of will – and thoughts of suicide. Those symptoms are devastating enough, but even they do not give a full picture of depression’s impact. It is not only a “mental” illness but one that interferes with the functioning of the human body in many ways. The brain and central nervous system, the heart and blood vessels, the immune system, our bones – there is growing evidence of the links between depression and diseases affecting all these.
This section brings together posts about the full range of symptoms linked to depression and how they can affect daily living. Hopefully, that material will help you identify all the changes you may be experiencing. This knowledge, in turn, can set the stage for choosing the treatments that are most relevant to your life.
October 30, 2013 at 9:24 am
I suffered from depression, accompanied by social anxiety and panic attacks for most of my twenties.It took a long time to receive any professional help. Initially I was prescribed anti-depressants which were very useful in helping to rebalance my mood to a point where I thought life might be able to continue. Whilst they also had some pretty unpleasant side
effects, in my case they were the first step in my recovery from what had become a potentially life-threatening condition.
I was incredibly fortunate in that a wonderful individual, who also happened to be a brilliant counsellor, moved in to a house just up the road at this time of my life. Going through counselling was the second step in my (very gradual) recovery. As the years have passed, I’ve realised that if one can succeed in beating the awful affliction of depression, the experience can teach you much about yourself and others. Indeed I am stronger and more resilient as a result it.
However I still have to be mindful of my mood, as occasionally I can feel it sliding downwards. These days,though, I am much more aware of the early earning signs which helps a lot in taking positive action early on.
My message is that YOU CAN beat this horrible condition, even though that may seem impossible when you are in the depths of it. If you can make even small positive changes as often as you can manage, these can add up. Help may come from unexpected quarters when you feel all is lost. Never give up! “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”
October 10, 2013 at 7:41 am
I feel my depression comes from myself. I hate the way I look and talk. I try so hard to love myself and be happy but I just cant. I hope one day I can face my demons and be who I really want to be
November 19, 2013 at 9:49 am
Please don’t dismay. I’ve had depression all of my life, and I know from experience that it does get better, it can get better. Although I’ve been hesitant and downright stubborn with the notion of joining groups and keeping physically active, it really does make a difference. Now, I go walking, hiking, out to restaurants, movies, and all kinds of things with others. We go to art shows, potluck dinners, pubs, night clubs, jazz performances…anything is better than sitting at home. Even when I’m feeling low, I put my “game face on” and go! When I’m out no one knows that I’m depressed, because for a period of time I feel great! And the more you do this, you make memories, and you build up a lot of positive memories to think about. This, as well as journaling, meditating, walking my dog, volunteering and listening to my fabulous music, keeps me mentally healthy, and always looking forward to something new to do. My calendar is booked, not full, because I don’t want to stress out, but full enough that it reduces the time I spend alone and thinking about me. Find free events and join an active group where you live. You can find a group at meetup dot com. Not sure if you are allowed to post web sites here, so I wrote it like that. Good luck!!!!
September 17, 2013 at 7:27 pm
My father’s alcoholism and abuse brought me to the point of depression, anxiety, and psychosis. I’m fortunate to have had a lot of help dealing with all three issues. This has really given me an insight into the depths of the human spirit.
March 21, 2013 at 5:26 am
Does anyone else get spring depression? I don’t remember feeling like this last year, but I know the year before around this time (FEB-APRIL) I had it. My depression and anxiety get really bad. I’m crying a lot and have no motivation or energy. My negative thoughts are out of control. I am beginning to hate this time of year (which is actually a really beautiful time of year)!
May 13, 2013 at 7:05 pm
At a recent appoint, my nurse practioner told me that researchers are finding a link between hay fever and depression. I am not sure that this is the case with you, but it might be something to consider looking into. Unfortunately, I don’t have any other information on the studies. When she told me, I was like…oh, that’s interesting. She asked me if I had hay fever. I used to, but I don’t now, and depression has stricken me for a longer period than the few months of spring. Thankfully, I am not getting treated for depression and am feeling much better.
July 1, 2013 at 8:50 am
This time of year is actually the time where people in the Northern Hemisphere are the most deprived of Vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is mostly synthesized by being exposed to sunlight (dietary sources are negligible in comparison). February-April is a time when you have not been exposed to intense sunlight for a few months.
I highly recommend reading “The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs”.
This book goes into more details about dietary supplements, bright light therapy, and more. Every step is supported by clinical studies.
February 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm
Hi my dad has been a miner all of his life and had a good position in the heading training people etc.My brother also works at the same pit and wants to do what my dad does where the moneys good,but has to do night shifts. Aposition come up and my dad took it as he would have been working and trainning his son.He could not sleep and went back on shift work. Then decided to give night shift another go, after 2 weeks of hardly any sleep he decided to go back on shift work but they had give his job up, so it ment he was in back up going any where they sent him.Last night i found out he can not live with letting his job go what he has worked for all of his life, he can’t sleep he’s lost weight, and can’t stop thinking of what a bad mistake he has made. I have told him working with machinery and driving when tired is dangerous. He told me he fell asleep at wheel other day and my brother had to grab steering wheel. He is making his self ill , we as a family can not stand seeing him like this. I’m so worried about him can you please help me.
June 23, 2013 at 2:52 pm
Dear Joanne ,
I am touched by your story .
This is a common problem people face upon retirement
The brain is so used to the work that they just cant get out of it ,its a matter of habit , emotional attachment and their identity .That is the only way he knows to live and probably now after so many years of work that is the only thing he can do and is so good at .
His sense of security is attached with it and he is feeling as if someone has snatched away that from him .
What u can do is that dont let him be alone.Some one should be with him to give him emotional security .Speak positive and appreciate him and express gratitude for what he has done for ur family. That way u can keep watch on him without letting him feel that he is being watched.
Also find out what were his interests that he has not pursued or that he wil like to pursue
and help him to get engaged in that.
He can be also engaged in some sort of training activities /community work as that will give him his sense of usefulness and worth and also keep him busy .
Explain to him the dangers involved in work and that u all need him healthy and safe forever
Help him to mix up with other retired people in your area .
Let him play with kids /teach them something
He can start to diary his experiences / learning
He can also learn some new skillsets for safer employment suitable for his health
Gradually explain to him that now he has to change himself and if not willing ,some one has to take a stand and tell him straightaway
Hope that helps…!!
Take care of urselves
Also remembered the movie “October Sky”.Please see it if possible
Will M says:
January 31, 2013 at 10:48 am
My partner of 5 years walked out over a week ago. Now she does not even email me.
I now understand why she was unhappy but it was gradual and I didnt know how to fix it at the time.
I’ve told her I would do anything to work on our relationship. I want her to come home, I love her unconditionally, I can’t even be angry at her. I have never felt this bad for so long. At least I know she is ok with friends. Being abandoned not knowing what she does it tough.
She says she needs space, time to think and gives me no hope of even coming back, she says she does not know. Doing nothing as she wishes prevents me from trying to make it better, so frustrating.
I know reationally that she needs to be without me, but for how long? How long does a woman need to decide? Every day is hell. She doesnt tell anyone what she does, I have no way of convincing her that Im serious about working on our relationship, i thought we would grow old together.
i can’t imagine being without her, I don’t want to be with anyone else.
Is there any hope, anything that I should do?
February 1, 2013 at 11:50 am
I’m sorry to hear your story Will. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do ‘to make it better’, she needs to fix herself. The depression is making her push you away and you are going to have to be very, very patient. If you contact her, do not mention the relationship and how much you are missing her, as this will probably only serve to make her push you away even more.
The Depression Fallout forum is a wonderful site from which to gain support in this awful situation. All the best, K.
Patricia Robertson says:
January 29, 2013 at 11:32 am
I have recently started a blog on aging and depression; it’s more like a weekly journal. Have some readers that are friends and relatives, no comments. I am paralyzed by isolation, depression, anxiety, have been living in an apartment attached to my son’s and daughter-in-laws house which is good as far as our relationship is concerned but I have literally forgotten how to do anything for myself. We will be moving in the next 9 months into two separate condos, about 8 blocks apart, and I am terrified. There’s no social interaction in the building and my energy for getting out and trying to meet people is very low. I feel close to giving up.
Can I post on this blog? Maybe some of the posts I would put on my own.
My website is aginganddepression.blogspot.com or the full title is Aging and Depression: From Darkness into Light. Is there any way you could take a look at it and give me some pointers. I long for contact with someone, anyone.
June 23, 2013 at 3:18 pm
Hi Patricia ,
I read some postings from your blog. Dont feel depressed .You are always taken care of by the universe and God loves u much beyond ur imagination .
I also found spirituality and meditation very useful to remove depression
Also some other things like exposure to sunlight , deep breathing exercises ,listening to meditation music , drinking lot of water , eating the right food , eating lot of fruits and nuts ,meeting loved ones will help u .
Focus on what u want and not on what u dont want
What u focus on increases .
So in ur blog start counting your blessings .
Note down what depresses u more and avoid doing that .Observe urself continuously
Note down what makes u happy and do that more ..!
Forgive all those who have hurt u , as by not letting go u are hurting urself
Dont spoil ur now for what has gone .
For what has gone is only a memory now.
Release all the emotions one by one everyday ..
Bless all your enemies…
Thank all the hard times they have given u as u have gained a lot from that too
even if u are not aware of it .
At highest level , we all are spirits and so no one can harm anyone .
So its the role that people are playing in this life to act in a certain way to give u certain lessons in life and that also is agreed by you (as they say) before we are born .
Express gratitude for improvement in health if any , for what u can still do
Thank all your organs and express all that they have done in detail
Express memories of great moments in your life
What are the good lessons u learnt from ur life
Thank all people who have helped u
Express what u would like ur life to be from now onwards..!
Take care of urself
June 24, 2013 at 4:31 am
Hope u will be reading my reply and it will be useful to u and others who read it .
Since u can use the internet , u can learn something new everyday
That will keep u healthy and motivated
Also u can share the practical knowledge u have acquired like
Small tips for bringing up kids ,Relationships ,Marriage ,Cooking
Or u can share practical experiences :
Funny Incidents in your life , Great People u have seen and what u liked about them ,
If u can list out things u think one should do at different phases in life ,
it will definitely help the next generation
You can also write about :How u handled certain situations gracefully , how were the difficulties in life overcome by u or your loved ones, what was their mindset , experiences of having helped people or received help and your feelings that time,
realizations of existence of God, etc…
Some one somewhere may be needing this information and ur knowledge will
be useful to them
Memories get overwritten as we get new perspectives and learn
to practice forgiveness, gratitude , compassion ,acceptance ,appreciation ,Love
Also when u find some usefulness of ur life ,some purpose you will get the energy ,circumstances and ability from life to do it ..!! :) Your health will improve too .
“When u find usefulness of ur pain
U will realize nothing has gone in vain ..”
Every moment in ur life is not just about ur life
u are a part of the universe …it takes a lot of resources and efforts of
different components of universe to keep u alive
Appreciate the gift of Life!!
ur life is not just ur life…share it with others and feel one with the universe
ur body is not ur body …u are the God of all thats there in ur body
and u can act to forgive ,love , be grateful ,care and serve every part of ur body
Let this mind create some value for the world , Let this body be at service of this universe
and it will receive all healing energies
Now u dont need appreciation , compensation ,rewards for ur work
Let the work itself be a reward!!
Feel joy in Giving !
Think of what u would like to give back to the world
and evaluate what is possible for u now
I am sure u will be able to Just Start Doing it …!!
saurabh garg says:
March 24, 2014 at 9:06 pm
I am 26 year old. please suggest me I always thinking of die ,I think what benefit of living life and fear one day I become old and die by heart attack.and life is very small.
April 12, 2014 at 7:32 am
This is for you, Saurabh Garg. It’s also for ANYONE and EVERYONE who may be thinking of suicide as a “way out” of your suffering. That is not an answer. Life can be long, satisfying, and very beautiful! But please don’t set your goal right away as “finding happiness”, not yet anyway. In the beginning just set your goal as dealing with those dark times and getting relief from suicidal thoughts. Be kind and gentle with yourself, and love your SELF and the beautiful gift of your life. There is lots of beauty around you, just look and see.
Please get immediate assistance and find someone who can help you when you feel this way; they will refer you to helpful professionals who will coach you, listen to you, give you resources, and get you on your way to a happy and fulfilling life. But you have to do some work also, even though it can seem impossible when you’re really down in a dark place. I’ve been there, too. First, make an appointment with a doctor and TELL THEM you think you have Depression and want to see a professional for a diagnosis and possible ongoing talk therapy. They will later talk with you about using medications, and it will be up to you if you take them or not. You do NOT have to see a Psychiatrist at first. You can visit a Psychologist, a Social Worker, a Minister or Priest or any other clergy you may know of, but start with someone trustworthy and with valid credentials.
Go easy on yourself; you don’t have to be perfect. Find ways to lift up your mood that suit YOU. Go for a drive in the countryside. Walk in the city gardens. Go for a spin in the park on your bicycle. Visit an animal shelter and see all the dogs, cats, bunnies and other furry animals that will make you smile. Bake some cookies. Visit a fond auntie or uncle. Watch a comedy flick. Phone a friend who always tells you a joke. Go for an ice cream. Listen to upbeat music. Get on the treadmill and work up a sweat or lift a few weights. Go down to the riverside or to the beach and appreciate Mother Nature. Buy some flowers. Practice Yoga if you don’t already. And then, if you need medications, well, go for it. They DO help. Yet they aren’t the only ticket back. Your life choices can make a huge improvement in your outlook.
When you’re active and exercising, a lot goes on in your body to make you literally healthier and happier. Just a few of the hormones released in exercise are: endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. They all play a part in making you feel really good, alive, and vital. This is where you want to be, but you’ve got to do the work.
Best of luck. Live long and be at peace!
saurabh garg says:
April 28, 2014 at 8:34 pm
You Do good job. I am very motivated by this.
December 30, 2012 at 4:07 am
I have a partner for has been previously in three relationships which broke down, and re married etc..he has in all 4 children and 3 grandchildren. I hv now been with him for 5months, and within this time he has had three lots of depression, and he cuts me out, and sends heartbreaking messages to me by email and mobile. It takes about 4 to 5 days to come out of it, and when he does he is really sorry about it. He tells me sometimes he wants to commit suicide etc… I am new to this , and dont know what to do to help him. I have said to him, never to send me messages like this again. i hv asked him whether he has mention this to his GP but he said no, what do I do or say to him. I find that the repetition of this is too close together , and it may be worse, the way I see it. Let me know.
December 14, 2012 at 7:57 am
Im an 18yr old girl whom just finished my hsc. Ive had depression since i was 15 but it keeps getting worse.. Ive attempted suicide more than a few times and ive seen a couple councellors but nothing seems to help. I tried talking to my friend at 16 but it got spread all over school that i was attention seeking. After that talking to people seemed impossible. I feel as though someones watching me all the time. Sometimes i can sleep all day and then sometimes not at all. I dont know what to do? How do you get better? It seems impossible..
John Folk-Williams says:
December 15, 2012 at 8:22 am
Hi, Sophie -
It really is possible to get better, but it can take time to find a way of dealing with depression that works for you. It’s always good to start with a checkup to rule out physical causes, like a thyroid problem. Have you seen a doctor who can do a thorough evaluation and diagnosis? I know it can take time to find a counselor or therapist whom you trust and have confidence in, and it can also take time to find an effective medication, if that is thought to be appropriate for the worst symptoms. But you can find both. There are therapy methods that have helped me and millions of others, especially with the patterns of thinking that make you believe there is no hope for getting better. There is hope. It is important to stay connected with people who really care about you – they can’t be your therapists, but spending time with them just to hang out really can help, even if you don’t feel like it. It’s good to learn as much as you can about depression too. You can start with other posts on this blog about recovery but also look at the many other sites, books and videos I mention in the Resources section. And please feel free to stay in touch here when you have more questions or just to sound off.
All my best to you -
July 1, 2013 at 9:18 am
If you have tried conselling and/or medication and haven’t seen any change, I highly recommend you read “The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs”.
This book starts from the insight that our western way of life is toxic to our mind and bodies. Fortunately it is possible to improve our situation with exercise, dietary supplements, sunlight exposure, etc. Every step is supported by clinical studies.
The only part of this book that could be improved is the chapter about stopping rumination (negative thought loops). I would recommend mindfulness meditation.
Video with meditation expert Jon Kabat-Zinn (author of the book “Wherever You Go, There You Are”):
November 19, 2013 at 10:03 am
If you need a friend who has experienced this all her life, please get in touch with me. I’m here. There is help, just ask your doctor for a referral. I don’t know who you’ve talked to but psychiatrists aren’t that good for depression. I’ve seen a psychologist, and also a social worker. There are many different kinds of therapies out there. One suggestion: laughter yoga! It is REALLY therapeutic! Just keep looking and NEVER give up on YOU. You are alive and you are beautiful. You deserve to love yourself. That feeling of someone always watching you is something that I have experienced. It can go away; mine has. Personally, I think it is a form of self consciousness, but if it gets out of hand, it can lead to some kind of paranoia. Don’t worry, it can be helped and you can control it. I used to have panic attacks, and I know that they arose out of exactly that feeling. I was overly self conscious and always felt someone was staring at me. This I think is called “hyper vigilance”, at least my therapist mentioned this once. Try relaxation methods, yoga, deep breathing, calming music, meditation, and so on. You are not alone in this, it is HUMAN to have these feelings!! Even if someone IS looking at you, what harm can they do to you? Ask yourself “What is the worst that can happen?” Confront that feeling and you will gain control over it. Eventually it will subside.
November 4, 2012 at 6:54 am
Hi i just found this site and think your feedback and help seems really good so i thought i would share… I havent wrote on any sites before but i am struggling and worried. I am 23 and have suffered with depression since i was 18 and anxiety since i was 14. I have been on and off tablets, started seeing a therapist last year but stopped going because i couldnt even make myself go to that. Right now i am down and scared and feel so negative about my future. I recently got a temporary job after being made redundant in february, felt okay when i started on a steady level but the last month i started with the depression and then my anxiety increased and panic attacks. I had some days off work, spoke to them and saw occupational health (with it being the nhs they were quite helpful) been in the last 3 weeks – it is only weekends though which makes me feel even more rubbish that im struggling even with that! Ive veen to the doctors again on tablets but never really feel like im taken seriously. I thought i was doing a bit better apart from in the week just feeling like in completely wasting my life and time. But this weekend i couldnt do it again. I will have list this job now, feel like such a failure and crap person. I still live at home and they just get annoyed at me. I have a boyfriend who ive been with for 5 years and really happy with him but feel guilty for what he puts up with. I have extreme self esteem issues. Sometimes i get so angry. Im sorry this is so long! Its hard to make short im really sorry. Just trying to give as much info as possible. Just also add that i suffer with ocd which worsens with the anxiety, i have quite bad eczema which drives me mad and makes me feel ugly and i pull my eyelashes. I sound like such a case! I dont know what to do about jobs and myself. I need a job like everyone i need money. I just feel so stuck.
Thank you for reading this. I really appreciate it!
June 23, 2013 at 3:54 pm
Dear Nat ,
U are stll very young dear and thats the most precious gift u have now…TIME
Start counting what u have and be grateful for that ,appreciate urself for that and be grateful to life .Things like:
Having a boyfriend for 5 yrs is a great thing!!
Having experienced a love relationship is a wonderful experience
U have a family which is at least allowing u to stay with them
U are staying in a country where women have freedom
U had landed up with a job which means u have the capability to get employed..
U worked for few days rite…?
U are able to overcome ur attacks and be able to blog here..!
U made an attempt to see a theapist….
U are able to identify ur problems
U still have the desire to get over this……That is the most positive thing I can see!
Congratulate urself for this all…
U are a tough fighter that inspite of all odds u have still managed somany things
Now list down what u want and believe that u will get it
” I am mentally healthy and capable of doing what I want to do now”
” I am financially self sufficient “
“I receive love ,respect and support from my family and boyfriend “
Negative self talk lowers self image and so convert all negative words u use to positive affirmations .
Help someone …Kind acts raise self esteem
Love yourself …Only then others will love you ,
Keep watching motivational movies and talks from net
Tell ur self ” Whats happening is a part of universe and i am not the only person experiencing this . I am continuously protected by universe .I am in harmony with nature
My body received healing energies and gets healed quickly
I am strong and healthy .”
Identify what u really want to do in life and all procrastination , fears ,obstacles will go away automaically…Be patient !!
June 24, 2013 at 4:05 am
June 24, 2013 at 8:32 am
Hi again, thank you for your reply and all the positives you pointed out. It.was a while back now i was feeling.that low, and its strange when you read it back. I have been signed off work for 6 months and seeing my doctor, getting a better routine with my tablet and kept on with them with out gaps etc. Aand they really do help. I use to not like the idea of a tablet to make you happy but i realise now it is like having any illness you take medicine and it helps.. Will never cure but makes a huge difference. I do worry about coming off them but step at a time, making most of feel good right now. I still hve my moments worries anxiety but not at the level it was last year when iwrote.
Reading back i feel like i soinded really ungreatful for the things i have, and i promise im not. I realise and knew then how lucky i am for my boyfriend, family and age etc. And they make me so happy but as you know when depressed it doesnt matter for some reason you just arent happy. Which then made me feel so guilty and hate myself even more. Especially being young and thinking why am i like this?! Then feel even worse for that. Everything is just grey and youre in a sort of bubble a grey bubble. At the time you wish your well self and positive self could pop in and talk to you.. If you know what i mean! Anyway, appreciate you writing back and for the video. I love to find natural help. The worse you feel the worse the eczema is. At the moment its a lot better, more under control like the depression and anxiety.
This is a great site and helped me express when needing to, just want to say to people in that place at the moment.. Even though i know you have probably heard it all before and it might not help right now but keep repeating to yourself “i wont always feel like this i WILL feel good again”. Cos you will, take any help you can, talk, see someone, take medication if need to. But it will pass, might come back for periods in life but you wont always feel that low and can get under control and find lots of ways to help.
My thoughts to everyone on here
September 21, 2012 at 11:53 pm
I just started new medication, and I have seen an increase in panic attacks and anxiety. My husband isn’t supportive and is using my illness as a threat. Go take your pills…if I say or do something wrong. Even said I am worse than his ex wife….I am so so broken
John Folk-Williams says:
September 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm
Hi, heather -
I think you should talk to your doctor about the medication and tell him that you can’t tolerate the side effects. As far as your husband using your illness as a threat, that sounds like a lot of anger and abuse. Can you discuss this with a therapist or someone you trust?
edna nieves says:
September 21, 2012 at 5:53 am
hi im married with a person who get a bid depression bc he lost his son like 8 years a go i was in depression too bc i lost 7 ppl in 2 years but went iwant to talk to him he dont have the tipe i fell alone i had 4 tenager and everytime went i go to them they never had time to listen to me can u help me out what i can do.
John Folk-Williams says:
September 26, 2012 at 4:14 pm
Hi, edna -
It’s really hard when no one in your family will listen. Is there anyone else your husband would be able to listen to who could talk with him about the depression? Sometimes another family member can help or a clergyman. It’s often hard for a man to talk about depression or hear about the effect of his depression on his family because he could well feel that he has failed to handle his own feelings or failed to be a good husband and father. It helps to approach the subject without talking first about what’s wrong with him – but instead about stresses he’s under – sympathizing with how difficult things are. I can’t tell what would be appropriate, but just remember that men can feel a lot of shame about an emotional problem.
Ravine Hotel says:
July 30, 2012 at 12:03 am
I am looking around on the net searching for the best way to Living Depressed and your website happens to be extremely professional. Nice article.
clynically depressed says:
July 28, 2012 at 9:15 pm
Doing all this-fixing myself-seems too, too, too tiring…
John Folk-Williams says:
August 3, 2012 at 9:22 am
Hi, clynically depressed -
I know. That’s the problem with suggestions for self-help – you feel you can’t begin to practice them. I’ve always tried to find the smallest starting point – I have a post somewhere that describes a moment like that. I stood up from my chair and walked out the door into the sunlight. I could at least do that when I felt a certain way. It was a start. I hope you can find something like that at least.
Depressed: No Friends, No Life
by John Folk-Williams ·
Lately, I’ve come across a number of questions online by plainly anguished people, asking: Why do I have no friends, no life? The first time I saw one this blunt, I reacted almost defensively, laughing as I recalled an old film in which a man hires a private detective to find out why he has no friends. Isn’t it obvious? But I knew so well how much the question implied. Lonely and depressed, I had often asked that same question, or at least felt the need to ask it.
I wrote an earlier post about the difference I experience between loneliness and depression. Loneliness is a sadness at the loss of close relationships. It drives me to reach out to people. Depression pushes me away from them. When I feel these two at the same time – as I can if the depression is not too severe – the tension of these opposing forces makes it all the harder to find the help I need.
Thinking back over many years of living with depression, I can quickly find many reasons why I had such trouble finding a friend to talk to when I most needed one. (I’ll set aside the much worse problem of not talking to my wife. I’ve said a lot about the reasons behind that, especially in this post.) Here are some of the problems from my experience. I can’t say how true they might be for others.
1. Sometimes it wasn’t I who had an issue with reaching out but friends who had trouble opening themselves to listen. Many people refuse to talk about depression or other serious illnesses. I first found that out when I had cancer. It was stunning to me that a few people I had known quite well simply disappeared from my life. Though I never heard any explanation from them, my wife and I believed they couldn’t face the risk of emotional involvement and possible loss.
Depression adds another dimension. Many may feel helpless in the face of a friend’s pain and despairing mood. When I reached out for support, some friends were sympathetic but at a loss as to what they could do to help. And, of course, some friends are not in the habit of probing their own emotional lives and run from the idea of listening to someone else trying to go deeply into feelings. That’s a language they haven’t learned and never want to know.
2. One habit of my own depressed thinking was to assume that everyone I met had the same negative and contemptuous view of me that I did of myself. I projected my own shame into their minds and then retreated before the dislike I was sure they felt. It’s so strange to imagine that this could have been such a common occurrence, but it was. I stopped myself from reaching out because I “knew” these friends wanted to have nothing to do with me.
3. Then there was the isolating drive of depression, the belief that I was in too much pain to face anyone – too lost in despair to move. I believed I could survive only by cutting myself off from everyone, yet that only intensified the feeling of having nowhere to turn. I ruled out the possibility that anyone could break through the wall I’d put up around me. The result was that I went more deeply into despair. Eventually, the crisis passed, but it wasn’t the isolation that had helped me survive. That only increased the likelihood that I might push myself over the edge.
4. When feeling more numb than despairing, I could often get out and talk to people, even at social gatherings. But I became very nervous at what I might say. It wasn’t uncommon for me to make an attempt at getting to know someone or to get into a personal issue with a friend. But the words I found myself speaking were not at all what I intended. They had an edge to them, putting a jab into each pleasantry, souring a compliment with a sarcastic tone, or pouring out so much so fast that I sounded impossibly egocentric and uninterested in anyone but myself. I acted like someone I would never want to know. Of course, people could tell at once that I had “issues” and walked the other way.
5. So often, I had to mix with people when I wanted only to hide. I made it hard for anyone to find me, no matter how many people might be in the room or how prominent my role was supposed to be. Emotionally, I lost connection with what was happening and just watched it go by. I felt so small and tried to be invisible. If anyone asked me a question, I’d become tongue-tied, or, if I tried to say much, the words and thoughts came with painful slowness. It was impossible for anyone to talk to me.
6. At other times, anxiety and fear could hold me back from talking freely. Taking part in conversation was hard because I had to double-think everything I wanted to say. There was a danger in the simple spontaneity of conversation among friends – a danger for me of any uncontrolled talking. I had to reflect to get the words just so, and then would miss the right moment as talk flowed on to something different. It’s hard to imagine now, but talking freely felt risky, as if an inner violence might escape my control.
7. Apart from all this, there was the natural reaction anyone might have at suddenly hearing from me when I was in need of someone to talk to. Wrapped up in myself and in depression, as I was, my reaching out was an attempt to meet my own need in a one-sided way. Not only that, but my friends would not find me at all even if they wanted to listen and offer support. I wasn’t the same person because I was driven by the strange, isolating rules of depression. Even if I didn’t want to be hidden, I was nowhere to be found.
All this added up to a comprehensive strategy for remaining friendless. And that’s what it was – a series of my own actions to keep me isolated from the help that friends might offer and pull me out of the life I’d had with them. This hit me one day when I was the one who was asked to listen to a friend in the midst of a terrible depression.
I met him at a restaurant for lunch one day, and I could tell at once that he had changed in a way that made him hard to recognize. Of course, he looked and sounded the same, but there was nothing in his words or reactions that was like my friend. He was lost, partly in rage, partly in despair.
