I am definitely no stranger to depression. I have struggled with it from the time I was 15 years old. I’ve been through an unbelievable amount of medications, countless hours of therapy, and many hospitalizations. I seem to be on a good combination of medications now, and haven’t had to deal with it for a while now, so maybe this time I have it under control. So if there’s anybody who can help others through their own depressions, it would be me, Right?
I have a very dear friend who is going through a very rough patch lately. Actually, she’s really depressed. And she has every right to be that depressed with all the things that have been going on in her life lately. It started almost a year ago when she split up from her husband after a 27 year marriage. He was her childhood sweetheart, and she loved him unconditionally. She still does I think. But he cheated on her, and when she caught him he decided that the marriage was over instead of putting any effort into trying to save it. She was so much in love, and so dependent on him she even told him he could keep his girlfriend if he would just stay with her. But no; it was over.
After all those years of marriage they had accumulated quite a bit financially. And they have two children who are developmentally challenged, and she took off 10 years of work to stay at home and care for them. And of course he cheated on her. In our state, the equitable distribution laws relating to divorce are crystal clear; each party is entitled to ½ of everything. Additionally, since he had the higher income, she is entitled to alimony. He is required to give her enough money to bring her income to the same level as his for the next 13 and ½ years. And since there was the infidelity, she could very possibly be granted even more alimony. There’s a lot of money at stake here. Money isn’t everything of course; there’s no doubt she would give it all up to keep her marriage intact. But it’s gone, and there’s no reason to not take what she’s entitled to.
But she isn’t.
She just can’t face the loss and all the agony of the process needed to sort everything out. She is just incapable of tearing down her house to move her share of the furniture. She can’t even bear to have any contact with him at all. It’s just too painful for her. So she just walked away.
Her own income is pretty limited since she took so many years off to raise the kids. She had to start over at the bottom again, and hasn’t been back in the workforce long enough to build up a decent salary. It’s so bad she had to move into a spare bedroom at her sister’s house. She’s very thankful that she had a place to go, but her sister is a very bitter woman since her own husband walked out on her several years go. And truth be told, she’s just not a very nice person. So my friend is living with listening to her sister moan and bitch about men (She blames all men), following her ‘rules’ including a curfew, doing all the cooking and the majority of the housework, and getting yelled at for playing her music too loud. Did I mention she’s hearing impaired? She’s lost 90% of her hearing to nerve damage years ago, and even with a hearing aid has a difficult time hearing. Music is her only solace now, so of course she has to turn it up to be able to hear. But no; that’s not allowed. So she stays in her little 10′ x 10′ room, always by herself.
Did I mention that her sister wasn’t a very nice person?
Then there are the problems at work. She’s so depressed it’s a real struggle to maintain her day to day responsibilities. And to add to the problem, she had an issue with her boss over her hearing impairment. They were on a conference call, and she asked that she sit on the right side of the speaker (which is the side where her hearing aid is) and they turn the volume up just a bit. Her boss called her out in front of all her coworkers, wouldn’t let her change seats, and openly mocked her for her disability. Now, we have a law called Americans with Disabilities Act that states employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. Personally, allowing someone to change seats sounds pretty reasonable to me, but she was humiliated for even asking. She did the right thing; she complained to Human Resources. They did an investigation, and reprimanded her boss for her lack of respect and the way she handled the situation. But now, her boss is targeting her for retaliation. She’s scrutinizing all her work, pointing out every mistake (real and imagined) and criticizing everything she does. And she’s depressed, so unfortunately there are plenty of things to complain about. No, that’s not allowable in the workplace either, but my friend is afraid to go back to Human Resources. And she’s terribly fearful that she’s going to lose her job.
So she’s miserable. She’s lost the love of her life, is practically destitute, her job is very stressful, and she gets no peace at home. Not much of a life.
No wonder she’s depressed.
But I have experience with all of this! With all the knowledge I’ve gained I can really help her through this. No, it’s not easy. But good therapy, exercise, the right medications and a change in environment can make a world of difference. Surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people is critical to dealing with all the negatives. It takes time and patience, but it can be overcome! I know; I’ve been there and done that!
But she just won’t listen.
I don’t think she even realizes just how unhappy she is. I know that sounds strange, but she’s just doing what she can to get through a day. She knows she feels bad, but has no real idea why. And taking all the positive steps takes energy that she just doesn’t have. She even resents the suggestion that she needs help