When I tried to tell him the deep sympathy I felt for what he was going through, that only made him angry. More than that, I felt a deep rage boiling inside him as his eyes stared through me with steel intensity.
It was especially hard to see him this way since I knew I was looking at myself.
What has your experience been in trying to reach out to friends when deeply troubled?
July 9, 2014 at 1:42 am
Up until the moment I read this the things you stated hadn’t crossed my mind. Thank you for that. Tremendously. You have no idea how much reading this has helped me.
June 30, 2014 at 8:24 pm
I’m a single 42 attractive woman that has absolutely no friends. I have been immediately dropped, suddenly accused and blamed for untruths or misunderstanding of my intentions whenever I’ve become close with someone. I certainly apologize for making mistakes yet I remain hated. I used to be extremely social but have done at least 1 thing to most acquaintances that was judged harshly that they no onger speak to me. The loneliness is nearly unbearable and when I do attempt to get to know someone, I invite myself by asking if I can join and keep in contact all while feeling extreme insecurity and stupidity. I am not good at socializing anymore and it seems to be getting worse. I cry ever single day. My life changed drastically due to an emergency back surgery in 2010. Over the past 4 years and now needing yet another level 5 back surgery, I have lost everything and I’m currently at a poverty level I never imagined. This increases my depression, anxiety, insecurity and greatly limits what I can afford to do, not to mention my physical inabilities which greatly impact walking and standing. I feel like I’m sinking deeper & don’t know where to find friends that will accept me as I am.
July 2, 2014 at 11:42 pm
I just wanted to respond so you knew someone was out here reading/listening to you and that you are not alone! I can totally relate to loneliness being unbearable. I feel the same way. I am lucky to have a few friends to talk to, but it is difficult when so much of your life is in turmoil and you don’t want conversations to focus too much on your own problems. Three years ago my husband of over 20 years filed for divorce unexpectedly, moved out within a couple of weeks, and we had to short sell our house as I couldn’t assume the mortgage on my own, so I lost a home I had been paying on for over 2o years. Nothing to show for it and had to walk away. 3 months later, my company downsized, and everyone in my dept was laid off. After 21 years, I was unemployed for the first time ever. I’m now 55, renting, and just lost the second of 2 jobs I’ve had since the big layoff. I was ‘ fired ‘ from both due to performance issues/ low numbers ( I’m in outside sales ) and am now struggling to job hunt once again with very low self esteem and fighting depression. Anyway, I know our situations are not the same, but wanted to let you know once again, please don’t feel totally alone. Your story touched me and I just wanted to let you know I am thinking of you!
June 26, 2014 at 8:23 pm
I am 20 years old, and have been 3000 miles away from my family and friends for a year now. I work full time, 8-12 hour days Monday through Friday, I’m up at 5:30 every morning and in bed by 9. I have no friends here, just friendly co workers who never invite me anywhere. Why didn’t I just stay home and go to school. Now I feel like I’m never going to do anything in life except work to barely make it by. I live with my boyfriend but he doesn’t understand. He is lucky and just a happy person. Life is getting me down.
July 2, 2014 at 9:39 pm
I have been in a similar situation to yourself when living in New York away from my family in Australia. All I can say is, I was like this for four years before I made changes and went back home to study. I regret not moving back earlier. If I had just been able to be honest with myself about how unhappy I really was, I would have made changes earlier. It’s not too late – I wish you the courage to make the decisions you need to make to be happier and healthier in your life.
July 2, 2014 at 10:15 pm
Oh and just to let you know I have been struggling with depression for about 7 years. My darkest days were in New York when I was away from my family though – I was suicidal there and not in a good place. Moving back improved this immensely as did getting doctor’s and counselor’s help.
June 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm
I am a 40 year old single lesbian, I do not have kids and I don’t have any deep friendships. Even my relationship with my family is shallow. I work, come home, waste time and go to bed. I am back in school so that’s giving me something to do. I’m sad and lonely. I’m attractive and lots of women try to get with me but it’s never the women that I want. It’s not like anything is wrong with them I just don’t connect. I feel I don’t connect with anyone. People are always talking to me at work but they have lives after work. People like me on facebook and my posts get lots of likes but I never connect with these people outside of facebook. I feel like something is wrong with me because I don’t know how to connect with people. I try doing things like working out or going places but I start feelings pathetic and desperate. I don’t know what is wrong with and ask people to tell me what it is and they just say nothing is wrong, you’re nice and cool. And I’m thinking well why don’t you like me, call me or invite me anywhere.
July 2, 2014 at 10:23 pm
I think it takes courage to reach out to others and say, hey, why don’t we get together for coffee sometime? Chances are, people are thinking the same thing but are too shy to ask. Also, you are a unique person and worth getting to know. Be yourself – but you have to reach out to others – they are just waiting to connect too. I would strongly suggest taking up a hobby or volunteering, or taking a class of interest. I met lots of people through school, volunteering, and art group, even though I’m mature age. Just find something that interests you as a hobby, cause you’re passionate about to volunteer for, or something new to learn and people will be there too! You can connect over common interests. Don’t give up and don’t settle for having no friends, I’m sure there are people out there who also are waiting to make a friend, I know many people who have room for more friends as they are quite shy too.
July 2, 2014 at 10:25 pm
Also, people probably don’t not like you, it’s definitely negative self perception creeping in there. You have no real way of knowing what’s going on in another person’s head until you ask.
June 25, 2014 at 2:49 pm
I didn’t see the word ‘bullying’ anywhere in the article or the posts. I’ve been bullied, ridiculed, and socially rejected or ignored most of the time for the length of my life that I can remember. As a guy, I was told or expected to ‘fight back’ if I was being bullied or ridiculed. Unfortunately, that was bad advice for me; it’s always made a bad situation worse.
I lived with few or no friends throughout childhood, declining eventually to zero in young adulthood. The result is that I’m introverted, lonely, anxious, and depressed. To me, this all seems like a natural process that I didn’t have any control over. I find it best now to ‘play defense’ at all times and do whatever I can to avoid situations that I can anticipate will cause me any more mental and emotional pain.
Bullying probably seems to many of my age that it’s overhyped in the media as a social problem in schools; it seems like one of the signs that America’s ‘gone too soft’. After all, aside from the added bad influence of social media, bullying and social rejection/isolation aren’t new; when I grew up, nobody would’ve even thought about bringing up the subject. It was just part of life.
I doubt I’m the only person with this type of life story. The only way to feel better is not to beat myself up over it. No one asks to be born.
Sierra Lynn says:
July 9, 2014 at 12:19 pm
I am 20 years old and I am going through the same. Being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder seemed to be the start to a solution, but it only became a title, a word. I was bullied, tormented, used and abused by people in my school years and by my alcoholic/drug addict mom. What she did and said was the worse. I literally fear going anywhere and fear having a conversation with anyone (even virtually/text based) because the expectation of them losing interest and the fear of rejection because of the years I spent being told, programmed into what I am…I understand what you are saying. I do.
June 24, 2014 at 6:35 pm
I am 45, at this time in my life I am unemployed, financially almost destitute. Do have a brother and sister , who I never hear from.
Early when I was younger it was tough for me to feel hurtful , negative things that were directed right at me. And would end up not wanting to be around others that did that, because I did not want to feel it again. Kids can be cruel, and I got alot of that while at school.
Have I given people forgiveness, yes. Things are still hard to forget.
I believe I hate myself for what I have become, and never felt like I was any good, since I was younger.
Another thing that happened was while younger i starting to have Epilepsy, a neurological condition, which i still have to this day.
Other things that were obvious at times, was my Mother who was constantly screaming at times. She had bad depression and still does do this day. Somewhere I feel, I was telling myself I was to blame for how she was feeling. She also had Epilepsy while younger. And from what I heard, dealt with parents that were always fighting.
I may not be one that is open to listening from people. That might be because of how i closed people out and never gave some a chance and thought there was never any love to receive.
I am passive aggresive as my Dad is, he would never interject anything. Don’t recall ever doing anything with him much. DAD/SON stuff.
My Mother was leechy, and could not let go of my Dad and always needed to be nearby to him.
Other times while living with them, I would constantly hear complaining from her. I don’t know what should be right or wrong, but any two that are married, I had thought it would be best leaving quarrels in the bedroom, but that didn’t happen in our family.
all of us heard anytime when she is upset. And it never fealt good.
I became very needy younger, with my Epilepsy I didn’t not have luxuries like others(driving). And anytime that would be asked to some to help me, all thought it was intrusive of their space and wanted me to leave them alone. Anyone, friends, siblings. sometimes harshness sounded from my parents.
Most recently I had lost two jobs. No one to really console with, parents live nearby but never ask anything really. They don’t want to know, or they are scared to even ask.
I can get defensive,when being told what to do. but when it is said this is how it should be done, rather than in a suggested way it feels like that way or the highway.
I did find it was very good to have a dog for comfort whne troubling times would be. But that ended up being stopped. My Mother , as I recall, told me let me have your dog. It is best we take care of him in case anything bad happens. I didn’t have options like driving it to the vet if needed, i guess. But they didn’t want to even get to that point to see if there would be a problem.. Which didn’t give me any self confidence at all. So mostly I would not tell them about anything I did. Because of how I didn’t want to hear accusations that what i was doing was wrong.
So I am at a stopping point now, not sure what to do. I am looking for groups to discuss things and be with. Depression, anxiety areas. But with my limited transportation. I sometimes don’t even want to look to see if there might be anything.
I don’t give other people a chance. And have major trust issues from early on in life. I think alot of this is obvious and some just don’t want to ask because they know of how bad stuff might be.
There is alot more, but at this time I am needing to find a way to get out of my depression state, but unsure to fully disclose this to my folks because of ramifications that may come up if they might not be understanding or not.
June 24, 2014 at 7:54 pm
You might just want to see what I have gone through. Some of it mirrors very closely. We can pm if you’d like on that forum. It just might help. I know the thread is really long, but just read the first post.
June 24, 2014 at 7:55 pm
June 25, 2014 at 5:23 pm
You write that you hate yourself for what you’ve become. First, don’t hate yourself! You say you’ve forgiven others even though there are things that are hard to forget. Give yourself a lot of credit for that. Many people can’t make it that far. I can’t. Don’t beat yourself up over your current circumstances, and don’t see yourself as ‘at a stopping point’. Life goes on. I hope things take a turn for the better for you. Don’t give up.
June 4, 2014 at 4:39 am
I am 42 years old. I have no meaningful friends and rely on my husband and children for companionship. I have had a trying life: divorced parents at two years old, addicted step parent, clinically depressed other step parent, sexually abused as a child by more than one person, cheated on repeatedly etc, etc. …since my practical existence I have avoided close relationships because I am afraid of being hurt physically or emotionally, yet at the same time my soul yearns for just that: a meaningful relationship with a friend who wants nothing of me but to give and receive friendship. But because of my childhood upbringing, I find myself literally unable to be comfortable in a potential friend’s presence. In my own minds eye it’s because I am so starved for companionship that I try to make myself too perfect and end up sabotaging my efforts. The person likely see through me into the depressed soul that I am or is scared off by my awkwardness, because no matter how amiable I am, rarely a friendship develops. In addition, I am a stay at home mom and work from home, but the business I’m in does not alot for real interaction with people, my husband works six days a week, my teens are involved in extracurricular activities and friends, and though I connect with my toddler, I cannot expect the nurturing and support I need from a child. I’m supposed to be that for her, and I am. I’m a lonely stay at home mom who longs to connect with someone who can relate. My husband is great around others but prefers to stay home most of the time, however in the event that one of his co workers invites us over I feel excited and anxious all at once. In social situations I look forward to going but find once there I feel awkward and nothing comes to mind to say, especially to strangers. On top of that it makes me feel more of an outcast because generally everyone knows everyone, except for me and I find it extremely difficult if not impossible to insert myself into conversation. Small talk comes very difficult to me and it shows, my therapist says it’s because I’ve learned through experience to be so guarded my brain freezes when it comes to natural conversation. As Mo said, I censor myself. I’m always two steps in my head analyzing, when I should just be enjoying the moment. Easier said than done! I end up being perceived as stuck up, when I am anything but. I even find it difficult to open up on here, like I shouldn’t be bothering you good people.
June 6, 2014 at 7:11 pm
Oh my gosh i cant believe you are telling my story! I’m also a SAHM of 3 and have woken up to realize i have no friends…i have spent all these years dedicating my life and energy to my sweet kids who are so much fun but are growing up and will be moving on soon. I will be left with nothing but incredible memories because while i was completely loving being a mom, i forgot how important it was to build relationships… The anxiety that came from all that just made me want to shut down. And I’m a nice looking, normal-seeming girl.. I have no idea how people see me but i find i am never really sought after, when it comes down to other women and friendships. I just shut down and enjoyed the love from my family…and loved my family bunches!
But to wake up and realize how i havent built any kind of sweet, caring network of friends that i could share all the fun times with…its so painful and shameful. I have no one to share this with.
I’d love to talk, to hear how we are in many ways so much alike in our pain is really surprising, because i feel so alone in this.
June 7, 2014 at 5:44 am
I recommend brene brown to you both. She’s taught me how to live wholeheartedly. Please try her. It changed my life and relationships.
June 15, 2014 at 8:07 pm
Don’t give up and don’t feel you are over. These things happen to everyone. These things don’t discriminate against age or sex. Think of it. I’m a 25 years old man who has no one because do you know something? People make me mad. I can’t stand people and their strange weather attitude I just can’t. I’m very conscious about my choices and I found my inner truth. No friends in my life and that’s ok. Everyone that passed from my life was just too shallow. No meaningful connection, even my 17 years best friend ended up to wanting me as company only when her best friend was absent or when she was bored. NO. That’s a no no. Either good friends that love you every time of the day or no friends at all. The ones that need you when they are bored or want something can go right down to hell for me. Only few people worth for me. My future cat my sister and my mother. Love from Greece and don’t make negative thoughts. Life is wonderful for all and happiness is moments
June 17, 2014 at 8:04 am
I am sitting here crying reading yours and Lucy’s words. I feel the exact same way. I am so despaired I don’t know how to even function anymore. I have made my kids my life and now all of them have grown up and have to move on with their own lives. I feel like I am friendly and try to make friends, but every time I make a friend and it seems like we are going to be good friends something happens and I either lose them all together or we drift apart. I am at a point now to where I feel like I have no one to talk to and nobody reaches out to me. I really am not sure what it is about me that turns people off. I try to be friendly and nice. I am not overly funny though and I guess I can be a bit boring.
June 20, 2014 at 1:13 pm
I am so sorry that I am replying a couple of weeks after you posted your reply. I was away with my family. I am excited to hear that someone else shares my experience! It helps me feel connected to life to know that others are going through the same thing…and that’s a positive thing! I would love to talk too. I’m new to this website and not sure how connecting outside of it works.
June 15, 2014 at 2:07 pm
I also could have written the above post. I have 2 tweens and a toddler. My husband works a lot and despite trying and trying – room mom, PTA mom…volunteer, volunteer…smile…etc, I have no friends. I drive my kids to activities and playdates but have never received an invitation for a cup of coffee. I’ve pretty given up. I am not very pushy. My kids school year just ended and all the moms who said they would email me to let me know what camps their kids were in, well they didn’t.
I sent out 3 emails. One emailed back and she actually emailed me a few times as I was getting more details on what her daughter was doing. The other 2 never contacted me. I am trying though as I used to just not bother if they never contacted me. I realize the road goes both way but it does make me sad that, if I didn’t really work at it, they would never bother.
One of the camps, 4 classmates of my daughter’s, are in. They probably contacted each other.
I really don’t get it. I did sign up my daughter for camps based on this one mother who contacted me. The other thing is, I will probably bring my daughter to these camps and see that the other moms are all carpooling. This has happened before.
I am trying to be upbeat about this. I mean I don’t want to think/assume it’s me.
I am going to double up my efforts but I realize I need to also try to branch out.
There are moms who regularly pick up each other’s kids and go out for coffee, I know because I see it. I often see moms going for walks together and taking gym classes together. I always go to the gym alone and for walks alone.
I get that cliques were formed and they don’t want anyone new or they just don’t want me but I hope there are other moms who feel the same as me and maybe I can find them.
I try to say the right things, don’t brag about my kids, ask them about their kids…but nada.
You do ask yourself maybe it’s me, maybe there is something wrong with me. It’s hard because then I will go through a period where I just avoid people.
I sustained a brain injury when I was 15 and was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic inattentive ADHD as a result of that injury. The doctor put me on meds about one month ago and now I see I really couldn’t focus on people, on anything.
So now I am trying to pick up the pieces but part of me fears I am too late. I mean I notice I make eye contact now and answer people faster than I used to. Social situations don’t fill with with fear.
The good thing that comes from being a social outcast is I have had time to focus on my kids. They have benefited. Some moms have said to me “how do yu do it?” because my kids really excel. I can’t tell them that it’s probably because I am there, all the time, because I have nothing else to do.
My worry now, as my kids are becoming teens, is will they realize I have no friends? that mom’s a loser?
I had lots of friends in high school, but that was before my accident and brain injury. So they were my friends after until I moved away to go to college.
I realize how much, well it’s really frontal lobe damage which is what they say causes ADHD, affected my life for years. Never had many close friends after high school.
The meds have helped me realize why I don’t have much of a social life. They’ve also made me see things more clearer and I feel I can sense people’s rejection more strongly now although the difference is, it doesn’t bother me as much.
Maybe that’s key, they want it to bother you. I used to shuffle out of school events quickly because I felt so much rejection. On these meds, I stay and I really don’t care. In fact, the last school event, I never acknowledged the moms who tried to give me that non-accepting look.
You are not alone in your feelings. I wish you luck.
June 17, 2014 at 12:06 pm
Grace, RG, Lucy…reading your posts makes me alternately have hope and despair more. I have hope because I see I am not alone. Others are telling my story. But then you are all inaccessible. It feels bittersweet to then only be able to chat on a public forum instead of be able to ring up and say, “hey girl, I know what you are going through, how’s your day going? Hey! LETS DO COFFEE!” :)
I have Brene Brown’s book, will actually pull it out and re-read it…its true about being vulnerable. its just so hard when everyone else seems to be functioning so “normally”…I want to find a place where my “peeps” are, “peeps” who share from their heart like you all have.
Thank you. For being real. Stay in touch!
June 20, 2014 at 1:25 pm
Erin, Grace and RG,
Reading your responses has given me hope that there are good, honest and giving people out there. And I would invite any of you for a cup of coffee right now if you were living in my vicinity. Just knowing that there is acceptance and non judgement here on this site has lightened my heart. I agree with Erin, let’s stay in touch!
June 24, 2014 at 6:53 pm
I can totally relate to some things mentioned. I also do try to perfect in everything I do. That is my way to make sure everything will be alright, so I don’t end up hearing things from others when they get pissed off or angry at me.
In this politically correct world we may be in. The media and other things always frown upon things when people do things wrong, or at least show how that was wrong, or why did somebody do that. And it is what we see mostly being talked about.
In a way, the world is not accepting anything wrong or anybody making mistakes either.
May 20, 2014 at 9:54 am
I have so many issues within myself that I struggle with everyday I’m so lonely and depressed I feel like nobody gets me just judge me me and my mother don’t get along at all she tells me I had depression once and I got myself out I have years of depression and I tried doing it a alone but I can’t I just can’t I don’t know who I am I can’t find myself I lie to myself I do things without thinking I’m just a mess sometimes I wish I was sleeping And that I dont wake up but then I think of my kids and it changes my mind but it’s a struggle I’m fighting for my sanity for my kids how can I do it when sometimes I just can’t get myself up off the bed I push people away but it’s not like they care anyways I wish I had a different life I wish I was a different person I have no friends basically no family my mom and sisters don’t get me I’ve always been an outcast abandoned by my father it sucks having a step father who treats you different I’m alone in the world.
May 8, 2014 at 1:34 am
Im currently 23… i just read what ive been unable to write myself or explain to anyone else.
I shut myself off from the world, afraid of the inevitable hurt.
Lets see, I dont quite remember when the depression started or when i realized that was what i was experiencing, I wouldnt say i had a rough life exactly, i do live in a privileged country, always had food on the table, and enough people around to give me love, so my stories always feel so over worked and unrealistic. My dad always had alot of anger issues and abuse issues and im sure not having it easy himself as a child played a part in how he raised me, he was mean, unkind, abusive physically and mentally and manipulative.. you name it and he was that nightmare for me and my mother and some of my other siblings. We all put up with it, home business stayed at home and wasnt mean to be talked about with anyone else, it was the rule, or else i would get taken away so things always progressed, nothing got better… luckily i had a few family members who gave me love unconditonally, and cherished me always. but still that abuse towards everyone in the family progressed, than when i was roughly 12, both my parents started to use hard drugs, became addicted, watched my family crumble due to crack addiction, seen alot of crap, had alot of hatred, at 15 dad uses me to sleep with my childhood best friend behind my back (they turned me into an alcoholic so i would pass out and let them be together) and they start dating, i find out by catching them in the act sexually….i have to tell my pregnant mother that my father and friend are having an affair… they didnt last long once my so called bestie got what she wanted from him.
ill never forgive myself for that one.
parents quit drugs 5 years ago, mom changes back into my best friend, dad still a fat loser crackhead with anger and abuse issues, i blame him for everything wrong in my life… if only i had been shown how to be properly loved and how to give love.
soo the family that was there for me, through thick and thin… sadly all passed away in the last 5 years, first my great uncle, than great grandma, than my uncle wayne, than my great aunt (her husband, her mother, her son, lost her leg ) just wanted to die, than she passed away, than my grandma (who lost her leg when i was 12) lost her other leg and her mother and sister and nephew and she was the last one left and she sadly contracted a virus from the hospital and her leg wouldnt heal and got infected and she also passed away, so i lost everything i knew and i even lost my religon… i gave up on any idea of heaven or god or the bible… i just became a closed off agnostic.
anyways im 23 and i enjoy being inside, im afraid of people i dont know or large crowds, ive been in a serious relationship for 5 years with a great person, who sadly i dont treat correctly.. :( im bringing him down, im bringing me down… i have no friends at all, not even 1… i live across country from any family, in a province where i dont speak the language. so much more stuff but i cant even figure out where i would start. thanks for being descriptive and making me feel like im not the only person who feels like this.
May 20, 2014 at 9:42 am
I feel just like you I feel like I just don’t belong most pol judge me they just hate me I even hate myself I’m 25 I have kids they are all I have I don’t have a big family only my mom and 2 sisters I’m married even tho my husband abandoned us he plays with my emotions because he can’t fix himself my mom and me can’t get along for the life of God I feel lost like I just don’t know myself can’t find myself my father abandoned me I’m a mess it’s a long story behind all I feel but your not alone I know it’s hard but don’t push that one person you have by your side unlike me you have a great person me I have my kids and they are too little to understand I feel alone. Try and be happy. Your partner is hope.
June 11, 2014 at 1:27 pm
I came across this discussion after yet again Googling ‘depression’. Why I do this I have no idea, as if I expect the answer & cure to be amongst the search results…alas, it never is ofc. I’m sure the real answer would be found in a therapist or having a talk with those that have hurt me, but that’s on the same scale as walking into a fire – I would never ever do it. So here I am, locked in my depression. I thought I had everything, an ambition & career in mind & a partner who loves the bones of me. But it’s nothing, it all means nothing when you have a mental illness (albeit self-diagnosed) cause the depression stops you from doing everything & I mean everything. My only friend is my boyfriend & even that is starting to feel like a nightmare, we don’t have sex anymore & I feel like my days are filled with him trying to discuss this with me. It’s driving me crackers. His reply all the time; ‘go see someone, go see a Doctor’ sounds so so easy doesn’t it, little does he know just how thick the wall is I’ve built around myself.
March 10, 2014 at 12:07 pm
I am almost 39 yrs old. I have suffered with the depression for as long as I can remember.At 14 and puberty I was tested for a heart condition bc I was having repeat episodes of chest pain and racing heart. It was anxiety. My home life had been pretty bad with my parents splitting apart when I was 2 and moving to a whole other State was hard on my mother to be a single Mom raising to children. We were poor and all my Mom could do was try to put a father in our lives. Rhat led to man hunting. Alchoholic abusive men with lots of baggage and emotional problems. I was born over 2 months early so I was already the girl that got labeled slow learner,stupid and retard. Sorry, to use those words. That is just how it was. I had a few friends through church. I would intercept the New kids at school that stood alone bc I mostly knew that feeling. They would friend me for awhile until someone better came along.
I grew up with feelings of inadequacy. Nothing was ever going to be good enough for everyone else around me. So, why should it be for me attitude. And so, that set the mood to how the rest of my life would be. I let a few wounded people in close enough to see and understand my darkness but they always betrayed me. Either by socially humiliating me by telling my secrets and laughing about them behind my back.. Or just plain hanging around to take my boyfriend or later husband for themselves. I have felt a sence of distrust in women that makes it awkward for me to fit in.
I am also a quarter Native American. People can be very judgemental about race too. I found that out. I am a beautiful lady though. That has never been an issue but with all of the abuse in my life, mental, physical,emotional, molested at 10 by an Uncle, raped when I was 19. Institutionalized a couple of times. Once for trying to commit suicide, drug abuse when I was 18-20, alchohol abuse from then until about 6 yrs ago. I know I have isolated myself from fear of hurt to my children from others, fear of rejection, fear of being laughed at ans judged by my mental diagnosis, by my past with drugs and alchohol. I am so lonely but I keep myself alone. I am myself’s worst caretaker living with no friends. A wife that’s husband travels so, I stay home to manage the home alone. I wish the best for everyone on here wirt these same struggles. I hope you find inside what you are looking for. Just pray that I do as well..
April 13, 2014 at 1:05 am
I feel the same way. Women gossip a lot and It hurts me when people bring up my past and try to bring me back down when I’m trying to move on to a better place in my life. The worst is when they do it at work, I feel like I have no choice but to be an outcast.
October 26, 2013 at 3:21 pm
This phenomenon of depressed people losing all their friends reminds me of a story my depressed (maybe ex-) girlfriend told me. When she was 30, she blew out her knee when in a sporting accident, and wound up in the hospital for a week. During that time, she says, she had a total of two (unwanted) visitors, both of whom (she says) were there for romantic reasons (married guy who was interested, gay woman who was interested). Her family (who lived in the area) didn’t show up. No other friends.
I thought that was a very sad story, and kind of hard to fathom. I know her family, and they are good, caring, people. She’d been a popular girl in her youth. She seemed warm and wonderful to me. How did she wind up in the hospital alone? Well, knowing now (though I didn’t then) that she’s a depressive (who has now cut me ceremoniously out of her life) I can see how she might have found herself in that situation.
She claims that at that point, she looked at her life and realized that things weren’t what she wanted, and she needed a change. And she soon changed her career dramatically. But I don’t believe she saw that hospital stay as the culmination of depression. She’s probably pushed everyone who tried to care away, just as I’ve seen her do with me.
July 6, 2013 at 11:34 pm
I’ve always been introverted (except for a few years in college and then only when I was under the influence :-) and have never had more than a handful of friends. When I was in high school, there was only one friend I hung out with outside of school. I work at home (and have for about 20 years) so I don’t even have the forced socialization of an office milieu. So depression hasn’t really changed that aspect of my life very much but it has amplified it. When I do go out socially, I usually hang back. My wife is extremely gregarious and is well-known in town so she sees people she knows everywhere we go. I usually try to stay out of site while she makes the rounds in order to avoid as many introductions as possible. I can sometimes manage to get involved in conversations and there are some topics that automatically draw me in. And in those times I can forget about my depression for a bit and feel almost normal. But then I’ll remember and start to withdraw and want out. I realize that being around people is good for me but when I’m home I don’t want to be around people. When I’m getting ready to go out it’s always so much trouble to get ready. I can’t find clothes to wear and I feel unattractive and I just want to get back in bed. I know that socialization helps my mood (most of the time) and yet it’s extremely difficult to muster the energy to actually do it. I never talk to anyone (except my therapist) about my depression – I don’t have that kind of relationship with anyone. It’s very isolating. Most of the time I don’t realize how isolating that really is. I’m trying to go online more to find kindred souls I feel like no one wants to hear my sad story and I shouldn’t be whining so much. I’m also trying to blog about my depression but, again, I feel like a whiner when I really talk about it. Anyway, I totally understand the feeling of no friends and no life.
July 8, 2013 at 2:17 pm
Please do not feel like you are a whiner, ofcause you cant help it, but really you are going through an illness that you have no control of. It is ok to talk about your pain just like every other illnesses. Also ofcause there’s that stigma about men dont want to talk about their feelings as it’s percieved as a weakness. My partner never talk about his feelings, untill the day he couldnt contain his depression anymore, then it came flooding out like a broken dam. I was comepletely in shock and over whelmed by the things he said (and the nonsense blames). If only he talked, and shared with me what was really going on in his head all those month….
He also have no friends, hates going out, but this only contributed to his depression. He feel more alone than ever. Ken i sincerely hope you open up people around you. It will let you see who are the ‘real’ friends, that’s willing to stick by you, or the ones who flee at the mere mentioning of a mental/mood disorder. Having friends dosnt mean you need to be the talk of the town, it just means you should have a couple of really close, honest mates that can be there to support you without any judgements.
Online is a good way to start, as its less confrontational, you can atleast build up your confidence and become comfortable at sharing about depression or just problems in life in general. Because you can never be sure what can trigger an episode of depression.
Best of luck to you Ken!
July 10, 2013 at 4:08 pm
Thank you very much, Lili. I appreciate your word of encouragement :-)
July 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm
All my friends are gone. Have been for many years. I have tried making new ones but I always perceive them to slight me,so I reject their intentions and ideas and further Isolate myself. I do this and look back at it and say to myself “did I do that on purpose or am I just that bad of a human being? ” That only furthers the cycle. When someone gets too close to me I will self destruct the encounter and force them away.
I wasn’t always like this. Once I was happily married and raising 2 children. I had a few friends,more along the lines of acquaintances. Then about 12 years ago we bought a house with a basement. That is now where I most days with the door closed and only the computer and xbox to keep me company. My wife brings me food and we communicate but I push her away to. I can tell her anything but I am so negative that a meaningful conversation is not really possible.
I do get up everyday and go to work and interact with the people at work but that too is strained. If not for my skills I would be let go for being a D-bag (yes,I am THAT guy). Although I do try so hard to restrain myself from spewing my pain and anguish upon them but unfortunately some of it slips out.
I do return home and settle into my basement world and beat myself up for the way I acted and for the person I am then,I play on the xbox and because the anonymous nature of the interwebs I spew my negativity further alienating myself online. I could easily cut that part of my life out but it is almost like I need to do it.then I beat myself up for doing it…then I do it again.
I do pay the bills and I do fix the house when it needs it and I tend to the vehicles. When those minor interruptions to my insanity happen I pat myself on the back and tell myself “see, that’s normal you’r not really that bad” but as soon as I am not needed I return to my the world I have created in my mind and beat myself up.
I know exactly the reasons for my isolation but fail to stop it I am not suicidal although, laying down and dying wouldn’t bother me. I am a Barker not a Biter which means I talk tough but not really ever hurt anyone physically,definitely verbally though.
I hurt inside and outside. I push everyone away. How do I stop ? I so want to get back to “normalcy” I want too feel good again. I reject most new ideas so how do I know which one to accept ? How do know whom to accept? Maybe I am that one person there is no hope for.
Look how I am rambling and have devolved into into my “woe is me” vitriol.
Bah, useless, but I throw it out there and maybe someone else has the same life.I don’t want pity I really just want to know if I am alone or not. Today I was in the mood to vent. I’ll check back and vomit more rantings and self loathing another day.
July 8, 2013 at 4:09 pm
You sound like you could be my father. He has lived in his “room” since I was a young teenager. He hated my choice of a spouse and did not walk me down the aisle nor even attend my wedding. He still dislikes my husband and never comes to my house, nor my husband to his home. I hardly ever see my father even though he lives 30 miles away. He seems to be nice to my children when they visit overnight. I feel like he cares only about himself. But it is from him that I have inherited my own bouts of depression. I don’t want to be like him. It is sad to realize that he might be lonely with no way out of his darkness.
I have been studying the health deficiencies possibly associated with depression. Right now I am trying a natural product to help the adrenal system. This product has taken the heavy feeling of hopelessness away. I am happy most of the day and I am nice to those around me. Since using this dietary supplement, I have been able to step back and realize that I am a good person with a disease that can be healed.
July 2, 2013 at 7:33 am
I related to your article. I have never had more than one friend at a time. I currently have zero friends. I close out my spouse because I feel guilty for feeling depressed. We argue a lot when I’m depressed. I’m scared I’ll be viewed as pathetic if my spouse knew about my depression (taking it personal that he is the reason when that’s not true, he deserves better than me). I’ve tried to let my spouse know a few times that I need help, but nothing happens. I’m really scared my children will not have friends because of me. Some days I crave friends, other days I am happy that I don’t have the pressure of being perfect in their eyes. I talk so, so much when I meet new people or meet up with people I know. I am so embarrassed afterward and get really upset with myself for being this way. My dad and older brother were depressed… to the point of suicide, but I have always viewed myself as better than that and in control of my life. I really have a great life and maybe it’s not depression but I’m rather a lazy, pathetic person.
May 23, 2013 at 10:01 am
This is my first visit to your site, found through a search for ‘accepting depression’. Wow! What a similar set of thoughts run through my mind almost daily.
Yesterday walking home from the commute bus stop my thoughts and feelings rang a familiar theme and reached a new level of almost apathy.
Feeling invisible, not sensing anyone with whom I can share the real feelings and thoughts I live with – rather needing to be the one who listens and helps others solve their issues both at home and at work.
Accepting (sadly ) that there most likely won’t ever be anyone there for me, and at the same time beginning to realize that approaching life this way must create barriers between myself and others that prevents relationships from beginning or continuing. After all, who wants to be real about the loneliness, depression and isolation?
Not sure what to do about it, feeling a growing sense of anxiety about the outcome. About this time my guilt kicks in as a single mother of an almost 21 yr old who also suffers from anxiety and depression. Did she learn it by living with me? What can I do to help her move through and past it?
I’ve been noticing the commonality of my relationships with most of those in my life, the shallowness and limited exchange of real life. I’m not sure if my sense that the common factor and therefore, cause is me is true or not. How do you verify that with others?
Add to this my continued dis-ease and unhappiness with my immediate and extended family. I made the conscious choice to live next door to our mother to help with her care in her later years (she’s 85), while my brother lives a few hours away and is clearly her favorite and chosen one to go to for assistance. My role seems to be to wait in the wings until asked, don’t be proactive when I notice areas she needs help with, and accept not being included in discussions. Ugh – not sure what the point of being here is.
John’s thoughts about being in relationships and the interaction of depression, anxiety and relationships ring a familiar tune with my experiences.
Alex Kamonohash says:
May 12, 2013 at 7:47 pm
I’ve had great difficulty making friends (or finding satisfying romantic relationships) all my life. I’ve pretty much lived my entire life, since early childhood, without friends, or with just one, until they moved away. (I currently have one very good friend who lives in another part of the country.) I definitely lacked social skills in my youth and was very shy. That is not at all the case now. I have well-developed social skills. I’m a very pleasant person- kind, friendly, interesting, and a good listener. It’s not at all difficult for me to find people who are happy to be my friend (or girlfriend). Rather, the problem is that I almost never find the relationship satisfying.
What’s almost always missing is CHEMISTRY. Do a Google search for “chemistry” and “love” and you’ll get thousands of hits, but zero for “chemistry” and “friendship.” Yet chemistry is as essential for friendship as for love. I’m different from other people in profound ways- so different that they can usually only see a small part of who and what I am. I find myself feeling deeply, profoundly lonely when I’m out with a group of people and realize that I have nothing in common with any them, and that they don’t even know who I am. Again and again throughout my life I’ve ended up choosing to be alone because, ironically, that feels significantly less painful and lonely.
February 3, 2013 at 8:33 am
Thank everyone for sharing their emotions & stories .I have been dealing with depression for over 8 years. all my friends have gone away, they want nothing to do with me anymore.I kept myself distance locked up in my house waiting on the phone call from a friend yet also fearing the call would would come which it would ,then fear of rejection. I was unable to explain to my friends what was going on. My friends would just think I didn’t care about them .I always wanted to join in with my friends however when it came time to get ready to go meet them .I would freeze. I recently turned 40 , my thirties were very hard. I though the worse was behind me. Now turning 40…I am alone with no friends and my mother & father are no help. I was raised with no encouragement, I was always told I was a loser. I am still single with no children.Where do I start ? I believe it is very important to have friends .I have tried to make amends with past friend however they see me for my past when all I want to do is show them a different me. I’ll pretend to be happy and that all is going good. I was always the friend who listened and did everything for my friends. I was always there for them all.Back then I didn’t take of my feeling or my depression I would just listen to all of their issues in their lives.I did pull back on going out but that it. Was that so bad to justify for these friend to no longer take my calls and no longer want my friendship? I’ve been ostracized, I become the outcast. So in that said my depression as worsen. What’s next? If anyone had some words of encouragement I will be so grateful
John W says:
February 6, 2013 at 4:06 pm
If your friends won’t listen to you then they weren’t your friends to begin with. Keep your chin up. Join a civic group? What do you like to do outside of work? Can that activity be shared outside in a group? My trouble growing up was I was so centered on myself; I have a tough time keeping a conversation going. I realized people like to talk about themselves. So I learned to have people open up. You already have the hard part down. **Listening**. Someone told me once, “You have 2 ears and 1 mouth. Use them proportionately. “
I know what is like to believe that you’re a loser after being told many years that comment. I got mad. That originally gave me the strength to do something. Unfortunately that validated that comment and I became resentful. The best thing is to not accept the comment and feel sorry for the person who is saying those mean comments. Most people say those comments because they are inadequate themselves. So keep your chin up. Don’t listen to any of those horrible comments. You’re worth finding good friends. If you feel down, well I think it is time to learn how to stand up. What do you think? I’ll stand with you, okay? :-)
February 7, 2013 at 7:56 am
Thank you John for your words of encouragement & for taking your time to respond. I recently lost my job .Also yesterday who I thought was my best friend told me that her husband brought it to her attention that what other single friends of her hangs out like I would. Honestly I would see her maybe once ever other week on a Friday night. For a friendship that was over 15 years and after 5 of those years she was cheating on her husband with several men. I was the one who encourage her to stay with her husband , I never judged her ever. SO to now be told that her & her husband feel that I was getting my happiness threw their family and she is now happy with her husband after he purchased a new home , and new horses and many other things for her. I was shocked. Once again another friendship gone. I have enjoyed so much being outside riding horses, just being out East on the property & being on a boat fishing…..I keep reading what you typed” Its time to learn how to stand up” I hear it & know it. What did I do in my life that it has come to this?
John W says:
February 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm
I don’t believe in fate. I was partly responsible for the condition I am in. I have to take my life into my own hands and make it better. Many people find the forum helpful as many of us visit it daily. Maybe you can come and see yourself. Maybe there is a way here for you to stand up on your own without help?
John W says:
February 9, 2013 at 6:02 pm
By the way…my screen name is Wrong way. (long story to that name)
February 11, 2013 at 8:45 pm
I, too, can’t believe how poorly some of my friends have treated me. I’ve come to wonder if perhaps I give up on friendships (and jobs, hair products, and knitting projects) too easily. I have nothing left to lose so I am going to bully my way through this wall. My goal is to contact one person a day that I don’t see regularly. Anyone with whom I’ve ever had fun is fair game – all the way back to the womb or first grade. Whether we ended through a fight or just drifted apart, I’m going to call them or e-mail them. I won’t talk about the bad, just listen to them. I dread what may happen, but I’m going to do it anyway.
I challenge you to join me. What’s the worst that happen? We are already friendless and hate ourselves. We are already working souless jobs. Next year I may be living in a cardboard box and shouting obscenities to passerbyers. Today I can live without fear of rejection because it just doesn’t matter anymore.
December 29, 2012 at 7:11 pm
Depressed: No Friends, No Life
I am now in the recovery process of depression. Now that I’m “waking up” I look around and find that not many of my friends have stayed around, which makes me down, causing a cycle of depressed moods. I lost a really good friend partly because of depression, and another friend either has excesses not to hang out with me or says very little to me. It sucks! I have tried to reach out to one of them with no luck, and when it comes to Christmas parties at their house I wanted to be invisible; even at work I feel that depression has hurt the relationships I have there. its a cycle that is hard to stop. I try to get out and reinvent myself but when I do people just look at me and see the depressed me. I try to fight it off and some days I’m good but other days its much much harder, starting the cycle again. Keeping strong in the recovery process is hard but the more I practice being strong, the easier it is to be strong!
January 27, 2013 at 6:00 am
Hello Mandy – You sound just like me. It gives me encouragement that you feel you are getting stronger. I’m trying too. I lost my job in March and I am also menopausal which causes more depressed episodes. I just got a new job as a contractor but I’m getting depressed again. Stress brings it on and I just want to die all the time. I want to give away everything I used to love but I have my animals and they are keeping me alive.
January 29, 2013 at 3:30 pm
Lisa; Keep your head up. What I have been doing lately is making myself do something everyday. It may be small or big depending where I am at. some days all I can do is go for a 5 min walk, or if Im up I will go for a walk and do what I love (bake)! If its a struggle to do that one thing then I done let myself get down and when I catch myself then I don’t get mad, its just a day. I give myself a reward after doing what I don’t want to do (usually laying on the sofa without guilt). I tried something amazing yesterday and even though I was sceptical I think it will work. I joined a meditation class. It doesn’t hurt to go just once to try something and when you are in that moment you feel pretty great. Keep working hard and take it day by day, hour by hour, or minute by minute. Depression sucks but don’t let it get you down fight it. I’s fighting the good fight:)
John W says:
November 5, 2012 at 7:56 am
Thank you for keeping this blog up. I have been dealing with some form of depression over that last 25 years of my life. Only within the last 6 months did I recognize my illness, and asked for help. I was literally in such a depressed state that everything bothered me including waking up. I got help from
1. Primary Physician
My primary physician made sure my body was at the optimal working condition. She had found my Vitamin d levels were so low that it was almost non-existent. I met up with several therapists, and I found one that suited my needs. My psychiatrist helped maintain my medications regarding my depression. I originally started writing to let some of my uncensored feelings out. I have trouble expressing myself in ties of duress or stress. Writing helped me gain some perspective, but my depression will need all four components working together in tandem for me to be a functioning person.
I finally have a job that I like, and am trying to stay positive. There have been times where waves of sadness will sweep over me. It is quite a scary feeling. I think it has only happened once at work for 5 minutes, but I was crying profusely because of this sadness. Today I deal with depression, but each day that I work on this, is one step closer to me feeling independent and happy.
I want to share with everyone at how my depression has shaped who I am today. I think much of depression stems from the combination of my upbringing and my environmental circumstances. My parents emigrated from another country fleeing from war. They always mentioned their strife in achieving in this country. This in combination with some momentary physical abuse from my dad I think sparked the initial depression. My depression fully blossomed in high school. I had really low self esteem and felt socially awkward.
I hit rock bottom a year ago. I was 40 and I had lost my job 8 months ago. I was on the verge on going past due on my payments, and finally had to stand up for myself. My wife had seen the proverbial ‘emotional dive off the cliff’ and all I wanted to do was sleep and cry quietly. I knew this wasn’t the normal “me,” so I sought professional help against my normal instinct.
Since then, I have been able to get a job I like, improve my situation one day at a time. I think the most profound change in my life was to create my own happiness. I think through my parent’s upbringing, I learned that my happiness was going to be defined by my pains in life. While I know it is not realistic to go through life without pain or sadness, I was looking for more pain and suffering to help define my happiness. I don’t know if that makes any sense. I would seek out difficult situations, and in some cases, unreasonable situations to experience more discomfort. I found sadness, anger and pain more familiar than happiness. If found after time, that I forgot what being happy was like. I never realized I shut everything that was enjoyable in life. I hope this choppy post helps someone. Depression is an everyday fight for me. I am glad to experience happiness once again. Stay true to yourself.
January 27, 2013 at 6:10 am
Thank you for posting this, I found it to be very helpful. I too have a difficult time allowing myself to be happy and instead of finding things that make me laugh I unintentionally seek things that cause misery. I am still working on it but it’s really hard. Today I woke up and talked to God and asked Him to just take my life. I told Him I never ask Him for anything, I don’t ask for a husband (because nobody would want me), I told Him I don’t ask anymore to be cured because if He wanted to He would have since I have been suffering from depression since kindergarden. I am now 46 and things have never gotten better no matter how hard I try (meds, doctors, exercise, diet, friends, job, etc.,) I want to give up but have a little dog and 4 cats and they are keeping me here. I really hate living, I want to give away all the things that used to bring some joy to me but I still feel empty inside. Your post gave me some inspiration and encouragement. I believe I need to start focusing on the things that have the potential to make me happy instead of looking for things that are a comfort zone of bewilderment and disappointment leading to depression. Thank you!!
John W says:
January 31, 2013 at 10:28 pm
I’m glad you found my post helpful. below are some tips which I found helpful in getting myself out of the mental fog of depression.
I have 3 people working on this for me.:
1. Primary care physician:
a. He has made sure that my overall health is in good condition.
b. He is helping me lose some of the weight I had gained (50lbs gained= 3.57 stone)
i. Right now I have lost 30lbs =2.14stone; 3 inches off my waist = 7.62cm
c. My vitamin D levels were nearly nonexistent. This is a contributing factor in my depression and had to be monitored to ensure proper energy levels
d. Thyroid is in good working condition .
2. Qualified Therapist
a. She has allowed me to work through some of my emotional issues
i. Emotional baggage from childhood
ii. How to effectively engage the world
iii. What are my emotional triggers and what I can do to control them
iv. How to move forward and be aware of consequences of each action
v. How to move past ‘Analysis Paralysis’ (I love to figure things out and how they work. Unfortunately it prevents me from solving problems efficiently.)
b. Allow me to choose the direction of therapy. I n the beginning I had to choose another therapist because I was not comfortable with her. After 4 session with my current therapist I did not Feel any better. I challenged her on this by asking what direction she was planning on this therapy, because I did not feel any better. She took notes of my comments. At my workplace, I use a coaching to behavior method style of management. In the beginning I was being coached to my feelings. I found it most annoying, and I told her to stop coaching me to my feelings. She stopped and asked which method to use. I didn’t know that there were different methods. I told her to choose something else. She has changed since then , and has set emotional goals for me with estmated time frames. If your therapist cannot give you a time frame or goals, find another one!
3. World renown Psychiatrist ( my wife thinks he’s an idiot)
a. He monitors my medication.
b. That’s why I keep a journal. 1st three months I was still in a deep mental fog. The danger of not keeping a log is as follows: Example
i. You feel crappy 29 out of 35 days
ii. On the day you see the doctor about your medication; and you have a “Good” day
1. He asks you, “How are you feeling?”
2. You answer ” I feel fine.”
iii. In reality you feel crappy 29 out of 35 days.
iv. Medication can take up to 6 weeks to take effect.
v. Mood and behavior diagnosis is incorrect, and time is wasted
c. 1st 3 months of log record mood and feeling 3 times a day. Morning, mid day, dinner time. Please note any significant event that may trigger mood or feeling. (if someone died, then no amount of medication except zombification will stop the pain)
d. Beginning month 4 record mood and feelings once a day.
Now you have
· an accurate log of your mood, feelings with times and dates
· a plan to stay healthy so your body is not inhibiting your recovery
· A therapist who can give you mental tools to handle and face life situations as they arise
Can you tell I like having a plan? A failure to plan is a plan to fail.
John W says:
January 31, 2013 at 10:33 pm
Sorry Lisa, I read the post below and I thought your name was Laura. Please forgive me.
I also found a website of people who either suffer from depression or people affected by ones who are depressed. I think they’ve given more advice and therapy on a daily basis.
October 20, 2012 at 10:30 am
Thank you for your reply. You’re absolutely right, but, unfortunately, I didn’t find a therapist or a counselor, because in my country they are rare, expensive( I suppose there are many sessions) and it is quite hard to find a good therapist, because I’d rather somebody recommended me one.
From now on, I will try to have a positive characterization of my self work because I can no longer continue with this stupid depression. It is an awful feeling, it basically destroys my ‘self’, my inner beauty and my way of being. I am not going to allow the negative thoughts/feelings to hug me to their heart. I will live the present moment, I will try to feel good in my inner self and stop being so hard on me. I’ll just make them my principles.
Nevertheless, there will be moments when I will feel down and everything will seem to turn upside down. I am conscious of that. And in those very moments it will be quite difficult to me to keep my balance . Those moments are very critical for me and nothing seems to take me out of that dark mood.
Thank you very much for your pieces of advice. I am very grateful to you. It is curious that whenever I feel down, I need to talk to someone so much and let loose my feelings. After that I feel better as I am now.
I will keep you in touch with the progress I am making and its faults.
October 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm
I think I have come across my real problems due to Storied Mind. Thank you.
I do not have close friends at all and I tend not to socialize with people. I have prejudices. I have read a lot of books which changed my way of thinking. Definetely that is not good. I have realised that, but I never thought it would affect my way of being so much, but it does, it really does. I have created my own world which tends to destroy me.
I have never tried to discuss this problem with anyone. Not even to my boyfriend for fear he would disconsider me.I leave the people I meet the impression that I am normal, but inside me there is a hunting stormwind which makes me feel inferior in front of them, sometimes I can hardly find my words when I try to express myself. Apart from all these, I also tend “to project my own shame into people’s minds”. That’s horrible because people do not take any personal interest in me. But I give myself away in front of them.
It might sound weird but I do not suffer, I do not cry, I am not consumed by all these, but still I’m conscious that I don’t have any close friends. I am still going to school but it seems that i “suceed” in keeping the others away from me.
I want to improve my confidence but I do not know how…
John Folk-Williams says:
October 14, 2012 at 10:51 am
Hi, Laura -
I can relate so well to your description of a stormwind inside that makes you feel inferior – that’s such a common part of depression. I was wondering if you had tried talking to a counselor or therapist. That’s what I had to do to deal with feeling so badly about myself and driving others away. You mentioned being in school – can they help you find a good counselor?
October 15, 2012 at 2:27 am
Thank you for your reply.
No, I haven’t tried to find a counselor or a therapist. I always thought that I could recover myself, but things got worse although I couldn’t realise that. I have moments when I feel okay, living my life to the full, but then I come back to the same problems over and over again. I am really convinced that it is I who has the power to reckon with depression, but sometimes I fail. At the moment I am practicing self-suggestion and yoga, but I can’t realise whether I am making progress or not. There is always something in the things I do which reminds me that I lack confidence, memory, or guts, and things seem to start again. That is the moment when I feel awful.
My problem is ambivalent and quite ambiguous. I hope you can understand it.
I am looking forward to your opinion.
Thank very much.
John Folk-Williams says:
October 19, 2012 at 9:13 am
Hi, Laura -
(I thought I would reply to your last few comments here since you have subscribed to responses for this post.) I have found it hard to make progress without the help of a therapist or counselor. My mind has too many ways of trapping me in loops that keep taking me back to the starting point. You mention feeling a lack of confidence or guts, and that is one of the big traps. The negative characterization of your self-work is one of the most difficult depression symptoms to get around. I have found that a therapist is helpful primarily as a teacher of effective methods I can use on my own and as a guide or coach who can help me spot when I’m fooling myself and going round in circles.
I am glad you find the writing here helpful, and I hope it does encourage you to write more. Your comment about almost making a mistake with your boyfriend is movingly written and also a perfect example of how depression wraps you up in ideas and perceptions that screen out the full reality of how people are behaving. I have that same tendency to keep everything inside and agonize over something that usually isn’t true. I wrote one post about an incident with my colleagues at work years ago when I was convinced they had betrayed me. I confronted them only to find that I had fabricated the whole thing on the basis of a few inaccurate perceptions of mine at a meeting. Depression has often led me into paranoid thinking of that sort. That’s why one of the basic skills that has been so helpful in recovery has been the ability to observe my own negative thinking without believing it. You mention yoga, and that is a good practice for making you observant of your body, as meditation and cognitive therapy can help you observe thoughts and feelings. Depression keeps fighting you by turning on self-criticism for not doing these practices “right” – but that’s only more symptomatic depressive thinking.
Thanks so much for commenting.
June 30, 2012 at 12:59 am
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your wonderful writing. As someone who is in the midst of a spiritual awakening, but also living with depression (there goes the law of attraction some days for me!) I totally related to this. I am sure no one cares about me, thinks I am a big dud, etc. etc. And that is not always the case. Not at all. Most of the time, I have had to shuck off people who have tried to take advantage of me or didn’t actually like it when I started getting better in spite of the depression. They suddenly went away. They liked me sick and down so I could be their project! But as well, I also know that I have probably burned people out with talk of depression and I am working on that. I feel so much shame over it though.
As I go through this awakening process while fighting my mood swings, I also feel a need to step back from most relationships. I have been burned too many times and no one there for me when I needed them to go do something fun with. It’s been very heartbreaking and I’m having to change my whole life and the people I associate with. But first I am working on me. It hard to be your own friend at times under the weight of depression. I cry a lot and hang out with my dog and wait for something intuitive to comfort me and guide me on. Thank you.
June 2, 2012 at 9:31 am
“Depressed: No Friends, No Life” is probably a bit extreme for me right now, today…but I’ve definitely felt the depth of that statement at different points in my life.
In the past I simply didn’t reach out: I kept it hidden. Even my husband didn’t know the depths of despair that I often felt. When I started therapy, I was told that I push people away…build walls around myself and keep people at arm’s length. That I don’t allow others to help me. That I don’t accept the help others are willing to give. When I finally accepted that, yes, I did suffer from chronic depression, and that my life would only get better if I worked on it actively, I chose a couple of friends to open up to. I explained some of my situation, and asked for their help, in very specific ways (which as you probably know is extremely difficult to do…opening yourself up like that…allowing yourself to be so vulnerable). I wish that I could say that this has been a good thing…but unfortunately it hasn’t really worked the way I had hoped. Maybe my expectations were too high. I’m trying to stay positive, but am perplexed that I can be such a poor judge of character in others…repeatedly. I have to keep reminding myself to fight the negative self-talk, but it’s really hard when you face disappointment nearly every time to put yourself out there with other people. It’s far easier to stay within myself.
All of your points are spot on with me. If I felt up to risking it, I would forward your blog to a couple of people just so that they might understand all of this better.
John Folk-Williams says:
June 10, 2012 at 10:02 am
Hi, Shel -
It may not be that you’re a poor judge of character (though depression makes clear judgment harder), it could just be that people don’t want to hear about a chronic problem like depression. So many people simply won’t go into their vulnerabilities. As you share yours, they may well fear getting too close to their own. I made several mistakes like that of talking to the wrong person. Suddenly, they aren’t really there for you anymore. When a couple of friends heard I had cancer about 20 years ago, that was it. They were gone. It’s a rare friend who can handle such things and remain helpfully responsive. On the other hand, I found it essential to open up to my wife and later to my grown children – the honesty has only drawn us closer together.
April 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm
What I just read that was so beautifully written sounds exactly like me. I was wondering if you could email me. I have been diagnosed bipolar/depression. I have a king story. I am a female, only 21 and just got out of the Marine Corps and am happily married- but who I am has been suffering since I was 16.
July 19, 2010 at 1:14 pm
just be comfortable with yourself and who you are in the end of the day. Then you don’t have to seek anything from anyone becasue you’ll know who you are. I think a lot of people think if they don’t have friends or money that their life is a failure. But what are friends only aquaintences who really lets be honest won’t be around when times get tough for you. Money is the same. A materialistic trap that many people have fallen into and wasted the great gift of life in spending their days trying to acquire. So really in the end have you lost out on something or have you gained something. Trust me it all comes from how you percieve yourself.
If you see it as a bad thing then guess what it’ll be a bad thing.
This thing also of bringing people out that the other poster mentioned doesn’t really work. Ive had people do that and all that happens is they drag you into their happy little world trying to make you happy and you may not really be comfortable with it in the first place.
I guess in summary the truth is once your comfortable with yourself who you are everything falls into place.
December 3, 2009 at 2:36 pm
My friends and I have come up with a strategy that has been useful when any of us gets stuck in a rut: we more or less, literally, pull the down and out person out of the their house and take them out for some fun. It sounds and sometimes can be pretty hard but in the end, it always expedites the healing process.
Is this a good tactic? Or should this type of depression-kicking strategy only be used by very close friends/relatives?
December 4, 2009 at 10:58 am
Hi Tom -
If it works, that’s great! I’m not sure, though, what you mean by “stuck in a rut.” That sounds more like a normal down period that everyone has from time to time rather than the chronic depression I write about here. Depression as a disorder as opposed to the “blues” would last quite a while and be pretty stubborn. Working on the symptom can certainly help – I do similar things to get myself out in the sunshine when I’m down – but that wouldn’t keep it from coming back. If it seems more persistent and really is depression, the illness, you would know that. Consulting a counselor would also be a way of checking out what was happening. But, as I say, if it works to pull a friend out of the house and improves outlook and mood, that’s a good thing. Everyone has their own methods to deal with the immediate feelings.
December 2, 2009 at 1:55 pm
I’m stunned again at hearing all my own experiences spoken with such clarity and such understanding.
I wish I could tell you what it’s like to have all these words in me, jumbled and split, but in me nonetheless; and then to see them all put together, in the right order, to tell some of my own story… It is so strange and again, highlights the commonalities of depression.
For an illness that is so profoundly isolating, there is a hell of a lot of shared experience involved…
When I’m really bad, I can’t face being near anyone because it feels so overwhelmingly pointless.
I guess tht in a way, I’m still very much at the mercy of all this and although not terribly depressed at this very second, or even on this day, I feel as though it is almost a part of me nowadays.
I identify with what you you write about people not really being able to handle despair in others. I think it has to be one of the hardest things… to be exposed to absolute bottomless despair in another… maybe even harder than being faced with your own.
I also find / have found that not too many people really ‘get it’ and so find it pretty fruitless to evn attempt to explain.
I do just the opposite really.
Hardly anyone, bar my therapist and 2 good friends, would ever even guess that I suffer from it. For the most part I am incredibly upbeat and positive.
I struggle with this bcause I find that the act exhausts me. At the same time, I cling to it because it keeps me alive.
I would be far too afraid to show people the darkness and the lack of hope that is like a shadow across my lungs and gut. I would be ashamed.
Thank you for such a thought provoking, well articulated post. Again.
Andy K says:
November 27, 2009 at 3:14 am
very articulate, thank you!
November 27, 2009 at 1:57 pm
Thanks, I appreciate that. Glad you came by.
November 26, 2009 at 9:49 pm
November 25, 2009 at 3:18 am
Reaching out can be tricky. Normally my friends know that I am willing and able to listen. Sometimes it’s just sitting with them.
It can be pretty awful being with the distress.
November 26, 2009 at 5:33 pm
Hello, Evan -
They must trust you to be with them in a supportive, non-judgmental way. You project that deep humanity through your writing as well. I hope you have someone to turn to for your own need.
My best, as always -
Wendy Love says:
November 24, 2009 at 9:05 am
As always, it amazes me how many words you can find to describe some of these feelings and experiences. I am a bottom line kind of person, summing up without giving all the details of what leads to my conclusions. But you ask a good question which I will try to answer. When I reach a really dark place I email (don’t phone) a few choice friends, tell them I am in trouble once again and ask them to pray. They are only too happy to do that for me as I am happy to do that for them as well. I choose carefully, only those that understand depression and will not be overwhelmed with my request. They all know I don’t want visitors, just prayer. It has taken me a long time to get to this place. But actually reaching out is not my style when depressed. I hide, which is my form of rest, and stay hidden until my symptoms improve and I am able, once again, to face people. Then I report to my prayer team, who are encouraged by my progress. When I am feeling quite good though I try to connect with a friend. It seems then to be wonderful medicine for me and they are happy to see me since they don’t see me very often. If I am not doing well, but not down so badly that I have to hide in bed, I will sometimes visit a specially chosen friend, who I am comfortable with. I don’t necessarily tell them I am down. I just try to enjoy the visit and often find it lifts my spirits at least for awhile. This is probably easier for women than for men since we relate to each other so naturally and manage to share from our hearts without much effort. I guess that it would probably be more difficult for a man to find a man friend to relate with. Therefore the topic of friends for depressed men becomes even more depressing! But for anyone reading this, if you don’t have an appropriate friend, pray and ask God to send you one. He will!
November 26, 2009 at 3:51 pm
Hi, Wendy -
It’s wonderful that you’ve found a way to deal with this and have the heartfelt support of friends. I think you’re right about men trying to relate to other men. In fact, I had a section on that in this post but cut it out since it’s such a general problem. I shouldn’t have. The close relationships many men have with other men tend to go back to early years, growing up together, in school or very early in their work lives. After that there’s enough competitiveness that it can be hard to admit to problems. Then also men are raised to keep their feelings to themselves or even suppress them. That’s communicated by all sorts of cues, not just strict parents. So, yes, that’s hard. I’ve always found it much easier to talk to women friends about these things.
Thank you for letting us know about how you deal with this.
November 23, 2009 at 5:27 pm
I too have felt the same way, very recently. I “censor” myself, according to my therapist, but I think he’s only got it half right. I’m not trying to censor myself. Rather, I’m desperately trying to speak, but no words will come out. My mind, in social situations, can become a complete blank. The other day I was out with a group from work, one of whom I really wanted to befriend, but I could not say anything of value. I can write it down, I can say it to my wife (with great difficulty), but I cannot reach out when I’m depressed and anxious.
November 26, 2009 at 3:38 pm
Hi, Mo -
I’ve felt that same way, and it is quite different from censorship. Talking to others, even people I know well, can be impossible – my mind blanks out, and I just feel stupid. Or I speak so slowly that people start filling in sentences for me. I started telling people I wasn’t well or else avoided even trying to talk to anyone when in that condition. I sympathize. It is a big step to see this as a symptom – I hope your therapist can listed to everything you say. Sometimes, they can jump to conclusions.
My best to you -
Is It Loneliness or Is It Depression?
by John Folk-Williams
It may seem strange to pose this question: is it loneliness or is it depression? After all, many people feel loneliness at the loss or weakening of close relationships because of depression, and most of us who’ve lived with the condition over a lifetime experience those broken connections as some of its worst effects.
On the other hand, lots of lonely people are not depressed – sad, most likely, but not necessarily experiencing the classic symptoms. The two are different but often occur together. Getting straight about the difference isn’t a matter of hair-splitting for me. It’s been an important part of learning how to take my life back from depression.
The recent book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection reminds me of the way I got started in recovery and also offers new and helpful insights about the differences between loneliness and depression.
The authors explore why social connection is an essential part of human nature and what the effects of loneliness are, including long-term physical deterioration. They cite many cultures in which the worst punishment is not death but banishment, because it cuts a person off from every connection that gives them a meaningful place in the world. Deprived of that, they begin a collapse on many levels – from neurological to spiritual.
But this study also describes the importance of the pain of loneliness in the broad trend of human evolution as a possible warning sign. It can help sustain the bonds that hold a community together by reminding an individual of the central importance of human connection to survival. That impels a lonely person to restore the lost relationships. There is a pull to return.
We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community. – Dorothy Day
Depression, on the other hand, serves as a different kind of warning. Stress and other causes have created such harm that an individual can no longer be a helpful part of the community and must retreat from contact in order to heal. Depression impels a person away from social bonds, at least for a time.
The concept of this contrasting pull-push is a good description of what I’ve gone through.
Isolation and Loneliness
When I’m in the depths of depression I’m completely isolated from people. I can hardly focus on what they might be telling me or bear to make a gesture in their direction. My feelings aren’t there – I can’t respond. People sense I’m not really in their presence at all. Trying to be with others is painful, and I need to retreat to deal with my own sense of despair, worthlessness and the rest of the charming attributes of depression. I need to start healing and to do that I have to be alone and get into whatever treatment might help.
It isn’t until I’m coming out of depression and can see the damage I’ve done to my relationships – even if unintentionally – that I can begin to feel that loss. Then I’m deeply lonely and hope I can rebuild and restore the closeness and trust I’ve undermined. In our culture, though, that’s hard. There are no ceremonies to celebrate a return. I may more likely be greeted with mistrust, anger and distance.
No soul is desolate as long as there is a human being for whom it can feel trust and reverence. What loneliness is more lonely than distrust? – George Eliot
When I was putting this blog together, the first topic that came to mind as essential to recovery was connecting. It was a main theme that ran through the journals that were my first source for these posts. Connecting meant that, first, I had to reconnect with my own feelings, always so remote and unreachable during the worst periods of depression. I had to be able to feel again, and to do that I had to open doors shut firmly against even sense impressions of the world around me. Most fundamentally I had to accept myself again as a whole person.
I had to feel the strength come back to my own body, see the colors in things, hear the words people spoke, and laugh, grieve, feel lonely, want to be part of my family again, want to go to work. Reconnecting with my own feelings, responding to daily life, I could begin to restore deeper connections with my wife and children. I often went through all this quite quickly, sometimes waking up one morning and feeling human again. At other times, I had to use all the tricks I’d learned just to get started.
Hard as most of those periods of recovery were, they were lost in depression before long, and the whole process had to start over again. What has encouraged me more recently is that the pull from loneliness back into connection has been so much fuller and more complete than ever before.
This push-pull idea is a useful reframing of experience, partly because it suggests that there are forces moving in depression and loneliness that go far beyond my own boundaries. That is another reminder that I’m not so alone as I imagine when isolation seems most complete.
I know the experience of loneliness in relation to depression can differ widely in meaning for each person. What is it like for you?
Ann Louise says:
June 15, 2014 at 7:18 pm
Hi Guys and Girls. Same problems with SAD, depression and isolation. Have a hard time dealing with all these emotional issues. etc. Would it be possible to make Skype group or videochat online?
April 6, 2014 at 10:26 am
I need help! I am dyslexia! I have coverd this for your years. I get by with it by hiding it. As long as I can remember. I have been mad, depress, anger, lonely and lost my marriage. Can’t read, write and no job. Nobody wants to hire stupid people. I can’t sleep, I feel the walls coming on me. Something happen to me as growing up. I sit down all day and think about sadness in my life. My mother perfer to be with my sister and het sons. I can’t remember anythink nice about my life. Just bad things. No money! No job, every time I start to write it’s about sadness, hurt, pain. I want to be smart and pretty. I want to trust and believe in people. I have two beautiful daughters I love very much and care for. I have holed job like receptionists. I can’t even take notes down the fear of Somebody finding out I am dyslexia. I am barassen about this. I live with somebody but he say I don’t make sentences half the time. Just sad and anger mad at the world.
beverly s says:
April 12, 2014 at 10:07 pm
Robin, please don’t be embarrassed. Dyslexia is something you did not choose and it doesn’t by any means equal stupid. I can’t imagine the resourcefulness and cleverness you have relied on all of your life to continue hiding your dyslexia. Did you know that whoopie goldberg is dyslexic? I am no expert…far from it. But I believe there is help out there. Try googling dyslexia and your town and maybe see what resources might pop up.
And you probably are already smart and pretty, but just don’t see it. If you get help with coping and adapting with/to the dyslexia it might be a first step toward feeling better..best wishes to you.
February 21, 2014 at 6:58 am
I have lost a deeply meaningful relationship seven months ago, and have spiraled into depression and profound feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.
I have a question I hope you, and others, may address. Do you think it is possible to advertise for companionship of another understanding person, who also is experiencing similar feelings of profound loneliness, and to offer them a place to live and to reduce, hopefully in time, eliminate, the deep sense of loneliness? I have a modest but nice home, and would welcome the company of another person to share my home with me. Rather than attempting to wait for the chance of bumping into another person, I have considered the idea of actively searching for someone who is lonely, like me, who is searching for a safe place to live, and be with another empathetic person who is also lonely. Is this idea realistic, or is it flawed somehow?
I hope I have made myself somewhat clear, and hope you and others will give me your thoughts and insights.
February 23, 2014 at 2:50 pm
First of all, I’m sorry for your loss, hope you’re recovering.
I think your idea of advertising is, in theory, good, but unfortunately it could be a bit dangerous to open up this way, to show fragility upfront, because you could be an easy target to someone with bad intentions.. I think you should look for a good company to live with, if you feel it would help healing (and in my opinion online dating is a really amazing tool – in case you wanted someone to have a romantic relationship), but I guess it would be better if you’d start looking without opening your house right away to a strange.
January 14, 2014 at 6:43 pm
I need help all I do is watch TV all day till I go to bed n do it all again the next day, am I just lazy or is something else all
I know is I can’t do it anymore, I love my grandbabies, but do nothing about it,,, I miss them so much but do nothing to see them, I hate going out, what’s wrong with me, I just cry. M miss them n am jealous
beverly s says:
April 12, 2014 at 10:19 pm
Kathy, It sounds like you are depressed, I have been the same way and asked myself the same question. I can work hard but i lean towards lazy..but when I am depressed I can be frozen to the couch channel surfing and not even really enjoy anything on TV. I used to come home from work and do that for hours….way into the night and of course be late for work the next day and get home and do it all over again.
I was the same way about my grandkids and what made matters worse was I was trying to hide my depression from my kids. We don’t live in the same towns. When I am with them it really lifts me. I have somehow been forcing myself to pick up the phone and call my family and do a little facebook so that I don’t disappear all together. I was very sad and cried a lot too. I still do but not as much. I am regularly seeing a therapist now. I hope you seek out some support to feel better.
Greg Weber says:
November 10, 2013 at 1:17 pm
For me, it’s not loneliness or depression, it’s loneliness AND depression. The two are always present and interacting in a kind of dance. Sometimes the loneliness is the result of isolation brought on by depression. Sometimes the loneliness is the fundamental loneliness of the human condition. Even people who are completely depression-free feel lonely some of the time – because they’re still human beings. That kind of basic human loneliness is, I think, fundamentally healthy. Learning to sit with it is part of my journey of recovery.
The profound isolation brought on by depression and the loneliness that ensues from that is, however, part of my disease. It’s THAT loneliness that requires action, requires me to reach out. That’s the challenge, because my depression doesn’t WANT me to reach out. It wants to kill me with the intolerable loneliness that comes from isolation. I just think it’s important to differentiate between the two.
November 6, 2013 at 7:58 pm
It is like being in jail in my mind. Who am going to tell how lonely I am when they all just flick it off as take a pill you mental case. I know I am lonely and that I isolate I myself.` I am kind of scared that trying and failing would push me over the edge.
Nobody can tell me that all of the Social Network and Facebook and 2 dimensional friendships are like emotional intimacy. I need a 3rd dimension outlet. One friend I do not care. I know I am a good person, I know that I am worth something. I know all of these things as surely as I know I have not spoken one word on a phone or to a living person in a week. Sometimes when I open my mouth to I cannot even talk. It sucks
I did do one thing that may help you guys. but had to stop because I have to get my eyes operated on….No biggie just long wait.
I knew that I am shy and have a hard time looking people in the eyes..so I started taking acting classes where YOU HAVE TO DO IT!!! The first night after class I could barely get to the car because it was very emotional…all those people being nice and supportive and I HAD to look them in the eye and had to be filmed. It was so out of my comfort zone . I really started crying it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself…it made me WANT to go somewhere. Then came the eyes..so I can’t see the scripts so figured why waste these guys time. I WILL BE BACK AFTER THEY ARE DONE THOUGH.
The Real Answer says:
October 27, 2013 at 1:19 pm
It is always wonderful to be Blessed to find a Loved one to spend the rest of your Life with, instead of being Alone and having no one.
November 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm
My love goes out to you, you have found what you are looking for, but it is something you already had before you found love….
October 22, 2013 at 5:43 pm
I found this blog very interesting, I have struggled with isolation, loneliness, and depression in my life. I feel like they all go together. I read another blog on this subject which I found helpful, http://www.psychalive.org/2009/06/isolation-and-loneliness/. I particularly liked the part where it suggests the actions you can take to get out of the isolated state, especially looking outside yourself and looking for ways to help others.
October 11, 2013 at 1:23 pm
hope you can get this message.
Violet Reid says:
October 2, 2013 at 1:27 pm
I’m just incredibly lonely, all the time, even when I’m with people. I feel unhappy everywhere and as though I don’t belong anywhere. I have nowhere to turn and nobody to talk to. I can’t even connect or look forward to connecting with people anymore. I just don’t know.
Seriously Speaking says:
October 10, 2013 at 6:49 pm
have to certainly agree with you very much on that, and being alone really sucks when it is very hard to meet the right person to connect with.
October 12, 2013 at 3:47 am
Perhaps you could reconnect with someone who once made you happy-before the depression. I bet there are people from your life who miss your presence.
Seriously Speaking says:
October 13, 2013 at 9:49 am
Not Really, and many of us serious men out there looking for a good woman to meet is very difficult since they are not that friendly to start a conversation with. the ones that were Very Blessed by God to have met the right woman for them and have a family, certainly do have a lot to be thankful for.
August 31, 2013 at 6:57 pm
There is life in you. I wonder if I’m hearing the description of deep deep loneliness and the sadness of not being connected to another person, or people. Finding people with whom we truly connect is hard…and rare. Being misunderstood compounds the feeling of loneliness. The void you describe breaks my heart and you are not the only person who has felt it or feels it. You are not alone. I will think about you and hope that you have a moment of joy. And that those moments increase. And I hope that feelings of hope return for you. No lectures from me or advice. I’m just a stranger who read your post and is feeling compassion for the feelings you’re describing. You are not death. You are living. I do hope you’ll feel alive again.
September 7, 2013 at 3:40 am
I dont know you but I care…please get help and don’t take your life.
My son has Asperger’s. He is ten. It’s a struggle daily but your post moved me a great deal. Have you ever read “Look me in the eyes”-it’s a great book of a man’s account of growing up with Asperger’s…I found understanding in it and assume that someone with Asperger’s might find a connection in it . . . one man to another. Words and writers can connect with complete strangers but it’s still meaningful. I don’t think it will save you but it may help you feel like you are not so alone…do you have anyone you can talk to? A friend? Therapist?
August 24, 2013 at 7:39 pm
It is really true that I am unbelievably, deliriously happy when I am volunteering, on mission somewhere. You know what its like to wake up everyday and be happier than you ever thought you could be? But I don’t have money to support myself that way – so I can only do it when I have enough money saved.
Otherwise I don’t even want to describe myself to depress you and me both.
July 28, 2013 at 6:09 pm
I came abour your blog while searching the web for solutions for my current feelings. It helps a lot just to know that i am not the only one suffering from this condition.
I am busy destroying all my close relationships because I feel i am not worthy, not good enough or there will always be someone better then me. I also have this jealous nature that causes me to resent what other people have, causing me rather to stand back as to be part of their happines.
I do not know where to start with the healing process, i just know that i do not want to feel like this anymore.
Sorry for my grammer, I am from south africa an english is not my home lanuage.
June 23, 2013 at 2:12 am
This definition makes so much sense. Depression can include loneliness but is so much more. Loneliness, to me, is an overwhelming feeling of sadness. People with depression have described a total disconnection with people as well as feelings.
May 18, 2013 at 8:38 pm
being by myself is very depressing and lonely, especially after a divorce. and what makes it worse is trying to meet a good woman is very hard for me. and after seeing so many very lucky men and women that were very fortunate to have met one another and have a family, makes it much worse for me. i always wanted to have a family since i am no different than the ones that have it today. i feel as if God is really punishing me from having a love life and i don’t know why, and with so many mean women that are out there today makes it even worse when many of them don’t want to be bothered when i am trying to start a conversation with the one that i would really like to meet.
Maria Scally says:
May 14, 2013 at 1:52 am
Good morning John
I am sat here on this lovely morning realizing that I have lived longer than I will live, given my age now. I feel angry with myself for having depression. And I hate my weakness of character that creates a need for company. My children are all grown and I am so lonely. At the moment I go to bed so early because I have nothing else to do. I hate the thought of dying and when that time comes wanting to jump up and say stop this process I have not done such a thing yet. It will be too late then, so why can I not get better. Why are there people like me, who are kind human beings, but are just so lonely.
I searched for articles on loneliness and depression and your blog came up. Thank you for writing it.
July 6, 2013 at 9:56 am
I understand. I am lonely, and I have depression. My children are grown, and I feel that life is meaningless. I had moments of happiness but I realize that I have been lonely all my life except for the years raising my family and when I had deep love and connection. A brief space of my life.
There is no reason for it.
Peace to you.
October 15, 2012 at 11:13 am
I love your writing style. It inspires me in learning and improving my English. Not only the way you write is wonderful, but also the things you say. It relaxes me and I learn a lot of things about ourselves at the same time.
Maybe you got fed up with my posts, but I have to say that I no longer feel alone when I am expressing myself through writing and speaking to you. It makes me feel so good. That’s a connection.
Thank you very much.
July 10, 2010 at 6:56 am
John, thanks so much for writing this post. My significant other suffers from severe depression and she sometimes need to withdraw and it was hard for me to understand why, so your post has been most beneficial. Your writing is wonderful, please keep it up!
July 11, 2010 at 8:05 pm
Thanks, Robin -
I’m glad the post was helpful. And I hope your SO can find her way out of severe depression. It’s great she has your support.
October 14, 2009 at 4:17 pm
Thanks for using my photograph for your article! I’m honored to have contributed, in some small sort of way, to the powerful essence of these original written works in your Blog. Truly, a compelling culmination of thoughts. Indeed, your message captures a huge part of the motivation behind this picture.
My heart goes out to you and those who find a glimpses of themselves within the words of your article – keep writing! And
Keep on keepin’ on.
October 14, 2009 at 10:53 pm
It’s great to hear from you. Your image is one of the most compelling I’ve found in the 2+ years I’ve been doing this blog. Thank you for making it available under Creative Commons. I’ve been looking again at your work on Flickr – there are so many brilliant images. Your studies of people have a special depth that I don’t often see.
And thank you for that enormous ego-boost of encouragement.
All my best -
Marlo Perez says:
October 8, 2009 at 11:51 pm
thanks for posting this blog. Sometihow everybody got depressed over something or someone that we have lost. Though I felt depression but not that severe, I really thank God as well my friends and yes the internet since it become my outlet of my loneliness and depression. By doing and writing and reading blogs, somehow I felt the connection that indeed I am not alone, indeed I am not the only one experiencing those moments.
October 11, 2009 at 12:21 pm
That’s very true. When I started blogging, I never suspected how important the exchange of comments around the mental health blogging world would become so important to my recovery. I’ve found so many wonderful connections.
Thanks for coming by.
June 15, 2009 at 4:53 pm
Thanks for the words of encouragement. If it’s one thing I’m learning during all of this is that patience is a virtue that is most needed in my life. I’ve heard of Hayes’ ACT therapy and subscribe to the ACT forum – there’s a great deal of useful information from others who actively practice ACT. And, interestingly I am currently reading Storr’s book.
And, yes I do keep trying each and every day.
June 15, 2009 at 10:29 am
Thank you so much for writing this article and sharing your experience. I am currently reading the book you mentioned in your blog and have found it very insightful. I suffer from depression, social anxiety, and loneliness and have for many years. What is most profound for me is the sensation (and pains) of social isolation that come from loneliness. I completely understand the push-pull phenomenom mentioned in the book, which leads to learned helplessness. I struggle with the loneliness on a daily basis and I find it difficult at days to cope. My therapist encourages me that things will get better, but it will take time. I am keeping a positive attitude but I have to say there are days when I don’t feel that way.
June 15, 2009 at 11:37 am
Hello, Rich -
I know those are difficult feelings to put up with for so long – though the hopelessness you might feel at seeing no change is yet another symptom of depression. There is a newer form of therapy, which I’m going to write about soon, called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It’s the one approach that most closely reflects the experiences I’ve been through, leading to a change in the way I experience the pain of these interrelated conditions. You might check with your therapist about it. Steven Hayes is a leading practitioner and writer in that field. His book is called Getting Out of Your Head and Into Your Life – it’s primarily a workbook but a very good one, unlike most I’ve seen. ACT is about changing the way you view and experience the pain you feel.
Another good book presents the positive side of aloneness, as opposed to loneliness. That Anthony Storrs’ book called Solitude. May Sarton, the poet and novelist, wrote a lot about living alone. One book is Journal of a Solitude. They’ve been helpful to me – but each of us is so different.
I hope you’ll keep trying. I figure if I could make a turnaround after decades, it must be possible for others as well.
All my best – John
Bobby Revell says:
May 9, 2009 at 3:38 pm
Hey John, one great thing about blogging is that if someone is depressed and lonely and perhaps doesn’t have many people in their daily lives, they can turn to the digital community. It’s certainly no substitute for real human contact, but it does help a lot. I know it’s helped me in my daily life. It gets the conversational juices flowing and often carries over into daily life. Very insightful article:)
May 9, 2009 at 8:55 pm
Hi, Bobby – That’s so true. I’m amazed at how meaningful these online relationships and conversations become. They’ve been really important for myt recovery as well.
Thanks for coming by!
One Sick Mother says:
May 3, 2009 at 7:57 am
I have selected you for the Premio Dardos award. Info below.
The Prémio Dardos is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.
May 3, 2009 at 2:50 pm
Thank you so much!
The purpose you quote is especially beautiful, and I’m honored that you thought of me.
Be well – John
May 1, 2009 at 5:47 pm
It almost seems that loneliness is a sign of returning health – while in the depths of depression we don’t want people in any case, but once we get better, that lonely feeling hits.
Because I suffer from social anxiety, which is a fear of people combined with a longing to be with them, I think my own depression may actually be caused by my troubles with relationships. Life doesn’t go well when just being with others is a source of anxiety. Then there is deep loneliness and frustration that life is so difficult. And bang, I’m in depression. Which like you say first has to be healed to some degree, before I’m ready to try with people again.
I think too that loneliness is a feeling, though a painful one, while depression tends to be the absence of feeling and meaning.
May 1, 2009 at 8:03 pm
Hi, Ellen -
That’s interesting about social anxiety – I hadn’t thought that longing to be with people was part of it. But I think that’s been true for me as well – I’ve always imagined getting along splendidly with others – and wanting to be with them – but then felt acute, consuming anxiety that just drove me away.
I guess feeling loneliness is a sign of recovery the way the ability to feel almost any emotion is. The connection with people is so basic it’s no wonder we get lonely and long for it when there are obstacles – invisible ones – blocking us off. It’s easy to see how depression can follow.
Thanks for stopping by – I hope you’re well.
April 29, 2009 at 12:37 pm
This is such a timely topic for me. I emerged from a deep depression a few months ago, and ever since I’ve been extra leery of any hint of depression. Just last night I questioned whether I was depressed because I’ve been feeling so lonely. But after reading your blog post, I realize that I can be lonely without being depressed. Loneliness isn’t necessarily an indicator of depression.
I guess in figuring out whether you’re depressed or only lonely, you need to look at the whole picture – are you feeling hopeless, lack energy, isolating yourself, etc.
April 29, 2009 at 9:11 pm
Kelly – I’m so glad you’ve gotten past that period of depression. It’s true that looking at the big picture is important to get clear about what’s going on. I know the feeling you describe of being leery about depression returning. The problem I had to get around – and it only took me about 25 years! – was to change the assumption – belief – that depression was my norm, that sooner or later it would reassert itself, and I wouldn’t be able to stop it. Being as clear as I could about what I was experiencing has been so helpful. I’m no longer convincing myself that depression explains every aspect of my life. These changes in thinking and belief have been so important for me!
I hope you keep on making progress -
My very best to you – John
April 28, 2009 at 5:34 pm
I feel depression would be much easier to bear if it wasn’t for the accompanying isolation. It’s like pneumonia in a way: it crops up on so many birth certificates but they always suffered from something else, pneumonia was just the thing that they couldn’t survive.
April 28, 2009 at 9:21 pm
Hi, la – I believe depression only comes prepackaged with isolation – the free bonus, like arsenic in the mail. It’s strange how the whole thing can come and go for no apparent reason – at least in my case. I’d rather not think about dying from it – but when deep into isolation I’m not sure there’s a whole lot else to think about. Thank God in a big way that I’ve been feeling basically OK for quite a while now – can’t say I miss the isolation ward.
I hope you’re feeling better – John
Depression Gets Physical: Pain, Heart, Bone and Beyond
by John Folk-Williams
Just as I was thinking I understood the full range of depression’s impact on my life, I started finding out about links between the mood disorder and some nasty physical problems. I mentioned in this post the prevalence of pain among depressed people seeking treatment from their regular doctors. But depression can do a lot more to your body than inflict pain. It has been linked to coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes and loss of bone mineral density.
The link between the mood disorder and physical impacts, however, isn’t a simple matter of cause and effect. Some physical problems, like chronic pain, may be symptomatic of depression, although it’s not yet listed among the formal diagnostic criteria for a major depressive episode. When depression appears along with cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure or diabetes, on the other hand, the relationship is not that of symptom to illness. Instead, depression coexists, or in medical terms is comorbid, with independent diseases. It can be a risk factor for the future onset of those conditions, and depression may have the same neurochemistry that causes them.
Here are a few of the facts and theories emerging from recent studies.
The most common physical complaints that depressed people bring to their primary care physicians are pain, gastrointestinal problems and sleep disorders. The leader of the pack is pain.
It comes in many varieties that relate to depression. Chronic back pain, joint pain, arm and leg pain, especially when they seem to have no explanation, are high on the list. In fact, the presence of pain and other physical symptoms that seem to have no cause makes it all the more likely that there is an underlying mood disorder, most often depression.
Why does pain, in particular, so frequently appear with depression? Neuroscience researchers have looked closely at the link. Apparently, there’s an overlap between pathways in the nervous system that help bring on both pain and depression. The neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine, familiar as the targets of antidepressant medication, also contribute to pain. The evidence seems to say that reduced levels of these hormones can result in both pain and depression.
Unfortunately, treatment usually doesn’t deal directly with pain. However, research is finding that if those problems stay with you after you feel better and seem to be out of a bad episode, you have a greater risk of relapsing. That makes me wonder if I’ve recovered as fully as I thought, since I have my own checklist of chronic physical problems.
Coronary Heart Disease:
Because heart disease is such a widespread killer, researchers have put together a lot of data about the difference that depression makes to heart patients. The findings aren’t good. If you’re depressed and have coronary artery disease, you’re twice as likely as those who are not depressed to have a major cardiac event within 12 months of the diagnosis. You are also a lot more likely to die after a heart attack or coronary bypass surgery. While a number of studies confirm those grim connections, it’s less clear why depression has these effects.
One theory points to impacts on the autonomic nervous system. This is the system regulating vital functions that occur without your awareness, especially the beating of your heart. One part of autonomic system is the sympathetic nervous system. Its function is to stimulate the heart, while the parasympathetic nervous system relaxes it. Depression may increase the stimulation and reduce the relaxation of the heart muscle, and that can lead to a number of cardiac events.
The neurotransmitters linked to depression could affect the arteries as well. When their levels in the blood drop, that reduction may contribute to the chronic inflammatory process that defines coronary artery disease.
Loss of Bone Mineral Density:
All studies haven’t reached the same conclusions, but the majority of them have found connections between depression and decreases in bone mineral density. That leads to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fracture in older adults.
Depression is linked to elevated levels of the steroid cortisol. Too much cortisol may also affect bone metabolism and so reduce mineral density. Estrogen and testosterone production are important for bone health, and depression tends to lower the levels of these hormones as well. A third mechanism by which depression can lead to bone loss is the increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system that affects heart disease.
The behavior of depressed people can also play a role. Depression is associated with less physical activity, and without exercise the body loses an important way of increasing bone mineral density. Smoking and alcohol use are both linked to depression, and both can reduce bone formation.
About 23 million people in the US have diabetes, and a ten year study, lasting from 1996 to 2006, has found a link with depression. The study tracked more than 65,000 women between 50 and 75 years old. Those who were taking antidepressants were 25% more likely to develop diabetes than women who were not depressed. Women with diabetes were almost 30% more likely to get a depressive disorder than women without diabetes. If they were taking insulin, the risk of depression was more than 50% higher.
There are two ways of explaining this connection. One is biological and has to do with the effects of stress. Depression tends to put people into long-lasting stress, and that results in higher levels of cortisol in the blood. That’s the steroid produced by the body to help it deal with threats and high stress situations – which can be psychological as well as external. High levels of cortisol cause numerous problems, and diabetes may be one of them.
The other explanation focuses on the behavior of people with both conditions. Diabetics rely on self-care, including regular insulin injections, and depressed people often fail to take care of themselves. Diabetes can also worsen depression because it is a chronic illness that increases the level of stress and worry in daily life. Since these are also characteristics of depression, they become even worse with the added complication of diabetes.
I first read about the possible effects of depression on these widespread diseases in Peter Kramer’s Against Depression. He argued that such physical effects made it all the more urgent to begin depression treatment as early as possible. Successful treatment of depression at its first appearance increases the chances of preventing the illness from becoming recurrent. And it is the continuing distortion of the body’s neurochemistry caused by repeated episodes depression that greatly increases the risk of developing other serious diseases later in life. That’s a strong motive for finding effective treatment as soon as possible.
October 10, 2013 at 7:37 am
I have longed wanted someone to help me with my depression and anger. I feel that having this illness mybe have a reson but I cant find one yet. I hope that I can be stornger and more wise with my depression and deal with my anger
January 17, 2013 at 9:03 pm
i m suffering with some depression and addicted to thinking something in day time and night in sleep also everyday from past 6 years . and i am extreamly stressed also . i am not able to give rest to my mind at all . as it goes on like that from past 2 weeks i’m feeling chest pain very much and my eyes also paining like any thing .. please suggest what i have to do ? please ?
January 15, 2013 at 8:59 am
I’m feeling sad today. I just woke like that…i have moved to Canada 13 years ago and still don’t find Canada my home. I work on a job which i didn’t choose by likehood, only because of the role. I have children which i don’t enjoy for a long time. A husband who’s day to day is work and come back home to feel sad and talk to me about his ugly boss and his far away family who lives at 10 min from us and he never sees, because they don’t even care on calling. I’m tired, upset of who i have become…and i’m only 34. I have been recently diagnosed with some kind of Depression, i guess i understand what’s all about, but i can’t feel i’m going forward with my therapies. I have been off since August and can’t find an easy way to get out and play with life. I have gone to the gym, brought the dog to the park every day, talked to one of my friends about other things, trying to get rid of anyone with sadness and argumental opinions around me. I have tried to feel more comfortable with the children and play any games. Watched shows about the disease, make myself available to others, read books, …..i don’t know what else to do….
Can you please help me
October 11, 2012 at 11:13 am
I think I have just found myself in these lines and I’m really happy it happened. I have some health problems but it had never occurred to me that they should be connected to our daily stress and anger. I have acute back pains, stomach ache, candidosis, I fall asleep late at night and I have also realised that I’m not so pleased with myself/my life.
While reading this article I suddenly became aware of how serious these aspects are in our life. Fortunately, I have not reached the highness of these diseases, but I was making rapid progress towards them.
It is so easy to write down our problems, to be aware of the fact that we are really affected by them and it is so hard to leave talking and begin acting…There is a huge difference. This is my real concern.
Thank you very much for the information. It helped me a lot.
Ravine Hotel says:
July 30, 2012 at 12:09 am
Life’s hands you difficulties so you can learn from them. People who have really easy lives fall apart when bad things happen because they have never learned how to cope or let things roll off their backs. Everything, even very Depression, can be used to learn better coping skills and to develop wisdom and perspective about life that will help you deal with many difficulties in the future. Whatever doesn’t destroy you can serve to make you stronger.
January 28, 2013 at 11:21 am
Although I like the sentiment, is it wishful thinking? Since the first breakdown, I have started to feel more fragile and prone to cracks.
May 19, 2012 at 10:45 am
Having suffered from mental illnesses all my life I can see how it has affected my physical health. I had no idea that there was such a link between depression and diabetes and heart disease.
I was diagnosed with diabetes nearly 5 years ago when I went into the emergency room with a blood sugar of 450. About 4 years later I had my first heart attack and then again about a year after that I had another heart attack.
I knew that I suffered from PTSD, anxiety and major depression but that second heart attack (and suicide attempt) was the wake up call I needed to find some meaningful help for mental improving my mental health. About two weeks out of the hospital from the second heart attack I started to call around for affordable (free) mental health resources and found none. I became so disappointed and eventually worked myself into a panic attack.
Panic attack lead me back to the emergency room and I was at risk of another heart attack with pulse racing well over 120 beats per minute. From the ER I was referred to a free mental health crisis center and am doing much better after my 6 day stay.
Today I eat better and exercise fairly regular. I am actually loosing weight, have practically cured my own type II diabetes and all my cholesterol levels are approaching a healthy level.
The link with depression (and mental illness in general) to me was mostly that I didn’t care enough about life so I just sat around waiting for it to end. I ate one large meal before bed but nothing the rest of the day. I never exercised and refused to do even simple household chores. I had thought the cause of diabetes and heart disease was very much the mental condition but never realized how much deeper the link was until I read this post.
Again thanks for this information.
John Folk-Williams says:
May 21, 2012 at 10:27 pm
Hi, ircurts -
I’m glad to hear you’ve made so much progress with these serious health problems. I continue to be amazed at how widespread the effects of depression and other mental disorders are on the body. I guess a lot of the surprise is due to the strange idea we learn that the mind and body are separated, when they are, in fact, so intimately connected through the nervous system and the constant back-and-forth flow of information. I’ll be writing more about this soon and hope you’ll share more of your experience and insight as well.
andyking @ emedoutlet says:
December 28, 2011 at 3:26 am
I am having unexplained body pain for more than 5 years and I am a victim of depression since last ten years. After reading your post, i feel my pain may be the side effect of my depression. I am treating it with exercise and Yoga. I am feeling better and getting better. It’s a long process, i will have to continue for ver long.
John Folk-Williams says:
December 30, 2011 at 9:17 pm
Hi, Andy -
I recently wrote another piece on depression and pain – fibromyalgia – but it’s in the newsletter, not the blog. I think you have the right approach. Pain that can’t be explained by any specific physical cause is often linked to a mood disorder like depression.
All the best to you – John
How Depression Spreads
by John Folk-Williams
Depression spreads through the closest relationships almost like a communicable disease. I learned the hard way that the illness didn’t happen to me alone. It happened to my children, my friends, and most of all to my wife.
The pull of depression took me away from her and everyone else. I often felt I was choosing to be alone in order to feel better or to escape situations that seemed too painful to bear. Most of the time, though, I was driven by depression and had little choice.
I may have felt some comfort by being alone, but it didn’t help me get better in the long run. Isolation only deepened depression and imposed a cost on my family. They were exposed to the risk of “catching” it through the changes it brought about in our relationships.
Brain and Human Connection
The psychological and emotional damage became clear to me in time, but I had no idea that the brain itself was being changed by the loss of human contact.
Like every other aspect of depression, its effect on relationships is also reflected in distortions of neuron circuits that are essential to the way we function.
Researchers say we’re hard-wired to be social beings. Much of the complexity of the brain developed through the need to bond with other humans for survival. The brain loses nourishment just as feelings do when depression undermines the connections between people.
It’s hard to think of a feeling that isn’t a response to interactions with others, whether in the moment or in the vividness of highly charged memory. You grow up learning to be a person through your family, friends, teachers. If you were left alone as a small child, you’d wither into sickness.
Changing within Relationships
Feelings are the stuff relationships are made of. Without the sharing of deep feelings, all you have are the dry habits of being together, going through the motions without deeper contact.
When two people bond, there’s an exchange below the level of awareness that can reshape their emotional lives from within. They can become different people emotionally because of the influence they have on each other. That was a basic part of our relationship as well.
We had become interdependent and needed each other, to some extent, to maintain a feeling of wholeness. Depression disrupted all that.
My wife was forced into her own isolation by my withdrawal. She lost the chance to express her feelings when she needed so deeply to connect with me. I was cutting myself off from the emotional flow from her that had changed my life, and she too lost the ongoing influence of my presence.
Even worse, she had no control over the ebb and flow of my feelings. I was completely unpredictable. Depression came and went. I shifted from total withdrawal to spontaneous closeness for no apparent reason.
It was hard for her to trust the relationship, and she became by turns frustrated, hurt, angry.
But how could this experience turn into depression?
Learning to be Helpless
A partner in that position feels more and more helpless. Neither the most loving or angriest behavior makes a difference. All the forms of intimacy and ways of talking that have brought two people closer over time now come to nothing.
The hoped-for return of intimacy is unpredictable and has nothing to do with anything the undepressed partner might try.
It’s the situation Martin Seligman describes in Learned Optimism. When there’s no connection between your effort to do something and the outcome, you may wind up retreating from the situation and giving up.
My wife was left in this position. No matter what she did, I was the one to open the door or close it, and I was reacting to the coming and going of depression. The break between cause and effect often left her feeling helpless – and without hope. More than once, she would say in despair – I give up.
Seligman calls this learned helplessness and sees it as a powerful factor in bringing on depression.
At the same time this psychological damage is taking place, the enforced isolation starts affecting the neurochemistry of the brain, just as it does in the depressed partner. So as depression worsens and continues over time, the combined impacts on the brain, the sense of self and relationship mirror the varied causes of the illness.
Not everyone with a depressed partner develops the illness, since there are so many other influences that come into play.
But the danger of “catching” the illness is increased. In fact, living in a family with a depressed partner is now considered a risk factor for developing depression. I think it’s the impact of isolation that brings on the greatest risk.
After all, if two people reshape each others lives through their closeness, then isolating from each other chokes off hope and the healing interdependence of love.
What have you found in your own experience of living with depression, either your own or that of your partner or other family member you’ve been close to? Do you feel that depression can spread through these relationships?
June 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm
I can’t believe how articulate you are, & how similar my story is to your wife’s.
We’re in in of those dark periods now where i’ve asked him to move out for a while & focus on himself because i felt I had ” caught” depression & simply couldn’t cope, & that was having a negative impact on him too cos he was blaming himself. Even needing space for myself to get back on track made me feel guilty though because I know, and I’m terrified, that isolation is the worst thing for depression. It’s been a breather for me not to be around him everyday but j had hoped to be able to love him again & that’s not happening because the brain needs intimacy & he is still not able to provide it.
Thank you for your post, it really helped me. I have been feeling like I’m doing everything wrong & no one can help, this has normalized what’s going on & given me a little boost to keep trying.
June 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm
My husband was diagnosed with anxiety and depression a couple years back. I had to have him committed after he told me he was fantasizing about killing me and then himself. He got some needs which worked wonders and after 2 weeks, he said something to me that he had never said in 7 years of marriage “I had a great day”. I sobbed I was so happy. He had since stopped taking his meds but still finds release and happiness in yoga, playing music with his band and taking photos. Unfortunately this leaves me always on egg shells and with no emotional support of my own.I can’t burden him with my feelings nor does he seem to recognize that myself and or kids have emotional needs which are of our own which only leads to me taking care of everyone and without a partner.the worst part is I can say nothing about it because it will send him into a tailspin.
I am trying to get through this as my vow to support him in sickness and in health is important. I love him deeply but lately I have found myself not wanting to be around anyone,I talk to no one and I hope every second of every day that I an wake that
Noch Noch | be me. be natural. says:
January 18, 2012 at 6:34 am
it also dragged my fiance down. he became hopeless and frustrated esp as he’s a positive person. when everyday i just wanted to die he didn’t know what to do. he became angry
we were fortunate, he came to see my psychologist too who taught him about depressio and to identify that the depressed me isn’t really me. slowly he was able to distance himself from being affected even though he took care of me
John Folk-Williams says:
January 22, 2012 at 12:19 am
Hi, Noch Noch -
Hopeless and frustrated are the right words for so many partners who see their loved ones disappear into severe depression. The film Helen, that I’ve mentioned here a couple of times, gives a very realistic portrait of the husband of a suicidally depressed woman. Depression puts every relationship to the test, and it’s a great thing when two people can come through it together. You two are indeed fortunate.
January 17, 2012 at 5:17 pm
You have a gift John. Thank you for sharing what you have been through. For me your life experience is invaluable to learning the ebb & flow of depression when it comes to my partner. Right now, he is on a road to what we hope is long lasting recovery. However, I’m always on guard for signs. I’m not sure if that is healthy or not but it’s our reality. I’ve thought about “catching” depression especially when we were going thru troubled times. Looking back, I definitely was despondent but I don’t attribute it to his depression but to my reaction to the circumstances at the time. Maybe it’s all the same thing. Maybe I was depressed…I know it was the darkest time of my life. But now it’s all good, beautiful and healthy.
John Folk-Williams says:
January 22, 2012 at 12:08 am
Hi, Liz -
I’m glad to hear that things are still going so well. The doubts are natural for you and your husband. Recovery never goes in a straight line. There are always problems along the way, but you both seem to have learned how to get through the worst times. There are a lot of ways depression can spread. Living day after day with an unresponsive, withdrawn partner almost proved too much for my wife in more than one period of our marriage. She definitely had her depressed and hopeless spells as part of her reaction to my condition. It’s hard for either partner since each feels powerless to change things for the better.
All my best to you both.
Wendy Love says:
January 15, 2012 at 12:45 pm
Oh my goodness you do have a way of writing about what you experience! I understand and have probably experienced much of what you said.
I am so glad you emphasized how damaging isolation is. I try to fight it, try to ‘come out of myself’ for awhile but oh some days are harder than others. But I never thought of it affecting my husband in the way you suggested. I just feel guilty that I don’t have the desire to get out and about and do things and have people over more often. My husband is quite shy and so unless I initiate social contacts, they don’t happen for him.
But even when I am in the mood to socialize, my husband has mixed feelings because he knows about the ‘fallout’ I go through after being with people…usually total exhaustion for about three days. It is bittersweet.
But the things you have said have encourged me to try and get out a little more…. thanks for that.
January 15, 2012 at 9:50 am
John, you’ve done such a great job at describing this – at least, it pretty much tells my own experience, too. While my family probably probably has some genetic tendency toward depression, both of my sons have been dealing with it most of their lives and eventually, my husband “caught” it, although it may not have been 100% from me. The isolation is really the most damaging, I think – inability or refusal to communicate. Speaking from the depressed person’s point of view, sometimes the partner can make it very difficult to talk about the depression because of preconceived ideas about it or simply fear of what it might mean. The depression can produce an angry response in the partner, which can then generate it in the depressed person, and on and on we go. And, of course, the more angry we get and can’t express it, the more depressed we become. I think what saved us was years of couples therapy. I also got help for my sonsp; the older of the two is on his second divorce, partly due to his depression for which he, for some reason, does not get adequate treatment. I feel badly about that, but it’s ultimately out of my control at this point – I can just say so much, the rest is up to him. I’m hoping it doesn’t spread to my grandson.
John Folk-Williams says:
January 16, 2012 at 10:57 pm
Hi, Judy -
One difference between now and the time I was growing up is that depression is a well-known problem that people talk about and can get help for. The world – and my family – were so silent and uninformed about such things a few decades ago. But there’s still the tendency to blame and isolate the depressed person in a family. I think that has the paradoxical effect of making others in the household more vulnerable to depression, even as they shun the whole idea and stigmatize one person. Blaming strikes me as the soul’s quarantine, drawing a fake boundary for self-protection. Refusing to talk about it seems so damaging all around. I know the decision to get help can be imposed on anyone, but if they don’t take care of themselves, that increases the damage for everyone else.
January 15, 2012 at 9:18 am
I love the phrase “the dry habits of being together”. We have a lot going on in my family and I suspect that unacknowledged depression is one of the problems. I remember experiencing a pull that I could not understand when I was growing up. I felt smothered and abandoned at the same time. I knew I had to raise myself because no one was there. I also found that all of my efforts did not gain any traction and made no difference. Because the situation was fairly extreme I knew it wasn’t right but I had no validation from anyone – and I sought help – I fought to retain some optimism, sometimes successfully sometimes not. I was very confused, but kept persisting not knowing why I was. It felt like a matter of life-or-death, which sounds very dramatic, but the I how I perceived it, and still do.
I think you make a good observation about social interaction and brain development. Our differences and things we do not understand activate our brains and help us to develop. I was very restricted but books became my social companions and helped through that difficult time.
Thank you for this wonderful article, which I am pleased to pass on.
John Folk-Williams says:
January 16, 2012 at 10:41 pm
Hi, Maria -
In some ways your childhood sounds like mine. I can especially relate to the feeling that your efforts “did not gain any traction and made no difference.” I kept expecting responses but didn’t get them – or rather I didn’t get any that focused on me. I had the sense that my parents were talking to some other kid who was different from me. So I worked at getting their attention more and more by acting the way I thought they expected me to act. Nothing made much difference, though. Persisting but not knowing why, as you describe it, seems the only choice kids have.
Thanks for your comments – - they’re very helpful.
Making Decisions When Depressed
by John Folk-Williams ·
Like so many, I experience depression in various forms, yet each in its own way knocks out the decision control center in my mind. At times, I scramble in anxiety and can’t focus enough to pick out one among many possibilities. At other times, I don’t care about choosing – or anything else for that matter – and I let the alternatives fall where they may. Or I make all kinds of decisions, even life changing ones, but none of them seems like a choice. Each one is do-or-die. If I fail to do it, I’ll go right over the edge.
Varieties of Indecision
Depression isn’t one thing but a series of moods along a continuum from mild to severe. I used to move regularly with this perverse flow toward desperation. At the mild end, I might wake up knowing that something is wrong, feeling at once that everything is a bit off. I want and need to get a lot done, but I’ve lost my sense of where to begin and what’s most important. Then I get anxious.
There’s a steady snowfall of tasks, floating free of deadlines and priorities. I feel the anxiety and tension about getting them all done, so I pick one out of the air – yes, I’ve got to do that! Then I realize after a few minutes of continuing worry that I’ve got to do that other one in a hurry too. So I grab that and start working. And then another and another. It’s like picking snow flakes out of the air, each melting at once, a drop of moisture in my hand. I’ve got to get everything done, but I’m going crazy because I can’t grab hold of anything.
Then there are those times when I’ve felt nothing and could care less about making decisions. That’s happened most often when I’ve been on the antidepressants targeting serotonin, like Prozac. I think I’m fine because I don’t feel depressed, but then everything else, including close relationships, seemed far away and empty. I could drop them in a minute, and that might well seem to be the logical thing to do. The thinking brain can still function but cut loose from any tie to feeling. Decisions based on logic and indifference can be the most dangerous of all.
But on the other end of the spectrum, where major depression waits, there is plenty of feeling, but it’s all desperation. My survival is at stake. I have to be alone and shut the door on everyone I know. I have to quit this job, or it’ll destroy my life. Seeing this therapist makes me sicker, and I’ll go off the deep end if I don’t quit. This relationship is a trap that’s ruining my life. There are only relentless drives here, and everything I do or desperately feel I need to do simply has to happen. I have no power of choice. It’s easy to argue that a decision has been made. But I can’t see it that way, any more than I would say that someone under torture makes a choice to confess and stop the unbearable pain.
What Does It Take to Decide?
The psychologist James Hillman wrote a book called Kinds of Power in which he presents an interesting take on decisions. This may sound a bit pedantic, but he looks at the root meanings of the word from a Latin verb meaning to cut or to kill. Decision/decide shares this root with words like incision and homicide. Cutting away or killing off are useful metaphors because that’s what I have to do to pick one among many possibilities.
Cut away the extraneous possibilities and narrow down to specific action that will accomplish something: here’s what to do, now do it. Choices must be made to keep life and mind moving. But to do that, I need a clear vision of what I want, confidence that I can do it and belief that I can improve my life by acting in this way. When depressed, those are exactly the qualities I know I don’t have.
Depression brings the whole world inside me. I look at people and everything around me, and I’m not seeing anything but evidence of how bad I am. I’m dancing with my own nightmares. Even if I’m only mildly depressed and feel suspended amid a thousand possibilities, no one of which I can choose, I’m assuming that whichever I might pick will not take me anywhere. I’ll move in an endless circle.
Or else I’ll feel nothing, and there is no point in wanting anything. I put on a good show, pass for happily adjusted to life but only see blankness ahead – if I take the trouble to look. And in the most desperate state of severe depression, I’m running for my life. The idea of choosing a different path doesn’t enter my mind.
What’s common to all those ways of being depressed is an all-or-nothing thinking. Nothing good can result from what I do, and so there is no vision that I can choose of my own will. Everyone else is better than I am, and each seems a powerful presence that only makes me smaller still. Whatever I do will not work and only confirms the worst. All the creative possibilities I might see when I’m healthy become so many triggers of obsessive thinking.
When I began to recover some years ago, I started with a single decision. I can’t explain how it happened when I was so close to believing that I should do the world a favor and just disappear. But something snapped. All I could hear in my mind, louder than any sound I knew, was NO, I won’t go there, and YES, I’m getting out of this. I will do it. It was more than a survival instinct, or fear of where I was headed. I had to push hard against the current that was forcing me in the wrong direction, and suddenly the strength and purpose were there. I felt in my bones that I did have a choice, and I’d better make the right one.
Most people don’t have to make a decision like that. They can take self-respect for granted and get on with living. I guess people with severe depression have to work harder to master the most basic dimensions of life, to keep going and to kill of the impulse to stop.
How are you doing at deciding things these days?
June 4, 2014 at 1:01 am
i am having problem in making decisions, for example if i am working on one thing, suddenly some one tells about some thing new then my mind will get attracted to it and i cannot concentrate on the work i am doing. because of this i am confused which one is my goal. and in which field i want to start my career. so can anyone help me how to decide which one is my goal….
April 5, 2014 at 7:58 am
I’m posting in order to subscribe to followup comments.
I’m 12 years into my recovery process and treatment for depression. I envy people who have loved ones willing to wait for them; I was very young (22) when I had my meltdown, and my ex-fiancée did not wait for me. I had left her for someone else in a desperate attempt to stop my pain; by the time I was clear-minded enough to realize what I had done, my ex had started seeing someone else and hated me. I’m still struggling to figure out how I let that happen.
Hoping says in an earlier post that you have to realize you’re depressed. I definitely didn’t. I felt like me; it turns out I’ve had dysthymia probably since birth, so the major depressive episode just felt like I was more intensely me, if that makes any sense. I didn’t realize that life wasn’t like that for everyone. Every decision I made felt like a life or death matter that had to be dealt with immediately. I feel like I’ll never stop paying ythe price.
April 8, 2014 at 4:22 am
Hello Fred, I was one of them people who was willing to wait for my depressed Ex, She left me for another man in her desperate attempt to stop her pain. Waiting it hard when you know the one you love is ill and they dont!..and the damage they do can be bad. We in the end have to move on to protect our hearts. Like most of us here we fight that battle hopelessly trying to get the people we love to see they aren’t themselves and we all fail. I dont hate my ex i love her dearly always will, but i will never forget how worthless she made me feel. And i hope she finds the courage to find hersefls again. And im sorry you to had to suffer from this awful illness.
April 8, 2014 at 5:26 pm
Hoping, thank you for your response, and thank you for trying to hold on. I think my former fiancée would have waited longer, but her parents were very much involved in her life and I believe tbey manipulated her via finances to give up on me. She was still financially dependent on them, so they had a trump card. That in no way alleviates my guilt.
I wish she had known I was sick. I really do think she simply thought of me as an asshole who had wasted five years of her life. I loved her, desperately so, but my sickness made her feel a million miles away. When she repeated that her parents said I was “dragging her down with me”, it was over for me. They confirmed my worst fears.
I wish her a happy life filled with love, but I wish it had been with me, or at least that we could have parted on happier terms.
April 9, 2014 at 4:08 am
Whats so hard when your trying to hold on is that from the outside it can look like a normal break up, but its far from it..your blind sided when someone with depression ends things. And it takes a long to to feel normal again. I know my ex lost her connection to me..but she turned on me was cold and indifferent. Now im not sure if i want to every see that stranger again. How long did it take you to become clear? And did you see everything for how it really was? Or was it still a skewed version of you reality? Again im sorry this illness ruins good things.
January 17, 2014 at 6:45 am
Whoever is reading this, I’m sure for most people it is a desperate hope to find an answer to what you are going through. I think this description of depression is the best I have found. I myself this morning was trapped in my own mind, which lead me here. These thoughts I describe are what I have decided may improve my life after reading this page.
The biggest thing that has gone wrong is not the actual things that went wrong, although they were horrible to adjust to, but the loss of the ability to find happiness, hope and meaning. Or perhaps the ability to accept that what you do may no longer have a great deal of meaning, (for example your day job – or trying to find one if you are unemployed) but that is how your life is and when there is no practical alternative to try to believe that it is ok and that you need to be ok with yourself doing what seems like un-meaningful tasks.
When you have no cause, it is very easy for people to try to help by telling you to find one. Of course there are many causes you would like to feel you believe in but maybe you aren’t quite attached to one yet in order for it to make a difference to how you value your life. Whether it be a faith, charity, person you love or passion (this is quite rare to find in a depressed state) I think the problem is that I don’t believe it will find you. Somehow you have to find it, even if you can’t physically go out perhaps you could find it in a book, on TV, online, another person you have contact with. Then you have to make contact with that cause – do something to feel part of it, whether it’s just a phone call, a letter or something more practical. After having a major passion and losing it through a series of bad events it makes sense for me to try to find a few little causes rather than one big one – without over complicating my life in a way that I can’t deal with when anxiety attacks or spreading my time between so many things that I have no sense of belonging. For some people it might be better to find just one cause, or sometimes I think it might be better for me to find a new one cause realising that if that one becomes difficult I will find another one. Everyone’s cause is different – but it should be your own, and not somebody else’s. You may be alone in your own mind, but you may not always be if you can let something else in.
I hope this works. I’m off to find a cause for myself. Thanks to all the lovely people that have posted on this page.
December 13, 2013 at 2:32 pm
First: Thank you John for setting up this page.
I have been writing earlier on (below) about indecision due to depression during stressful situations. Reading through this page once again helps to remind me how bad off I was just a year ago.
My summarization below is intended to point out some of the key aspects that have helped to redirect at least one “storied mind” back to his true and usual self. Perhaps these pointers may give some good insights of how to throw out the demon of depression hiding deep inside.
The importance of moving on – I used to be stuck “in my bed, too immobilized to eat or even go to the bathroom”. It is very important to find a way to get the momentum back in life. To start thinking ahead rather than looking back. As painful or useless as it may seem to try moving on it will still have the reward of having taken action in it. And taking action means regaining control. Do not be afraid to ask for help to get a move on. Total entrapment in unsolvable situations or unmanageable circumstances is the slow strangling killer when facing a major depression.
The importance of realignment – I used to “hesitate to make decisions because I’m afraid they will be wrong”. Clearly and without a doubt all important decision making while being depressed should be avoided. My experience with indecision is that life will graciously always give you more opportunities that will be there for you (yet again) when you are more ready to grab them. Realignment also has a great deal to do with changing life style, present life circumstances and/ or expectations on life. It is easier to find a daily sense of gratefulness when easing up on the goals and achievements.
The importance of others – I used to feel “isolated, imprisoned in my apartment”. Let’s just face it. If heading into major depression it is vital to have others to rely on for support (not for decision making but for the sake of recovery). I do not believe there are many people that manage to “shape up” on own without the help of a supporting friend or relative. Isolation leads to entrapment and the best way then is to avoid remaining isolated. One obvious step to help break the spell of isolation is to understand that you are not alone and that there is help to find.
The importance of faith – I used to feel completely lost and helpless. Somehow I cannot help but stressing how important it is to be able to find true faith in God. From then on you will always be heading somewhere, whatever achievements or failures in life that you struggle with are suddenly of minor importance, and you will never ever have to be alone again. Depression always seems to arise from losing faith in oneself. My point here is that lasting faith may actually be found elsewhere.
As far as I know the only really important decision I had to make while being depressed was to “never give up”. And that was not even much of a decision.
October 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm
I have to say this is the best explanation of feeling depressed that I’ve ever read. I couldn’t have put it better myself, I even recently penetrated the ‘saying NO to ending it all’ barrier, but It doesn’t get get much easier, in fact i don’t have the ‘ending it all’ crutch to lean on any more, I have to do this the hard way.
For those that have never experienced severe depression, this is what it’s truly like, your doctor is unlikely to understand to the extent this author does, and indeed the British NHS service understood depression so badly that it only drove me closer to ending it all when I was at my worst.
My advice; seek to understand your mind yourself, and try your best to love those around you, that will keep the hope if a better life alive. Also, confront your demons, it will seem impossible at first but once you take the first step it can only get better. (in my case i had to confront my father about childhood emotional issues)
Despite how you might feel there are understanding people out there but don’t be fooled there are a lot of uneducated people who cannot and will not understand your condition, avoid them if you must and seek out those who are a little more emotionally sensitive.
September 27, 2013 at 3:38 am
This is helpful to know, but only if your aware your depressed. My ex partner broke up with me afew months ago yet she’s depressed but in denial of it obviously not aware of it at all. It’s her reality how do I question her reality against my own?
August 20, 2013 at 8:31 am
really i learn alot from all of you.iam so sorry for that and i am now in the same situation since 20 day my boyfriend he broke up with and go away.but my question please if the dispressed pesron not come back why they have to go doctors and take medicine i was hopping he will back when he is will be ok and good?
August 4, 2013 at 8:14 pm
this is my biggest problem i ever had in my entire life.. i cant make up my mind on the right time and most difficult part of my life is when i didn’t make up my mind on time realize me that i made a mistake which make me very upset , disappointed n very sad…if you guy’s know what can i do for rid off from this situation plz plz plz tell me i really need inspiration…
August 5, 2013 at 2:22 am
Yeah, this can be a big problem. I deal with the same issue. I think depression makes me more sensitive to failure, so I hesitate to make decisions because I’m afraid they will be wrong. Part of the problem is, there isn’t always a lot of time to make the decision (whatever it is). So by the time I weigh all the positives and negatives and possible consequences, the optimum moment for deciding has already passed, and often it is just plain too late. I’ve missed an opportunity. I’ve lost out on something good, or I’ve lost a chance to experience something fun, or people have moved on in their lives and left me behind. Sometimes, you just have to make a leap of faith and go with your gut instinct and hope for the best. If you get too bogged down in what you “should” or “could” or “ought” to do, that can actually just become a way of avoiding the responsibility of making a decision. You wait too late and then you don’t have to decide. Then you get mad at yourself for NOT taking the leap and it just makes you more depressed. Or at least this is what happens to me. It is one of those vicious cycles. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. But if you go ahead and make your move, even if you fail you will know you tried your best.
April 26, 2013 at 2:54 am
This is my current downward spiral. It’s terrible..a terrible rut, “All the creative possibilities I might see when I’m healthy become so many triggers of obsessive thinking.” So, then I ignore everything till it builds so much that I’m waiting for something to crash and burn so I don’t have to do it myself. It’s like I want it to all end and go away so I have a way out and I can recuperate and start again fresh without all the obligatory sh*t in my life which drives my depression incessantly. bah.
Thanks for the article..much of what you describe is how I feel 100% of the time. It sucks. My counselor called it “Turning a Corner” when I must make a decision to a path that I want to try…which is incredibly hard for me :(. The unknown is scary. I dunno, why I’m responding, just want to say, I relate to everything in the article and everyone’s responses.
April 24, 2013 at 8:36 am
Great article, I too have hit rockbottom again in the space of 8 months and what you wrote above struck a massive cord with me. I hate the fact the depression I have effects me and family and this time has me questioning if still I love my partner anymore on top of my other issues. I don’t want to say anything or do anything yet until I’m in a better place, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get to a better place again.
Though I don’t want to commit suicide if I had a heart attack today I would be a happy man.
April 4, 2013 at 5:24 pm
In the past I too had a very difficult time making decisions when under a great deal of stress or anxiety. I found if I did force myself to make a decision, many times I would come to regret that decision later. Waiting until you are in a better place to make a decision, especially an important one, makes good sense. Thanks for posting!
April 11, 2013 at 7:33 am
I’m terrified of my situation that I feel is quickly getting worse. Severe depression due to long term unemployment, now broke, having to move out of my apartment and return to my conservative, small town to share a condo with my 91 yr old mother. At 54 and clueless about what I can do for employment I’m feeling panick, grief, shame, intense regrets but no choice left. My life feels ended. Doom and gloom surrounds me. Isolated, imprisoned in my apartment and beginning to fade awasy physically. I’ve had many depressions but was able to ride them out, now I have no choice but uprrot and relocate again, lost my house in the last 3 years so I’m spending time in any fashion to find comfort and distraction from the reality and torment I feel but can’t avoid the future choices. Many, many hours spent contemplating the utitmate solution but too frightened to lift a finger on that as well. Trapped and without hope, direction or sleep.
April 13, 2013 at 10:45 pm
You incapsulated the highly concentrated period of depression that may in fact be reflected in many who have survived the poisons of MDD for so long. OMG your list describing your mid life march through humiliation, loss and fear while suffering the constant burn of untreated depression was really spot on. Or I should say it resinated with me very much. I hold out hope and I wish you every opportunity for good and healing. Keep going, please… that’s what we do, right?
March 22, 2013 at 11:03 pm
I was searching the web to find an answer to my question, “why can’t I make a decision” and I found your post and read it and all the comments. We all seem to be in this black boat together, weathering a storm of anxiety, self doubt and indecision. I want to be part of life but I also want to cut myself off from everything. I lay in my bed, too imobilized to eat or even go to the bathroom.
I am not sad or suicidal, I feel nothing. I start an interest and even though I want to continue I have no motivation to do so. The only things I do are things I must because the shame I would experience in the eyes of others would be too much to bear. Like another commenter, I also feel it is contrary to my actual nature. In the good times I am born leader. i will read more of your posts to try to find the answer mean’t for me. I like your style of writing, there is a kindness in it.
January 24, 2013 at 10:06 am
I guess now’s not the time to decide to pursue some sort of permanent birth control…?
November 24, 2012 at 3:23 pm
I just reread this post and found new meaning. Fear of making decisions, procrastination, fear of failure remain with me . But somehow when all seems lost, I decide not to give up and decide to go on for another day.
December 2, 2012 at 10:50 pm
Yes you are right – giving up is suicide. And what’s the point of that. So yes I have once again raised myself up. There was something you wrote that has really stuck in my mind. We spend so much time “cursing” our depression and you said we must learn to live with it as part of who we are, not as if its a demon sitting on our shoulder (my words latter part!!). We need to take in into ourselves and really feel that it is part of our living composition, in our mind, flesh and bones. As with sleeping eating laughing crying, depression is part of the series, more some days and less others.
I am trying to include it as part of me rather than an external force.
Thank you John for your crisp clarity despite the mind-befuddling roaring and subsiding of depression.
January 24, 2013 at 8:31 am
I wonder for how long I can live this get by life,Sooner or later it will cease to be even an option and then that another day that I’ve been living will not come.Two choices are all I have-either get out of here or get out of life.I’ve already resisted making any decision for over a month,but this is killing me now.The sheer worthlessness of my being is weighing heavily on my conscience.Got,only days to decide now,but thoughts are so messed up that I can’t think clearly,if I choose life,i have to get out of here.
November 12, 2012 at 8:08 pm
Just found your site. You speak to the heart with your talent for words. You have a gift. Can’t write much now – too detached. But want to say what happens when over and over and over again you make the decision to lift yourself up and for awhile life is moving at a nice, manageable pace.; but then down you go again and again and again.. until there is no strength anymore to get up, to crawl away from the darkness. You know you will only return once again so why bother. This has been my pattern for 20 years and I am just too tired now, too worn out.. and feeling guilty and ashamed to burden readers with my despair.
March 22, 2013 at 9:51 am
As much as I wish us both renewed capacity to get up again and take our place in this amazing experiment, I totally understand the exhaustion you describe. I’d like to reach out and hold you up until you’re able again.
peace and strength to you,
Jeanie Bailey says:
March 25, 2013 at 3:02 am
You hold people up every day with your lucid and truthful words. I have read many web-pages on depression over the years and yours is the only one that reaches those dark pits where depression resides.
You have helped me realise that deperssion is part of me and not outside me; it is not a dark force that descends; its a darkness that lives within. It can’t be descarded so it must be part of the journey that is life. With that in mind I have started an exercise regime that has buffered the darkness and my life at this moment is content. I am living in this moment.
So Jon you have reached out and you have held me up so I can reach this moment. We can’t ask for more than this. I will be depressed one day again but not now.
I hope others may reach the realisation that depression is part of us. We can’t curse it. We can’t wring our hands and say why me. It just is as it is. We all feel suicidal at some point. We all reach points of utter exhaustion. We all have times where even having a shower is beyond our ability. I say to myself thats OK. This is me. I am where I am. Someday ahead I will be able to shower and feel the other parts of me that make me whole. Love to you all.
October 15, 2012 at 10:34 am
Once, I was on the point of making a serious mistake. I wanted to break up with my boyfriend because I had accumulated too many details of his gestures, attitudes and behaviour towards a certain girl. I was so angry and so frustrated. I didn’t want to part with him because I really loved him. We have a five-year relationship. All I did was to cry and be indifferent to him, although he was acting normally, but I was so lucid and so rational. I was even searching for other reasons why I should leave him. I was also listening to sad music which made me feel even more horrible than I had felt. I think I was a sadist myself. I felt depressed for almost two weeks. He noticed that I wasn’t okay, and started asking me questions. I would avoid them. After so much pain my reaction would be to alienate from him. But I simply didn’t have the guts to leave him and tell him what I was thinking. Little by little, those thoughts left me, because I realised he was still loving me.
Nevertheless, I am still predisposed to this kind of depression. Now I realise how much depression can change you if you allow it to do that. I felt as if I were a stranger myself. That pain needs a pause at some point, and you think that taking a decision at that very moment would change your life and be happy again. You have the impression that you’re right, but you are completely in the wrong. Maybe I am exposing myself to suffering and too much pain, but in the end I don’t have the courage to take up the responsibility of a wrong choice and I just leave it. Anyway, it is a dangerous method.
October 1, 2012 at 5:07 am
The two articles I read-the one about relationships and this one about decision making with depression really spoke to me. My husband decided just before our wedding that he wanted to move back home, which is overseas to Israel. I’ve always had the tendency toward depression, but as our departure came closer I was struck with a nasty bout of it. I saw a psychologist, marriage counselor, and began taking Zoloft just to be able to be alone in a room without the “what ifs” swarming in my head and tears swimming in my eyes.
What’s strange is that I never felt like I decided to move- I could have called off the wedding, not filled out the paperwork, not packed up/sold my belongings, not boarded the plane, and I could have left at any time, but I never really decided-this is it, I’m going to live abroad, I’m going to make this work.
Even though I logically know that postponing making a decision until I feel better is the best idea in my situation, waiting has its own set of “whatifs.” I’m constantly reminded that I’m already 30 and if I ever want to have a family…
And I don’t even trust myself in my feelings about my husband. I’m currently so resentful of him (feeling like he forced me to move here, not accepting my hand in the decision), that I would be relieved to just go back to the U.S. But there’s no doubt that I would miss him, regret it…
He is trying to be patient with me while I blurt out negative feelings, but he’s anchored his feet… he says he staying here no matter what I decide.
John Folk-Williams says:
October 5, 2012 at 10:57 am
Hi, Michele -
What a terribly difficult situation to be in when you’re depressed. I’m not sure if it would help you, but the method of focusing on what you most value rather than the reasons and what if scenarios might simplify making a decision. It’s the approach I describe in the latest post on Inner Beliefs vs Outer Action. The best motives for choosing are rooted in the things we value most deeply. This is something I’ve been learning from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and is a broader view than the one I had in mind while writing this post on making decisions.
My best to you -
September 19, 2012 at 1:57 am
As a woman whose husband has been diagnosed with depression and who has now had him leave me with our 8 month old son for a new woman and life so unlike we built together, Im beginning to wonder if his decision to sell our house and divorce should be stalled until he is 100% well.
His medication has been doubled for the last 2 weeks but he is still drinking heavily on them but seems clear headed and is adamant this is what he wants…He doesnt love me, wants out of our marriage and wishes to set up home with his new woman who also has mental health issues.
Its so hard for me to know what is best to do as he is constantly telling me he doesnt love me and we need to sell up etc, but this has come out of the blue, and he is living a life all of the sudden that is so unlike him and is actually a life he would criticise others for leading.
June 6, 2012 at 10:15 pm
Thank you. I feel relieved I am not alone with the torture of making a decision under duress.
March 4, 2012 at 11:26 pm
Superb piece. What strategies does one follow to overcome this?
John Folk-Williams says:
March 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm
That’s a hard one to answer. Usually, I try to avoid any big decision when I’m depressed. At times I’ve tried a mechanical approach of listing out criteria, pro’s and con’s etc. The problem with that is that there is a crucial emotional component to every important decision. If it doesn’t feel right – despite all the rational reasons for doing it – you won’t want to follow that decision. When depressed, of course, I either feel nothing at all (so worrying about the decision seems pointless) or so despairing that every option seems miserable and hopeless. Not much fun.
May 15, 2012 at 11:56 pm
I also like this blog a lot and can relate strongly to almost each and every experience described on account of depression.
I am presently having my second hurdle in life with regards to this immobilizing condition. It is a very much real and terrifying experience that somehow also feeds on itself and that practically makes me unable to sleep more than a few hours a night and makes me toss around in shivers/ shakes of anxiety.
Right now I am stressed to make a crucial decision if I should go ahead and buy an apartment that has been booked for purchase andI have extreme difficulties in coming to a firm decision. The indecision makes me stay mindlocked rather than to be able to move on. Letting the deadline pass without having reached a clear decision is equal to an avalanche of despair and regret. Any decision made in time (yes/ no) cause immediate fear of having come to the right or the wrong decision and so I reevaluate again for a new decision.
Since this is a flat that we will forcibly be locked down with for at least 5 years the emotional ingredient is very important – and as explained it is either non-existent or randomized. It is impossible for me to judge clearly from the present point of view and it is driving me insane. And time is running short.
From where I am at right now I am not even sure if I can even make it to any appointments to even sign the papers if I go for ‘yes’. Indeed it may be very awkward.
The ‘do-or-die’ in having to decide when you are really not well is deteriorating me as I cannot snap out thinking about of it – all of the time – and even if I am reasoning to let things be/ to let it go / I bounce right back into the decision making thought process sooner or later. When in this kind of mental condition everything becomes a trap. There are no solutions and it is easy to spark off other negative evaluations.
Thus from my present point of view I find it downright dangerous to have to make major decisions when heading for a more severe depression since it will always come out random or not at all in the end because of the emotional turmoil/ or blankness, the confusion and physical exhaustion. But what if you must choose and are in a hurry to do it (we are talking about hundreds of thousands of $ paid for someone that is not rich)?
John Folk-Williams says:
May 21, 2012 at 8:36 pm
Hi, Kim -
You convey the anguish all too well, and I’ve been trapped in that do-or-die decision mode too many times. In the situation you describe, it sounds like there is no option not to decide – is there? Letting the deadline pass is the same as saying no?? What I’ve been training myself to do is to just face the fear and walk through it. The fear by itself is only that, and I find that the real-world consequences are never as terrible as the anguish and panic – or the intense shame of not deciding. It sounds too rational and pat as I write that down, but in a way the fear is the problem I’m facing, not the decision. And I’ve let fear run my life for too long. Maybe it takes a certain amount of fear-bred disaster to get to the point I’m at now. I’m sorry it’s so impossible for you, and I hope you’ve been finding something to guide you through.
May 28, 2012 at 10:53 pm
Thank you for your reply. I am in dire need of encouragement.
Just want to share on what happened after the deadline expired. Shed some light on it for others to read…
I cowardly let my wife steer our steps, reasoning that she would see things clearer than me. I believe that she did choose my health over finanical gains and status. Thus I feel like I did not give her any choice. From that moment on it had to become a sacrificed opportunity, a “no”.
For me things are now in a shutdown, motivation lost, no future perspectives, self pity. Depression is still there but the acute anxiety is gone leaving room for apathy. I admit serious regrets for not facing my fears. For not being decisive. For abandoning my post in the midst of battle.
Today my therapist ask ‘so what has changed?’. I reply ‘nothing’. My wife says ‘everything’. Feel like still stuck in a hole unable to see anything else but rainy clouds far above. She is already a bird in the sky.
It is impossible to know what would have turned out better or worse, but it seems at least that even if ‘no’ in this case was a bad decision we do continue to live in the present and I am to some degree relieved and did not force change upon myself (and others) at a time most vulnerable.
The spell of depression is not broken and confidence is at an all time low. But life goes on regardless. No one died. No one was injured. Cash still in the bank, even if the heart is poor.
If anything, through this ordeal, it has brought me closer to God.
February 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm
Many days (they flow into each other) I wander from what absolutely must be done, like laundry, to absolute immobility, like lying in bed. The time spent in bed might even be worth something if I could sleep. But I can’t. I’m either trying desperately to keep from thinking, or I’m obsessing about conversations I want to have with other people but never will. Often, these “mental conversations” end darkly. I am almost seduced by the pleasurable fantasy of “disappearing,” as you say. And there are many ways to disappear besides suicide – holing up in my apartment and refusing to answer the phone; packing up my stuff and moving to Arizona; refusal to visit any of my usual haunts and therefore setting myself up to be forgotten, and even delivering myself over to a punishing diet and exercise wellness routine. Some people disappear into books, some into gambling, some into drugs. There’s a whole smorgasbord to choose from.
I’m afraid to interact with people and society, but what happens if I “disappear?” Would I be any happier or would it just be more bed-time obsessing?
John Folk-Williams says:
February 23, 2012 at 10:39 pm
Hi, Donna -
It’s so good to hear from you again! It sounds like you’ve had a hard time recently, and I hope you’re feeling better. I must say as a veteran of disappearing that I wouldn’t recommend it. Sometimes, it is sooo tempting, like a beckoning paradise of simplicity and contentment. But I’ve always found it to be a dangerous Siren song that only leads me into more pain – and shame.
Wellness Writer says:
September 28, 2009 at 11:19 pm
Terrific piece. Yes, I know how difficult it is to make decisions during a depression. In some cases, I learned that I was better off not making them because my judgment was impaired.
In other cases, I couldn’t seem to make a decision no matter how hard I tried. And perhaps some of that was because I had become terribly confused about what I wanted or thought I wanted.
What’s interesting to me is that an inability to make a decision is contrary to my nature when I’m well. One of my best skills is my analytical ability, and I like making decisions. So…it was always so disturbing to be so wishy-washy.
September 29, 2009 at 7:52 pm
Thank you! I know well what you mean about acting against your nature when depressed. I have endless experiences with that, all of them things I wish I could just forget.
Holding off from deciding sounds exactly right. Trying when you have half a brain to work with only adds to the torment.
All my best to you -
Wendy Love says:
September 27, 2009 at 5:10 am
Here is another article on decision making and depression which may shine some more light http://www.bphope.com/Item.aspx?id=592
September 29, 2009 at 7:47 pm
I finally had a chance to look at the article you mention. People had to make choices under (mild) stress and went with the safer one, associated with smiling faces. That makes sense – though that sort of stress – momentary distraction while trying to make the choice – doesn’t capture the sustained impact of depression. Retreating to safe ground when the mind isn’t free to do its work sounds like a good strategy.
Thanks for the reference.
September 25, 2009 at 2:16 pm
I um ‘suck’ at making decisions. Recently I was trying to decide on a therapy method and therapist, and ended up just going with whatever was closest to hand. Not the best way.
However, I also found that sometimes I would try to hedge my discomfort with decisions by doing a lot of research – for me, research can lead to endless detours and procrastination and in the end, I would still have to make a decision. I spent about two years trying to decide on a brand of car – in the end, I just went with a Honda because I’d had one before and liked it. A lot of research and agonizing wasted really.
Now what I’m trying to do more is to discern what I really want – what is it I really like, emotionally? That’s kind of a small voice inside, not so easy for me to hear. But that way, at least I choose something I genuinely desire, whether in the end it was the best choice or not. Kind of trying to respect my own personality.
Now, what do I really want for dinner, truly? Perhaps pasta…with something green. Yes, that will make my heart glad!
September 26, 2009 at 4:38 pm
Hi, Ellen -
That sounds so familiar – two years for a car is impressive. Of course, you don’t want to rush into anything. I’m busy at every procrastination sale and always come home laden with bargains.
But you’re so right, you have to get clear about what you want. If only that were a simple thing to do! It’s embarrassing how long it takes me to figure out what I’m really trying to say in these posts. At least I’m able to keep asking that question and staying with it until I’ve cleared away all the digressions. But it takes way too much time, given all the other things I’m trying to do.
I like that idea of respecting your own personality. Perhaps that’s a key part of this inability to decide – not accepting the legitimacy of your own wants and desires but trying to import them from somewhere else – like research into what other people think you should want.
Best of luck – I hope you enjoyed that dinner.
September 25, 2009 at 10:01 am
I am finding your blog most helpful and enjoyable; and, I agree, you have a great writing style!
I wish to share a book that caused a shift for me: Mystic Path to Cosmic Power by Vernon Howard (or any work by Vernon Howard). Yes, it’s a corny title, but it contains authentic answers to worry, heartache, and suffering.
An excerpt: “We must see what happiness is not. It is not exterior activity; that is merely a distraction from inner unhappiness. What, then, is happiness? The answer is not complex. Happiness is simply a state of inner freedom. Freedom from what? With a bit of self-insight, every individual can ancer that question for himself. It is freedom from the secret angers and anxieties we tell no one about. It is freedom from fear of being unappreciated and ignored, from muddled thinking that drives us to compulsive actions, and later, to regrets. It is freedom from painful cravings that deceive us into thinking that our attainment of this person or of that circumstance will make every right. Happiness is liberty from everything that makes us unhappy….it is formless; it cannot be fitted into the frame of our demands. We insist upon this wife or husband, this career or achievement, this home, this secrity, excitement, or distraction. Even if we get our demand, we are no happier than before; we have merely covered our unhappiness. It is still there, and it will inevitably show itself when change occurs. We must break the frame altogether, and just let life happen; then, we enter an amazing new world whose existence we never before suspected.”
“For a happy life is joy in the truth.” (Augustine)
September 26, 2009 at 4:28 pm
Hello, Louise -
That is a beautiful passage. It’s amazing how many writers I keep discovering who’ve been around for a long time and have inspired millions.
Thank you for letting me know about his work and also for your kind words about the blog.
All my best -
Wendy Love says:
September 24, 2009 at 7:44 am
This is so good, so well-written and so true! The way you break down the process of thinking and deciding and ruminating etc. impresses me. I tend to be a bottomline kind of writer and your details add so much. I decide when I am well, then regret when I am not well. One way or the other, it is a difficult process. I used to be very decisive and so being undecisive is a change which I have not yet adjusted to. Thanks for the challenging ideas.
September 25, 2009 at 10:44 pm
Thanks, Wendy -
You’re too kind! It interests me that you changed from being very decisive. I went through perhaps a similar shift at midlife as measured by Meyers Briggs. From being a very cocksure and decisive INTJ to an INFP – much less interested in reaching sharp conclusions as in exploring possibilities – often for far too long to get things done.
Thanks for your comment.
Talking to your partner
To the Partners of Depressed Men
John Folk-Williams Health Guide June 27, 2009
I’ve been married for well over 30 years and spent most of that time in one phase or another of depression. My wife experienced a lot of pain because of my behavior, and we came close to splitting up more than once. From reading dozens of stories online, including many sent to my blog, I know that what happened to us is not uncommon – though the ending is often less happy than it was for us.
The stories I read – mostly from women – tell of hurt, confusion, fear, anger and desperation at the sudden transformation they’ve seen in their partners. A loving spouse turns into an angry, withdrawn and sometimes violent person who blames his partner for causing the pain he feels. Most of the time, he refuses to say anything, other than words of abuse. Many isolate themselves, others actually leave for a time and return, some men leave for good. And they do everything they can to avoid looking deeply into themselves. I’m sorry to say I’ve been there, I’ve done that.
If you’re going through this kind of agony with an intimate partner, I know from our experience that it is possible to survive and to restore a damaged relationship. But for us, it was by far the hardest and most demanding thing we’ve ever done, and there were many times when my wife was convinced there was no hope.
I found one book that was especially useful in understanding what can happen to relationships under the influence of depression. That is Terrence Real’s I Don’t Want to Talk About It. Taking stories from his therapy practice as well as his own life, he details this kind of behavior specifically in men. He calls it covert or hidden depression, and that fit well with my own experience.
For a great many years, I knew I had depression, but I thought that only meant I kept going through episodes of deep emotional bleakness. I did not realize how pervasive its effects could be in clouding and scattering my thinking, intensifying anxiety and stress, filling my mind with obsessive and even paranoid thoughts and completely destroying my self esteem. So I acted out, blamed my wife for what I felt until I could at last understand what depression really was.
Then it was no longer covert at all but out in the open – a part of my daily awareness. At that point, I could begin to deal with it, and at last there was hope for my marriage.
Julie Fast’s Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder is one of the best books I’ve found for understanding what my wife and I could do in order to save our relationship. Even though she writes about bipolar instead of depression, most of what she says is directly on point for other mood disorders. She focuses first on recognizing the illness and treating it – unlike many books which emphasize what the hurting spouse should and should not say or do. Her approach gives the big picture and helps the non-depressed partner avoid self-blame or imagine that she can bring about her partner’s recovery.
The most important advice I could offer is to remember that you can’t change your depressed partner. It has to start with him. He has to recognize the problem and seriously start treatment. You can’t do that for him. After that there are many things you can do to help, but you also have to look out for yourself and get your own support.
It’s possible for that loving partner to return and for two people to renew their closeness. It’s hard, but I know it can be done.
Talking Honestly about Depression
by John Folk-Williams
I’ve always had trouble talking honestly about depression, in therapy or out. Even though much of its influence is gone, this remnant of depression is still holding on. I was always able to report the latest news to a therapist – I’m down at level 2 instead of up at level 8 (or whatever other shorthand you might use). And talking about history was not the problem. I could summon up all the turbulence and pain I’d gone through long ago from the safe distance of time.
It was the here and now that stopped me. Telling anyone the full emotional truth of the present, as I was feeling it – especially the intense stuff – was next to impossible. The fear was that the words could not be formed without the emotions flowing with them, and it was the spontaneous rush of feeling that had to be prevented. Something in me always reacted faster than thought. It was more than a censor, it was a builder of strong barriers that walled the feelings in and me with them.
That autopilot response hard to stop, and it worked with cold efficiency most of the time, especially in therapy. That’s supposed to be a refuge for healing as old poisons are purged from my present life. How much emotional truth of the moment was I able to get out? Let’s put it this way. If there had been a buzzer going off at every half-truth, that would have been the loudest and most frequent sound of the hour.
It’s amazing that therapy has done me any good at all, but it has. I’ve always been able to talk about the past, even the worst moments, or about powerful dreams that force something into my awareness. These things provoked strong feeling, but however bad they’d been, they weren’t here and they weren’t now. If I did feel overwhelmed, about to cry – the door slammed shut at once.
It wasn’t just the talking, it was letting the feelings roll through and find whatever physical expression they were after. Emotions need the outlet of the body to be complete and serve their purpose. Not so hard to do in private, though I can have plenty of trouble with that too. (Remember that Real Depressed Men Don’t Cry!) But facing a live person – the resistance was like biting into splintered wood to shut my mouth and crush the feeling into manageable size. That hurts!
That wasn’t the end of it, for then I’d have this crowd of ticked-off feelings pounding in me to get out. There must be a law of physics about the conservation of emotional energy. It’s never destroyed but takes on different, more ghostly forms. I could never recognize them, but I’d always feel something strange happening. Each moment of denial put another to-do on the list of things I’d have to deal with later – that is, talk through. In the meantime, I had no clue when or how the stunted feeling would finally kick its way to the surface.
Emotions like to be sociable. They need to get out there and be seen and heard by the people I’m closest to, most of all, of course, my wife. Letting the feeling be itself can only deepen those essential bonds. Whenever they did get through the walls, as happened every now and then, my wife and I would feel the intimate connection all over again. How else, except by that emotional presence, could anyone get to know who I am and trust the relationship we’ve formed together? If I stomp out fear or grief, I’m also refusing to reach out for help, not to mention love, and refusing to accept it.
But all this holding back never had anything to do with common sense. It was about the deepest fear I’ve known, courtesy of severe depression. It was a soul-deep dread that intense feelings on the loose would release a terrifying force I’d been keeping in check. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but eventually I gave it a recognizable face. My own hideous and violent Mr. Hyde was waiting to spring free, and that I could not allow.
Of course, I knew that was a crazy thing to believe – especially after all sorts of therapy and self-probing – but on a depressed and primitive level it felt like truth for many years. He was everything half human and monstrous that my depressed mind told me I must be. Chains and shackles were all that held him, not to mention round-the-clock surveillance.
He’s not really there anymore, but the habit of holding him and every intense feeling in check hasn’t gone away completely.
So talking about depression, which bundled this dread together with all the other symptoms, has never been easy. Nevertheless, I was able very slowly to learn the skills that let me see clearly what I was doing and stop the weirdness, on most days.
So how’s your emotional truth level with a therapist or whoever you try to talk to about depression? On a scale of 1 to 10, you usually come in at … ?
October 7, 2009 at 6:05 am
Just to say…
Yes.. You are so right! Depression differs only slightly from person to person and its masks are few.
Amazing then, that it is still so profoundly isolating.
Hope you are well.
October 7, 2009 at 8:23 pm
Who knows – maybe some day we’ll be able to enter a collective mind space and crack the masks forever. ;-)
October 5, 2009 at 1:43 pm
Believe it is important to recognize and factor in innate characteristics of the personality such as being either an introvert or an extrovert, which has everything to do with the best therapy for depression. An extrovert may need talk therapy and the exchange; an introvert would probably do better being in nature, a walk in the woods or along a shoreline to clear the mind. Tools I’ve recently practiced with success in fighting depression are: putting space around my thoughts and watching them pass through without condemnation in recognition of my duality, that I am not my thoughts; and, doing something for another, expecting nothing in return. Getting my mind off myself, I find, is second only to laughter as a best medicine.
October 6, 2009 at 12:08 pm
Hi, Louise -
Those are great ideas, though this introvert has often done therapy as well. An exchange one-on-one always helps me, but groups are a strain. I usually wind up putting on a false face at those and so avoid them – definite introvert behavior. Mindful meditation has served that purpose for me of stepping aside from the flow of thoughts and watching them go by. That does wonders, especially if it becomes a regular part of living.
I’m glad these things work for you – that keeps you in charge of getting better.
October 5, 2009 at 1:10 am
Hi John! I never once told my therapist when I had suicidal feelings. Mostly because I didn’t intend to let anyone know. Sort of because I didn’t want anyone to feel like I was emotionally blackmailing them. And sort of because if I decided to get serious about going down that path, I didn’t want anyone to stop me. Heh.
About other things, I dunno. I mean, I think I was generally pretty honest, but I also didn’t want to end up taking medication, so I think I probably skimmed the top off how I felt for that reason, too.
Sometimes, especially when my PTSD was really active, I had no choice. I couldn’t control how I felt, I couldn’t control it if a flashback occured in a session. So I’d lose it all over the place.
And in those times, I’d feel physically ill before going to see my therapist, because I was terrified of another incident. So its probable I pulled back then, too. To save myself.
Complete emotional honesty. How many of us ever do that, anyway?
October 6, 2009 at 11:56 am
Hi, Svasti -
Isn’t it interesting how we can control – for whatever reason – what the experience of therapy can be? We all do it sometimes, and not only because there’s something we don’t want to get into. How many therapists know how to handle anything beyond a little crying? If we don’t have total trust, it would be foolish to get into immediate hot button issues.
Thanks for being so open about it!
October 1, 2009 at 10:41 pm
While reading Talking Honestly about Depression, I have sensed myself as if in a cinema where film of my own life was going.
Emotions like to be sociable. They need to get out there and be seen and heard by the people …. Your note portray as our whole being, as a way out of our calamities: as the story goes, it’s bad to man to live alone.
Your post helped me to grasp myself – to understand the mystery of the artist’s need to display their pictures for the public review) Emotions just must be shared – that’s like the breathing that makes us alive.
October 2, 2009 at 10:37 am
Thank you so much, Tomas, for this beautiful comment. It touches me very deeply to know how this has helped you.
I had not thought of the special need of artists to share emotion by displaying their work, and the mystery of that need, as you say. That is part of the urge to create work in any medium – to speak the feeling to others.
All my best to you -
October 1, 2009 at 12:59 am
I don’t know where I come in at. Probably a 1.
Your post (again) feels as though you have read some kind of script deep inside me.
Talking openly about depression with anyone, even here in the blogsphere is AGONY… It feels almost impossible. I’ve been trying to write about it but I find that just the energy it takes to try leaves me feeling exhausted.
You have described the pain and the fear of repression so beautifully. It resonates so deeply that it almost hurts.
I know and understand the intense pain of keeping everything walled, repressed, hidden… and yet, the overwhelming fear that to NOT do that will result in being somehow swallowed up up by it.
“The fear was that the words could not be formed without the emotions flowing with them, and it was the spontaneous rush of feeling that had to be prevented. Something in me always reacted faster than thought. It was more than a censor, it was a builder of strong barriers that walled the feelings in and me with them.”
“But facing a live person – the resistance was like biting into splintered wood to shut my mouth and crush the feeling into manageable size. That hurts!”
Yes and yes.
So well put.
Your writing on this subject is some of the most powerful I have ever read. I wish I could talk to you.
Thought about a book?
October 1, 2009 at 10:58 pm
Wondering Soul -
Discussing all this has made me realize that the “script deep inside me” isn’t just mine or just yours. The details may differ, but so much is the same. Depression is an illness that spreads its familiar symptoms and tries to bury the uniqueness in each of us. Like a swindler, it takes real feeling and pays us back with counterfeit. There are endless ways to be fully human but only a few ways to be sick with depression. It’s especially agonizing to be able to see what’s going wrong – like the walls and suppressing feeling – and not be able to stop it, either because of the fear you mention or because that stuff happens before we’re fully aware.
I can’t thank you enough for all the kind things you say about my writing. [Of course, I can't really believe praise ;-)]
Take total care of yourself!
Wellness Writer says:
September 30, 2009 at 7:27 am
Another really important post. And thanks for sharing your feelings on this topic.
I, too, have found it almost impossible to talk about depressions when I’m experiencing them. The problem for me is that when I’m severely depressed, I don’t feel like talking at all.
However, I have always been capable of writing about my feelings when I am incapable of talking about them.
The problem is that I’ve never met a psychiatrist yet who will read what I’ve written and respond to that rather than asking me questions I have no interest in answering.
But, last December during one of the very worst episodes ever, I tried my hardest to discuss what I was feeling with my psychiatrist and when that wasn’t satisfying with another psychiatrist whom I had to drive more than two hours to consult with.
What I learned from both experiences was what I have long felt. When I am at my lowest ebb, psychiatrists (at least the ones I’ve seen, and there have been seven in the last 15 years) can’t help me.
Their clinical approach to despair leaves me feeling far worse. The professional distance they create does not heal me. And talking about feelings of hopelessness makes me feel worse rather than better.
This is not to say that I don’t believe in seeking help when I’m depressed. It’s just that I now seek it from people who in my mind are true healers.
October 1, 2009 at 10:29 pm
Hi, Susan -
I hadn’t thought about it in that way, but my experience with psychiatrists is similar. There have been a couple who have helped me at those bad times (though I’m great at understating and concealing what’s really going on). Many, though, listen for a while, then reach for the little white pad to add a new med or increase the dosage. That’s what a lot of them have to offer. A few in my experience, though, have had enough experience, humor and skepticism to see past treatment fashions and get back to the basic human relationship.
Your new approach makes a lot of sense – forget the credential and find the genuine healer. I hope you’ve found the right one.
All my best – John
September 29, 2009 at 10:25 pm
Telling the whole emotional truth of the present moment … Gulp … Does it ever feel impossible to you, John, to simply sense and locate a feeling in your body, or to know what it is? I find this difficult to write about because I’m in an open space of real confusion about what a feeling feels like … or even if I’m capable of feeling itself. Major depression totally buggers up the natural sensation, perception, articulation and expression of feeling. With all our defensive habits of repression, we’re left with unexpressed emotion that eventually backfires on us somehow. KABOOM. We act out, or act in.
“Something in me always reacted faster than thought,” you write, and I wonder if that might be instinct. An instinct to self-protect – perhaps the “autopilot” you name. I know this reaction … and it’s hard to pin words to it. When it’s beyond thought’s capacity to grasp, I wonder if it’s an infantile, precognitive reaction that occurs without conscious thought.
… I have to come back to your post … must get to sleep … John, your blog is a thinker’s delight, and a saving grace.
More later :-)
October 1, 2009 at 9:37 pm
Thanks, Jaliya -
Impossible to sense and locate a feeling in your body … I guess when I’m depressed, really at the despair level, every feeling is blended into one, and I’m not very conscious of what my body is doing. Confusion about what a feeling feels like .. that’s a powerful way to put it. That and the idea of being incapable of feeling itself seem to come with a different form of depression where I’m completely detached from myself and everyone else.
This is tough stuff, Jaliya! I’m so sorry you’re in that state now. The backfiring is a terrible part of all this – and makes it hard to trust myself with other people. I might say or do something I don’t intend – but there it is, coming from I have no idea where.
I hope you’re moving into a better space!
All my best, and then some -
Talking to Depression – 1
by John Folk-Williams ·
Talking to the depression of a spouse or partner is usually a no-win trap. I speak from the experience of having angrily fought off so many attempts my wife made over the years simply to let me know that something was deeply wrong. Depression is the intruder in any intimate relationship. It creates a replica of the person you know and love, like the pod people of the Body Snatchers films – identical bodies taking the life away from the man or woman living with you and substituting a terrifying, unknown being.
People enduring the pain of relationships distorted by depression tell their stories over and over again in the user groups, blogs, forums and message boards of the internet. These partners to depression, often bewildered and desperate, need the outpouring of support they get on these sites, but they want more than that. They want to know what to do.
Advice is easy to come by on the forums, and we’ve all had mixed experiences with it. Sometimes, it’s enormously helpful, but it can be preachy, dogmatic, irrelevant and even offensive or wounding. But whatever the shortcomings of the help offered, I find it always to be passionate. Most of the participants online have learned what they know from hard experience, and sharing it is usually part of their own healing. Despite having to sort through much that is not relevant to my situation, I keep returning to these forums to understand more about the struggle of living with depression.
But I have a very different experience when I turn to some of the best known books offering analysis and advice on how to respond to a depressed partner. I’m going to avoid names here because there seems to be a more generic problem than one I find in a single writer. It’s a very tricky thing to offer step by step advice to people dealing with depression because the term covers a multitude of conditions along a spectrum from mild to suicidal.
The best writers, from my perspective, ground advice in their own experience with the illness and are helpful in guiding readers to adapt the suggestions to their own unique circumstances. I find Julie Fast’s work – though dealing with bipolar rather than depression, (Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder) to be very helpful for just these reasons.
Many other writers have their own websites and forums, and I often find a strange break between the down-to-earth advice found in their online sites and the overly neat prescriptions in their books. Now, please understand that I have enormous respect for each of these authors. Their books are best sellers, and they have helped thousands of people better understand how to deal with depression. But I’d like to review a few of the problems that most trouble me as I search for advice that would be helpful in my own marriage.
Here’s an exchange from a popular forum that captures what bothers me about the advice in one such book. A woman had posted a few times and expressed enormous relief and gratitude at finding this source of help and support. Following is a response to one of her statements – quoted first below.
“…. I am still trying to persuade him to get help, but so far with no luck.”
Response:”Stop doing that. All he will do is actively resist it. If you make him an appointment [with a therapist], he thinks you are (s)mothering him, and he resents it. Not will. He does.”
“Really, I should stop trying to persuade him? I just read the chapter in [author's book] about using persuasive techniques – so that’s what I tried. I guess I’ll stop.”
The woman seeking help is so hurt and confused that she is grabbing whatever advice comes her way. The book’s prescriptions about how to persuade her husband to get help sounded so clear and doable that she went for it. Finding that contradicted by an experienced contributor to the forum, she goes for the new suggestion – advice which makes more sense in the context of my own experience. The problem with the book’s advice was that it ignored the storm of intense emotion and conflicting feelings in relationships damaged by depression.
In re-reading several books of this type, I’ve listed out a few of the things I find most troubling.
1. They often present a stereotype of the depressed partner as incapable of thinking rationally, helpless, needing to be guided like a child, needing to be treated and talked to carefully lest the wrong words trigger an angry or violent reaction. Of course, there’s an element of truth in this, but there’s a lot more going on. Denial is not the same as irrationality. To use myself as an example – though I know I’m not unique in this – my rational mind is often functioning perfectly well, but in the midst of depression it is disconnected from what I’m feeling and capable of doing. The best support comes from understanding that I’m in the grip of something I haven’t been able to control, not from assuming I can’t think straight.
2. Despite the characterization of irrationality, the advice is completely rational. Here are the stages you as the non-depressed partner go through, here are the steps to take in dealing with the depressed partner. Here is what you should say, here is what you shouldn’t say. I don’t believe it’s possible to use rational techniques of persuasion with a person in the midst of depression. More fundamentally, it’s not the words themselves that cause a negative reaction. It’s the attitude and feeling behind them. If I hear scripted words coated in reassuring tones that conceal hurt or anger – I’m not going to be fooled or pay much attention.
3. The advice also tends to assume that the undepressed partner has a big responsibility to help change the troubled one. First, this is unfair. Only the depressed person can initiate change. Second, I worry that a person trying these techniques, which in many cases will fail, will believe they’re not up to the job of overcoming the partner’s resistance. That not only damages self-esteem, it reinforces the idea that they may have contributed to the onset of depression. Or worse – they might come to feel that success in changing the partner will make them happy That’s almost a formula for codependence – putting the depressed person’s state of feeling above your own and making it a condition of your wellbeing.
4. There is a lot that the better books get right, but the priorities are often backwards. They emphasize that depression is the problem, not the relationship or the partner. Even though the impact of the practical advice might contradict this, it’s the single most reassuring thing a reader needs to understand. There’s an illness here; it’s not your fault. They also get to another key point, that the undepressed partners need to take care of themselves by drawing behavioral boundaries, setting conditions for what they can’t tolerate and backing those conditions with action, even if it means leaving the relationship. The problem is that these books often get to these points last, when they should be first and give shape to everything else.
5. Lastly, the books seem to assume that this drama is a one-time thing. If the techniques are applied and work, the relationship is saved and happiness results. If they fail, the relationship may well end. But, while many people may endure only one major episode of depression, it’s more likely that there will be many more. Having dealt successfully with one doesn’t necessarily mean that the next will yield in the same way. Both members of a relationship need to understand this possibility. They may well be in training for a long struggle.
Another anecdote posted by the same woman quoted above is worth repeating here. She and her husband went to a family gathering where he was completely sociable, happy and at ease. Overcome by the terrible difference between his behavior in that setting and his silence and abuse at home, she burst into tears. The husband saw this, as did other members of the family. They told him – You’re wife is crying, you have to do something. This finally got through to him. On the way home, he told her that he probably needed to get help. A small step, but a huge change for him.
That’s the way change can begin to happen. No learned strategies, no persuasive words spoken by the wife, simply the genuine emotion of a life falling apart. Added to that was the witness of concerned relatives outside the marriage. What could be more powerful than that?
- Donna-1 says:
July 6, 2011 at 4:33 am
I guess I speak of “order” because for so long it has seemed that “order” would solve my problems. If I could only arrange my priorities, if I could only plan for my future, if I could only control myself, others, and the world in general(!) and bring about an integrated whole, then the depression would end. That is the lie I was feeding myself…alnd in some ways it still calls to me.
July 4, 2011 at 5:43 am
How sad to read through these comments. I had avoided your posts, John, about relationships and marriage. The only light I could see them in was my parents’ relationship with each other, which was strained by father’s unconfessed depression. This drastically affected the entire family. I wasn’t thinking about my own relationship with my husband…that which we had while still married. And I knew I couldn’t change my parents’ relationship, nor could I repair the past. My dad is already dead and my mom is in her elder years. So why torture myself by reading your descriptions of men in depression?
What I failed to see was how my own depression had had a hand in wrecking my marriage. Certainly, my husband was no prize in my aspects. He was narcissistic, addicted to pornography, and in constant flux about his sexual identity. But our respective problems had been going on a long time before we met each other. It is just different when you have to share your problems with a mate; you become responsible not only to yourself (a task we each had let slip into disrepair), but to the other. If you can’t keep your own self in order, how do you bring order to a relationship?
But today, I started tackling your relationship posts with an open mind about my own contribution (and lack of same) to my failed marriage. It is so easy to blame him, because his were the more outward and obvious faults. Mine (mainly depression) remained inward and undiscussed. Nevertheless, much as my father’s moods colored my early family life, my own illness definitely had its effect on my later relationships. It is very painful to admit. But necessary. One more adventure in wellness-seeking.
John Folk-Williams says:
July 5, 2011 at 10:21 pm
Hi, Donna -
It’s true that depression always plays a role in a relationship, whether discussed or not. But I hope you don’t blame yourself at this point. There is such a mix of problems – the impact of your past, your depression, his issues. It sounds like neither of you could be fully open with the other. If I had been married to the kind of person you describe here (and I’ve read more about him on your other posts), I wouldn’t trust him enough to open up.
I doubt any of us can keep ourselves in order, or bring order to a relationship. The openness and constant talking are basic to understanding each other – but for that to nourish the relationship I think the basic trust, love, compassion have to be there for both. It would have been hard, it seems from what I can gather, for either of you to see and hear the other very clearly.
Anyway, I hope there’s more help than hurt in reading these posts.
November 10, 2010 at 1:19 am
after two bouts of cancer, being made redundant before retirement, losing our 43 year old daughter, his mother. Depression set in , dr put him on effexor. Our life has come to a screeching halt with a man who does not want to get up mornings, socialize, all upset that at 80 his friends are dying and I may die and leave him alone. I am at my wit’s end
November 13, 2010 at 9:45 pm
Hi, Joan -
I’m sorry that you’re having to live through a devastating problem like this. This sounds like a very severe episode of major depression, and much depends on your husband finding some spark of motivation to get further treatment. The medication seems not to be working at all, and that should be discussed with a doctor – preferably a psychiatrist, who would have much more detailed knowledge of the full range of drugs and their side effects than a primary care physician. I’ve found medication to be most useful to take the edge off the worst symptoms so that other forms of therapy – and my own efforts to heal – can be more effective. It would be best to discuss all the options with a psychiatrist since there are alternatives to drugs.
There’s a limit to what you can do to help him, but I would urge you to have your own support, if you don’t already, in whatever form you’ve found effective. Severe depression has a way of spreading to others in the family – you are so directly affected that your health, physical and emotional, can also be undermined.
My best to you – John
September 6, 2010 at 2:21 pm
Hi John, thanks for your helpful reply. The thing is, I already chucked out his stuff, unbeknown to him. It was such a liberating thing to do. But my main remaining question now is, since he doesn’t know that I no longer have his stuff, why hasn’t he been in touch? I was hoping you could shed some light on it. Like, would it be that he just never thinks about me anymore? Would it be because he can’t face me and feels badly about his behaviour? Is he just careless with his possessions? Or could it be that he fears being back in touch would stir up feelings for him? I know you can’t know the answer, but I’d be interested to hear any suggestions you might have!
As I said before, this whole thing happened just after my own father had committed suicide, which makes it particularly awful that my ex has never got in touch to even find out how I am. People say to me that I should just forget about it because it all just got too messy, as if somehow it was a foregone conclusion that it could never have worked, because of what had happened with my Dad. Call me unrealistic, but I think that’s untrue. It could have worked – with effort on both sides. That’s what I’m struggling to leave behind.
My other question for you is: do you think it’s a common occurrence for him to have turned round and started blaming ME for being the depressed one? He said to me, when he was trying to extract himself from the whole situation: “You know Sarah, I always seem to end up with emotionally unstable girls, and since I can be quite unstable myself, it’s not a good idea”. I thought that was such a cheap and insulting pretext for leaving the relationship. I’m not emotionally unstable – but I was GRIEVING, which he seemed to have got bored of, despite the fact that when we got together he swore that he was the person to help me on the grounds that he “knew all about suicidal urges”. I think it is so, so wrong to enter into a relationship with somebody who’s grieving, expect them to support you, and then when that person starts to fall apart because you have asked too much of them, you turn around and label them “emotionally unstable”. You don’t just drop people, in any situation, and certainly not when they have just been through a huge trauma. The worst part is that, when he walked out on me, he said ” you know Sarah, you’re just expecting happiness to come from outside of you, like in the job you’re doing or your boyfriend being home for dinner. But happiness can only come from the inside, when you work on yourself and face up to what’s missing”. Then he walked out the door. I mean, is it just me, or is that REALLY twisted and abusive?
I wish I didn’t fantasize about reconciliation – because I know I never could get back with him now. But the sad thing is, I still fantasize every day that I will bump into him on the street, or on the train, and he will want to work on it with me.
And most of all, I want to know whether he ever thinks about me. I think deep down he blames himself for most things, but as with many depressed people, he just externalizes all of that and blames everything that goes wrong on other people.
Also I wish I could contact his parents – do you think that is a bad idea? I recently found out through a contact of my mother’s that his parents were devastated when we split up and could not understand why he had left me, as they apparently thought I was a lovely person and very good for him.
So, if you have any other comments and perspectives – well, I can’t tell you how much it helps me. As you so rightly say, I’m not quite done with it yet. A big three cheers for your website
September 9, 2010 at 10:32 pm
Hi, Sarah -
Well, to be honest, I’m not at all sure I can come up with suggestions that would be very useful. As you say, I can’t know what he’s thinking – or anything about him other than what you’ve described. Perhaps that’s what I can mention – there is one thing that strikes me about what you’ve written in this and your earlier post. It’s this: Almost all the questions you ask about him sound like you’re searching for ways to remain hopeful about getting together again. On the other hand, most of what you say about his words and actions creates a convincing portrait of an insensitive, self-centered guy who has been manipulating and at times abusive toward you. Of course, you’re writing about a lot of hurt and confusion and conflicting feelings, and I don’t know of anyone who could come to terms with all that in a straightforward way. So I’m not surprised if part of you can describe a man who’s broken with you pretty decisively and part of you tries to find some hope in his silence and distance – or the occasional comments he has made to you. I remember all too well never being able to accept a break-up I went through long ago. I couldn’t stop calling, hoping, trying to push myself back into her life, convinced that I’d be able to get her back, even when she did everything possible to make it completely clear that it was over.
So I really sympathize with you but find it hard to say much more than this. I just hope this works out in a way that’s best for you.
It’s pretty hard to interpret
September 2, 2010 at 6:51 am
Dear John and Susan
Just wanted to express my absolute sympathy with Susan’s dilemma and say thanks to John for clarifying certain mysteries that still linger with me over my boyfriend’s departure
My boyfriend left on new year’s day, which was meant to be our first anniversary. Like other people who have written in to the forum have described, he was dazzlingly keen from day one, and spoke in very committed terms about the relationship although looking back I can see that those words were never backed up by action. I knew when we got together that he had been on antidepressants for some time and had suffered a number of breakdowns, ostensibly triggered by huge amounts of stress in his studies. He was incredibly bright, blustery and charismatic on the outside and in the early days of our relationship, I think I also had access to the more vulnerable, quieter, inner person. But the more I got to know him, and the more we had to deal with the inevitable conflicts and power struggles inherent to any relationship, the more distant he became from me. Any criticism of his behaviour caused him to withdraw completely. Gradually he became more and more defensive and it was as if anyone who did not reflect his “perfect’ self image was excluded from his circle. I began to notice that his friendships were kept deliberately superficial.
It frustrated me so much that he did not seem to want to confront his own issues, and he was well aware that he had problems, because he had had some counselling and had a very difficult relationship with his father, etc. etc. I made allowances for all of this, all the way through, but like others here, I eventually burst out in a rage that had been suppressed for ages. As Susan rightly identifies, this is a subtle form of emotional abuse and as the partner you do not realise that you are being dragged into it until your own self-esteem has been completely destroyed. In other words, with someone exhibiting such behaviour, it is well nigh impossible to forge a relationship of equals.
I began to feel resentful over time, and gradually I became depressed myself. I found myself putting his own needs well above my own, and when he was having a breakdown I put everything on hold to be able to care for him as I thought he deserved. He came through it, but afterwards, he distanced himself gradually from me. He wouldn’t invite me out with his friends, and never once took the initiative in suggesting that we go away together for a weekend. I felt I was doing all the giving. And sure enough, when I began to slide into a depression myself, he was working such long hours that he barely noticed me. It was all fine and dandy with him, and the implication was that I was now getting in the way of him having the happy time he had now “earned”.
I felt so angry and neglected that I got angry with him at a party [mistake!!] and the next day he told me he was leaving as I was “too much responsibility” for him when I was down myself. 4 weeks previously, he had been telling me how he wanted to invest so much more in our relationship and was so happy and close to me. Now, he was coming up with all sorts of pathetic excuses why we couldn’t be together, like how we weren’t into the same hobbies, mixed in with casually cruel remarks about how he could never see himself having children with me. When he walked out, I was shaking and felt unsafe and completely blamed myself. he never even asked a friend to check on me.
His behaviour was not only abusive, it was also highly negligent. He never got in touch to come and collect the considerable amounts of stuff he had left at my flat, or to check how I was doing, or to discuss us. So again, it was I who, by this time having seen my doctor and started a course of prozac myself – decided that I would, yet again, be the one to take responsibility for us. He still mattered so much to me and I couldn’t bare to see him throw away yet another relationship (he has a history of short-lived alliances that end in tears). So I rang him up. I said we needed to talk about us. But he avoided any discussion of us, instead pretending everything was OK and saying we could go to the cinema, and be friends. Anything but confront what had just happened. I found this behaviour immature, baffling and completely infuriating. My way of dealing with it was – rightly or wrongly – to keep trying to get through to him, but I realise now how futile some of those attempts were. When you say, John, that it’s likely to make him feel even more trapped if the woman keeps declaring her love and constancy, that really struck a chord with me. He withdrew from me physically and was unbelievable cold and distant. As if he had started that “new life” or “new self” that he so craved. And it took me a long time to work out that his level of denial was so deep that nothing and no one could get through to him. We met up a few more times over the course of the next few months, and when I offered him his stuff back he said he “wasn’t in any rush to get it back”.
John, do you have any thoughts on all this?
September 6, 2010 at 12:56 pm
Hi, Sarah -
I’m really sorry you had to go through this hellish experience, and it sounds like you’re not quite done with it yet. (?) There’s so much betrayal in this kind of self-centered and abusive behavior. Thank God you understand what he’s doing and that trying to get through to him – or taking care of his needs – doesn’t work. Depression doesn’t necessarily explain or account for this – not fully – it sounds like that’s just the way he is. (Please understand that when I hear stories like this, I get right into my judgmental, righteous mode – and I’m sure I’m oversimplifying.)
One thing that I recognize – because it’s so common – is his wanting to hang on to you – not only with the idea of being “friends” but also by leaving his stuff at your place. That’s usually a way of maintaining some control by having you serve him – assuming you’ll store his things. Allowing that to happen assures him you’re still tied to him, even a little. Abusive behavior is more about control and manipulation – whether consciously done or not – and does aim at destroying your self esteem – as you recognize. I know how hard it is to get it back once compromised – and being decisive to stand up for yourself.
My rational mind, as I mentioned in the recent post on the open door, advises you to let him know – through a blunt email or some other impersonal way – that unless he removes his belongings by a date certain you’ll call Goodwill to take it away and toss what they can’t use. Emotionally, I can understand the push and pull of anger and attachment and how difficult everything about him must be.
You’ve come a long way in a relatively short time. I’m sure it seems like forever, but, as you know, others have lived through decades of this sort of relationship.
My very best to you -
June 21, 2010 at 1:52 pm
Despite my response (No 14)your post of 17th (no 13) challenged me to look again at my relationship, in fact i’ve spent the whole weekend reflecting. I have been trying to understand including asking why this anguish keeps coming back every few weeks with renewed vigour and why, despite some misgivings throughout this relationship, I was so totally destroyed by its end. Finally I have started to realise why my mind would not let this drop and to face the unthinkable.
This relationship seemed like the answer to a prayer and the love was something I had never experienced in all my life (I was married to my abusive & difficult husband at 18). It quickly seemed like something that was just meant to be, so right, wonderful and the love of my life that it was tantamout to heresy to think otherwise or to challenge it or admit to doubts.
There were things that just didn’t seem right, statements, actions and I continued to be sucked into, and carried along by it. I kept suppressing concerns that, if expressed, seemed to be bypassed or taken over by his needs. Besides some of the things in my first post there were others that I’ve been almost afraid to think about. 6 smonths into the relationship there was an incident, this has nagged away at my soul and refused to lie down, something that just didn’t fit with the kind, gentle, considerate person my partner purported to be. I’m now daring to admit that this was physicalsexual abuse but I was so frightened, inexperienced and reluctant to break the spell that I didn’t protest verbally and when I brought it up later it was denied and dismissed so again I put it to the back of my mind.
As I said before his health, life, finances seemed to take over my life and my every waking minute. Responsibility for all the depression issues were put onto me.
He envisaged a world with just himself and me (which I believe fits your description of fantasising about a wonderful, rosy world where everything was so perfect that it cured all his problems) and was annoyed that I spent time at weekends on other things, he said he felt pushed out.
That I refused to stop my hobby caused friction, my running and training had been instrumental in keeping me sane and maintaining some self-esteem in my marriage, but giving up was presented as ‘concern about my health’ as I’d had a couple of injuries and rounds of surgery. This hobby was so vital to my emotional health that I was happy to risk the physical consequences. I was gradually pulled away from my running friends though.
All his opinions were presented as just good sense (or sometimes disloyal); almost treason, so you are right – his version of reality had to prevail.
I wouldn’t conform to his wishes as I didn’t stop my hobby and I wouldn’t drop contact with my dear family, though this wasn’t directly suggested, needing to spend much more time together was more subtle. So perhaps that too was instrumental in his emotional withdrawal and eventual cold, clinical ending of the relationship.
John, I think you should move our exchange to your post on psychological abuse, you were right on this. There is much more that I can’t face today. It is summarised well in your description of this type of abuse in your post date 17th June.
I still believe that this is very closely linked to depression-there was much evidence of this. This level of abuse is perhaps, as you say, driven by emotions like fear & shame and reflects both the extreme level of denial needed to keep introspection at bay and also the feelings of things like personal inadequacy. I am convinced he had a lifetime of these issues but whether his abuse of me was unconscious or conscious is one thought too many for today.
I’m obliged to you for pushing me into confronting the fact that what I thought was the most wonderful experience of my life was a complete illusion but it’s been a very distressing journey.
Thanks for saying that it was not my fault – that helps though I know that I was so submerged that I suppressed my fears and instincts.
I will try to relate some of the story to help your readers as soon as I can.
By the time you write a book, as I think you will, hopefully I’ll be able to provide more case study details.
All the best, God bless and take care of yourself and your family.
June 23, 2010 at 9:50 pm
Hi, Susan -
I’m so glad you’re beginning to find a way to work this out and get closer to some resolution. Most people I know can’t achieve this level of clarity without a lot of time in therapy. I’m glad if anything I’ve said could help, but it’s all your inner strength to keep pushing yourself to look so closely at these painful experiences. There have been many times when I’ve tried to do that but wound up blotting the whole thing out (often by falling asleep in the midst of thinking or writing my way through it) or else just anguishing over the past without learning anything from it.
You’re so candid and just plain brave to write all this and share it with others here. As you suggest, I’ll move this exchange to the recent post. In fact, I’d like to base a new post on what you’ve written – consisting mostly of quotes from your comments. Your writing and experience are so powerful, just as you’ve put them so far, that they should have more attention than the comments often get. Let me know if that’s OK with you.
I welcome and thank you for anything else you’d feel free to contribute here.
My very best to you as you continue to work on this.
June 18, 2010 at 1:44 pm
Thank you for your reply. You are right that the reply was not what I expected partly because it’s focus was on me when I anticipated more of whathow he might be feeling and the consequent behaviors. Also partly, as you suspected, because of his possible role as the emotional & psychological abuser.
I have considered this before and I have to admit that I had some misgivings (and feelings of being taken advantage of) on and off through this relationship – this sometimes makes me wonder why I have been so totally broken by the end result. I’ve also asked myself if I’m not facing up to this possibility as it is so painful for me. However I’m trying to think rationally and objectively through many incidents and concerns in this relationship and, though there are many ‘close fits’ on both possible explanations I feel that the situation is one of a depressed person who acts abusively.
This is because I think that I know every nuance of emotional and psychological abuse and manipulation; I came to know it intimately during the 33 years of my marriage and the first 5 of my separation because, as you rightly say, I became unable to resist and was, in a way, almost complicit in the abuse. Contact only ended because husband found out sbout my relationship, refused to speak to me and started to speak abusively about me to my sons instead of to me personally. He could always find new reasons for abuse regardless of whether they had a slight, manipulated basis in fact or whether they were totally fictitious.
When I met my partner I certainly was very vulnerable and was swept of my feet very quickly. My experiences convince me that he, from childhood, has externalised and blamed others for his internal termoil and feelings of inadequacy. Also that this pattern of behavior is well-entrenched and that he paid lip-service to medication and therapy. I say lip-service because he seemed to expect a ‘cure’ to come to him, for example he said that he recognised that he took offence very easily and critised others too readily (from earlier rounds of therapy I think though he was not too forthcoming on this) but he carried on and on doing more of the same. I take the point, and agree, that only he can recognise and commit to making the changes needed for recovery despite his efforts to shift resposibility and blame onto me. But waiting, hoping, helplessly for that to happen is almost as hard for the non-depressed partner as living with the fall-out. Maybe harder because there’s no rules, guidance, measure, certainty and in my case neither hope nor closure.
My partner did not deny the depression it felt as if he used it as a weapon to demand special treatment from others and justify his lack of regard & care of them. He did deny any responsibility for the pain and damage it caused I think because of the gap between the things he knew in his heart were good and kind & his own behaviour was just to wide to face.
I haven’t closed my mind to your suggestion; some of your words were very close to the mark and thanks for the suggested reading, I will follow up on this.
I’m actually an intelligent, educated, competent professional person who can make an attempt at objectivity and moving on…. for a week or two … and then the hurt, confusion, loss and so much more comes flooding back with renewed vigour as does the need to try and understand. My instinct is saying that I need to understand to heal; hence my query. I just seem incapable of accepting and moving on even though this has destroyed me and my future as everything we had planned is no more. Underneath all this, and the knowledge that something very precious to me is gone forever, there is a very small voice saying “what about me”.
Your writing, your honesty and your willingness to examine your own behaviour and the consequences, even when it is painful, is helpful to partners who are feeling the hurtful consequences of depression. It is also rare as most information is focussed on the needs of the sufferer and completely omits, or understates, the harsh reality from the perspective of the non-depressed sufferer.
Thanks again I appreciate your time
June 19, 2010 at 5:13 pm
Hi, Susan -
Your clarity of insight is wonderful – though I gather it sometimes eludes you. Staying sane through 35 years of such treatment shows what a strong person you are. In the end, I suppose explanations of behavior and the labels that go with them aren’t so important as preserving an emotional integrity while doing what you can to save a relationship. I think men who are depressed and abusive are driven by fear and shame, and the most powerful thing they can do is just admit that to themselves. It’s even more powerful if they can say the words to the person who loves them. There’s nothing like telling the truth.
The severity of their behavior with others probably signals the level of denial that keeps them from taking a good look inside themselves. In a way, my own lack of self esteem helped turn me around. I could never fully believe that anyone else caused my problems – it was more typical to blame myself for everything when I was completely depressed. So when I was acting out – doing my worst – there was always that bit of doubt – who are you kidding? At least I knew I was out of control.
If I had not stopped and realized the depression was mine to accept and do something about, I might well have walked out on my family and then repeated the same pattern through a succession of failed relationships. People I’ve known who’ve caused the most harm have been completely oblivious of the needs of anyone else – and they never seem to get that wake-up call.
It’s hard for me to see a good outcome if that moment of truth never comes. It’s the precondition for allowing therapy of any kind to work, and certainly to reach recovery.
I’m sorry if I got things wrong in responding to your post – the impressions I’ve had come from your keen observations and clear writing. But it’s my armchair advice, and you’re living through it.
I wish you the very best,
June 14, 2010 at 2:50 pm
I’d value your help and insight to help me understand and cope with a problem that has almost destroyed me.
I had 33 years of unhappiness in my marriage, I now realise things I suffered were probably due to my husband being depressed. I stayed in the marriage so long because other people’s needs were always more important than my own eg my younger son’s lung disease, caring for my mother-in-law, my father’s Alzheimers etc. Things were so bad that it took me 5 years to recover after my separation, then I met a wonderful man, we quickly fell head-over-heels in love and I had so many new and happy experiences – it seemed as if someone was smiling on me at last. This man is the love of my life. A few things concerned me, even in the early days, but I tried to put them aside as I’d never been so happy in all my life. He had no friends, was very critical of other people, he used worrying words like ‘belittle’, status was important to him, he could be ‘touchy’.
After about 3 months he told me was suffering from depression, consequently was on benefits, and gave an outline of the condition. But, due to our relationship things were looking up, he couldn’t understand why he never totally recoved that first year. At the time I admit I was shocked, especially when I read up on some of the behaviors and consquences on partners which I put to the back of my mind. I also found it a bit difficult to understand as I had (somehow) come through a truly awful life with years of emotional abuse and much more.
He’d had a traumatic divorce after his wife left him after an short affair with a rich, childhood boyfriend. So in just a matter of weeks his marriage & business were destroyed leaving him, mid 50s with no job and two very young children. She never provided a word or a single penny of help or support despite a very affluent lifestyle. This was followed by, what he described as, an unhappy relationship with an abusive, ‘power woman’ who repeatedly verbally attacked him.
During that 1st wonderful year there were a couple of incidents when he withdrew rather than admit he was wrong that caused me huge distress as I’m a kindly sort who always puts other people before myself. He also needed a great deal of help and support; so much so that I felt almost squeezed dry, especially as I’d gone into the relationship feeling that I needed someone ‘for me’, but I was doing more and more giving and less & less receiving. However we were inseparable, totally in love and we had so many good times so I seemed to get sucked into putting my worries aside, when I tried to express them he didn’t really listen, the conversation inevitably turned to his needs and everything seemed to be about him. I was reluctant to divorce and marry him, despite his requests, partly due to fear of a claim against my pension scheme and partly due to a nagging concern about his behavior.
In our second year together i suffered a series of blows; my mother & sister diagnosed with cancer, my sick son had 4 major crises, a dear uncle and a close friend died, a dear friend had a traumatic pregnancy and eventual Down’s child then my cat, my constant companion over 16 years died. I needed help and support but, in reality, little was forthcoming despite his assertions of being a caring, wonderful person. Sometimes he barely listened or his interest felt mechanical, almost as if he was reading questions from ‘The Kind Person’s Guide’ and as soon as he got to number 6 he could forget the whole thing and go to sleep; he couldn’t comprehend why I couldn’t do so too. He went from being ‘touchy’ to selfish and quite unkind.
There was a major incident when I got back from a clinic where my mother’s cancer had been diagnosed (I’d already spent the morning dealing with a benefits claim for him when I really needed some comfort & encouragement)
and I needed some kindness and support. He’d had a problem with one of his daughters that I asked him to keep until the next day so I could cope but he continued pressing his story and ignoring my pleas until, in despair, I shouted that I couldn’t take a ‘selfish family’ story that day. Result: he withdrew totally for 5 days when I was in despair. He had been endlessly asserting his kind, supportive qualities when his actual behavior was the opposite. He never, ever could say sorry or accept any fault for anything. Afterwards he felt he was entirely justified had been offended because I had ‘attacked’ him (when, in fact, I was challenging thoughtless, selfish behavior) and said that because he hadn’t intended to hurt me the actual hurt he had added to my pain was inconsequential & due to my ‘bizarre’ aggressive behavior.
I was seriously down at this time and it seemed as if my needs (and, I think, him denying his own behavior) caused pressure that caused him to start pulling back from me and made me very unhappy and tense. Also he had almost exhausted his savings and his financial situation was becoming desperate. My natural kindness, generousity, considerate nature and love seemed to annoy him yet he was taking more and more from me. He was annoyed when I said I was tired after work a couple of evenings even though he told me how exhausted and tired HE felt every single day. This continued for almost 5 months with me becoming more anxious and him more difficult, the last weeks much worse with increasingly ‘odd’ behaviour. I didn’t recognise the depression storm clouds though he was becoming more self-absorbed, selfish and clinically, coldly cruel.
Then a huge row, (that I beleive he intentionally provoked) when all my fears erupted, he didn’t listen at all, so I repeated it shouting. I know i went over the top and I realise now the impact it had on his increasingly fragile condition – this grieves me and I feel so guilty. I rang him after a week and we spoke and met up a few times – but he was distant and unwilling to discuss anything but mundane things – any suggestion of ‘us’ or my feelings brought a complete blank; or the phone going down.
I was distraught, grief-stricken, angry, everything and he was clinically detached “we had argued, he had been offended and had withdrawn (in the face of unjustified attack – every challenge or request for some consideration of me was always an attack) totally normal, understandable and 100% justified and any mention of my feelings just brought stares of disbelief.
After a month of this I visited him and brought up the ‘us’ question. He (the love of my life) looked at me as if I was a thick, tiresome piece of trash and said sslowly that “he felt absolutely nothing for me”. I rreminded him of some of the wonderful things we had done together and all his assertions of love, marriage, mme being his soul-mate and the love of his life. wWithout a trace of compassion or kindness he said “it might have seemed like we were in love but people like me often assumed their partners returned their feelings when they actually did not. He admitted that it might seem a bit strange that he had been completely in love with his former abusive girl-friend and that he felt absolutely nothing for me even though i was the kindest, most considerate, most caring & loving, generous and thoughtful person he had ever met. If there was any chance that he might find some feeling for me I had to leave him competely alone for him to ‘recover’. The only concern he expressed was about being worried about his being single again. I was in total despair and spoke of my unhappiness and the wonderful things he had promised. His response: that my feelings were not under consideration and that what he wanted had to happen. As there was only the very slightest chance that he would find any feeling for me my thoughts & feelings were completely irrelevant.
Since then I have been so griefsticken but also angry and disbelieving about his callous cruelty and not able tto understand how anyone, no matter how ill, could iintentionally inflict so much pain on anyone, let alone tthe person who was supposed to be the love of his life.
Despite my grief I tried to be quietly ‘there’ and after a month of no contact I sent him a photo (of himself) and the next month a book both of which elicted a polite, but distant thank-you email. Then I got an email from him asking for help with a benefits overpayment charge and I responded with some suggested points. A few days later a letter came, somehow I expected an acknowledgement of my hurt, a reconcilliation, a kind word, anything. In fact it was a benefits appeal letter for me to check. This caused me to be near suicidal I have been so hurt, wounded & confused and since then have read all the information on depression on the internet and now appreciate what I found so hard to believe and accept before; particularly the ‘don’t take it personally’ but too late.
During our relationship he had two periods on medication but was not convinced that they helped though he was more concerned with avoiding side effects than recovering. In our final weeks together he was having counselling but, at the time, I was pretty certain he was telling her lies, or recounting things out of context, to avoid any thought of his having shortcomings but now I’m wondering if he was fighting accepting them or taking any responsibility for his actions.
3 Three months ago I got a polite two-line email saying that his appeal had failed and thanks for the help and since then there has been no contact as I’ve just tried to give him the space he requested but this has been very hard on me and not a single day passes without unhappiness and grief. I have taken up a new hobby, started meditation classes and postponed my retirement, (he was pressing me to retire so we could spend more time together), so I really have tried to help myself but the pain never goes.
I do not know what to do next for him, or me. Do people recover from where ever he is now? I truly cannot take much more, after a difficult life this has brought me to my knees and sometimes I just want an end to the pain, sometimes I just want the wonderful days back and sometimes I just want to tell him what he has done to me (and make him listen not dismiss, or zone-out, on anything that’s not about him)or to ask him where the wonderful person has gone.
I do care about him and his welfare first and foremost, but I also know that I’m just too fragile to cope with recurring problems like this but I just can’t walk away either, despite the advice from my counsellor.
I feel as if his condition has bled me dry, left me with absolutely nothing despite me giving my all(in fact less than I had before I met him as he gave me a glimpse of something good then took it away in the cruellest way possible)and I have neither hope nor any kind of closure.
II half suspect from some of the expressions he has used ((e.g.”it wasn’t right but she was a wonderful, kind, thoughtful person”)that he did something similar to the girlfriend previous to me but over a much shorter timescale(she tragically lost her sister early in the relationship). This lady died, perhaps a year or so ago so I keep wondering if he is denying letting her down and perhaps any possible guilt that he caused her unhappiness that contributed to her death;but this is sheer speculation.
I’ve read your comments on men who feel the need to move onto something new – as cure for all ills – instead of looking into themselves and I’m tortured by the thought that I was just seen as a ‘fixer’ for his problems but when rationality returns I realise that the love we shared couldn’t have been faked – or just turned off – and is still there somewhere.
June 17, 2010 at 2:36 pm
Hi, Susan -
This is such a painful story to read. I can’t imagine what you must feel living through it all. But, Susan, the advice I have to offer is probably not what you want or expect to hear. Remember, I’m no therapist, and it’s always hard to tell exactly what’s going on from reading even a very detailed post like this one. But please – please – listen carefully to your counselor!
It may well be that this man is depressed, but it sounds like his pattern of behavior fits another one that is more destructive – that of an emotional and psychological abuser. I just wrote a post here on exactly this problem. That might be a starting point to understand how this form of abuse pervades a relationship from beginning to end, including the love he shows at first and the dazzling experience of feeling like you’ve found the love of your life. Then things go wrong bit by bit as the woman’s words get twisted, his version of reality has to prevail and blame is shifted entirely to his partner. Since I’m no expert, I’d urge you to read the books I reference in that post. The pattern of the relationship you describe is exactly what those books are talking about – at least it sure sounds like it to me.
I’ve been finding out a lot about this form of abuse because my own behavior when depressed was extremely abusive emotionally to my wife and family. While it’s true that depression warps a personality and much of what a depressed person does and says is not intended personally, the effect and hurt is completely personal. I was responsible for that abuse, and it was up to me, no one else, to get treatment and to make that the most important thing I needed to do in my life.
The advice I offer in the case of depression and its “fallout” on the family is two-fold. First, that nobody but the depressed partner can change – it’s up to him (or her, but I hear mostly about depressed men) not the partner. Not only is there little the partner can do – despite the strong belief that there must be something they can do to get him back – she also has to look out for her own wellbeing and get all the support she can get, including therapy. I believe she also needs to be clear about how much abuse she can take and let the depressed partner know her limits and that the emotional harm may never heal if it keeps going on.
Whether this man is primarily an emotional abuser – with a history of this type of behavior – or a depressed man who is acting abusively, there is nothing that you can do for him. He is the only one who can and must take responsibility for getting well – and to stop blaming and hurting you. As I said, it sounds like the emotional abuse pattern is the major concern – and that leaves your mental health and wellbeing, frankly, at risk. That’s why I urge you to pay close attention to your counselor, who can offer a much clearer and more objective view than you can. It’s not your fault that this is happening to you.
I know this must sound harsh – perhaps way off the mark – but that’s the way it looks to me.
I really hope that all this pain can come to an end soon.
February 10, 2010 at 12:51 pm
Thank you for replying. I’ve told him many times. I had what i feel was a breakdown last night and i tried asking him for just a little contact. He says he can’t talk to me. I need to get myself sorted before i can do anything. He just said me being “Depressed” isn’t helping him get better. He doesn’t seem to care about my feelings anymore and would rather talk to some random women from America. I’m only 18 and i need to be happy with myself first so i’m going to work on that whilst being on some herbal remedy to calm me. Thanks for your help =] x
February 8, 2010 at 10:53 am
My boyfriend and i had been together for 9 months, he came down often as we live 500 miles apart. He lives with his nan as he had bad parents and she took him in. He’s always had depression but told me i could make him feel better and happy. He moved in with me just before christmas, before this we talked all the time on the phone. After he’d moved in everything was fine, then 2 weeks in he suddenly said he felt lost here, alone. He left that day, when he got home i had a phone call saying he really missed me and wanted to come back. He came back the next day. A few more weeks went by and everything was fine, he was going to propose to me, i felt perfect. He went home again within an hour. He ignored me at first then i called his nan asking her to let me talk to him. He said he was going to stop taking his pills for a day or two so he could make out his feelings, he says his pills numb them. It was different each day, one minute he loved me and wanted me, next he loved me but didn’t want me. We haven’t talked for a few days now and it kills me. He said he wants to be friends in the future but he needs to concentrate on getting better. I’m left in limbo, not knowing where i stand. How can he want to marry me and have children then suddenly want to be friends? I want to be there for him, when his nan dies he’ll have nothing, i’m scared of what he’ll do. I know it sounds horrible to say that but it’s something i think about a lot. Is he really feeling that he needs to get better on his own? Or is it an excuse to break up with me? I love him so much and haven’t wanted to eat or do anything, i just cry and hope something bad happens to me, every day. What should i do? My family just say he’s fallen out of love with me, i just want to know if he ever loved me and if depression is this way as i don’t know much about it. Will he come back to me?
February 9, 2010 at 10:05 pm
Hi, Gem -
From what you’re saying, my first concern is about you. I hope you have some support to turn to and also hope you’re not blaming yourself. It sounds like his behavior is triggered by depression, and you’re not causing any of this. It’s a horrible blow to have this torment going on, and I’m really sorry you’re feelings are being so abused. This is about his depression, but still there are limits. He’s responsible for the impact of his behavior and can’t keep playing with your feelings. The danger for you is that his feelings start to seem more important in your life than your own. If he can’t stop exposing you to his back and forth behavior, I hope you can set a boundary for yourself – as anguishing as that may be. Part of being depressed is that you become self-absorbed and stop thinking about what you’re doing to others – somehow the depressed person has to wake up to that damage.
Taking antidepressants can dull your feelings. That happened to me over a period of several years. I felt detached, and it was easy to be careless about relationships. Another problem is imagining that moving to a new place, finding a new partner – or some other big change – will “make you feel better.” That never works. Trying to depend on someone else for a cure is abdicating responsibility for facing the inner pain on your own. No one made me depressed, no one could make me better. The hardest part of long-term depression for me was realizing that nothing would cure me if I didn’t make recovery the most important thing in my life – and stop fantasizing about cures happening through a new relationship.
Trying to find out what he really feels probably can’t be done at this point because he doesn’t know. As long as he’s subject to depression, he’s playing by a different set of rules. I don’t see how he can get in touch with his feelings by switching his medication on and off. Depression is probably the dominant force in his emotional life, and I hope you can get enough support to make sure his depression isn’t controlling your life.
Letting him know the depth of your feelings and setting a limit on what you can tolerate from him may be the best things to do for him – but mostly for you.
All my best to you =
October 22, 2009 at 7:07 pm
Thank you for responding to my post. Here is really what happened. Him and I carried a long distance relationship (in different countries) for 6 years and finally decided we were getting engaged. He was going to move here to the US and despite the fact that he was going to start a new life away from everything he knew, he was sooo excited and just wanted to be with me. I came back to the states after visiting with him for 3 weeks and when I got back and called him, he would complain about feeling depressed. He linked it to our separation and even though it was temporary (he was planning to be here in December), he said his mind played tricks on him and told him that perhaps things were too good to be true. Another thing was that the contract he was working on was taking forever to cut him a check which he was going to use to get my engagement ring. Additionally, the jewelry store had the ring on hold and was calling him daily to see when he would pick it up.
Two weeks after being back in the US, I called him one night and he was out and we got into a very insignificant argument and I did not call him for one week. When I called him after the week, he seemed very mad and said that he thought I had decided to leave him because I did not call and that he was so upset that one night he tried to take his life. I confirmed with him that I did not call because I was busy but that I did not break with him. Within 5 minutes of the conversation, he broke up with me!
HE broke into tears and cried and said that he tried everything but that things were not going to work out because he had lost his passion towards me. He said he loved me soo much but the passion was just not there and he didnt understand why and that this hurt him soo much.
I called him everyday to try to get him to change his mind and to give us a chance to fix things but he refused, the more I insisted the more aggressive he became. He blamed it all on me saying things like “i would call all the time and you never picked up the phone” you did this and that and it was disrespectul, bla blah blah. He made me feel like it was my fault that our relationship had ended.
So i finally got into researching depression and realized that all his symptoms just fit in. I tried to tell him repeatedly that he was feeling empty inside because of his depression and/or the medication and he would say “well whatever the case may be, our relationship is now over and you may actually want to seek some help because I think you are the depressed one”.
He went through the agressive phase first. after 2-3 weeks, he went through the empty feeling, he was so emotionless and nothing faze him. I would cry, I told him this depression was taking away our lives and what we loved the most and his response was “it is too late, the person you knew died that night when I tried commiting suicide, I am no longer the same person, I dont have a soul. You need to save yourself from me, I dont want to hurt you, I want you to be happy and when I see that you find happiness, I will die happy”
I did not talk to him for one week because i was traumatized by how he would be with me. It killed me to feel that he was so distant and agressive and nothing fazed him and even though I knew it was the illness, I would still take things personal. When I then called him again, he picked up the phone and said he was busy and that he would call me back. Of course he didnt call back that day but surprisingly enough, he called me 5 days later and his mood was so positive. He wanted to know how i was doing and when I asked how he was doing he actually was honest and said he was feeling better and was taking the medication, etc. etc.
After this good week of feeling better, I tried to take advantage of the fact that he was in a good mood and suggested that he starts seeing a therapist formally and so that he could get the appropiate medication (unfortunately the psychologist that treated him initially gave up on him because he would not open up during therapy sessions and basically gave him a prescription with as many refills as possible for antidepressants without the need of check ups every so often, I know this sounds weird but thats how things are in South America). He agreed to it, but then he got into the stages of feeling guilty and lots of remorse which he indicated was suffocating him. He felt guilty that he gave up so many things after being depressed (he was referring to our relationship) and he felt the need to scape from it by taking a vacation outside of the city he lives in because again he thought this would solve the problem. I dont know why he was feeling guilty at this stage, perhaps he came off the medication, I am not sure. All he said was that he was going to leave town and was going to the pharmacy to get his medication. He came back from that trip a couple of days ago and was back to what he calls “normal” just feeling nothing.
I couldnt deal with just talking to him and seeing how he wont do the right thing to help himself, he’s convinced that by making new friends, moving into new things and leaving the past behind and going to the gym 7 days a week, working all day and isolating himself to what he calls the past (me, his family, old friends) wil make him feel better. Yesterday I called him and I broke into tears and told him how much it was hurting me to not only see that depression was taking evrything away from us but it was also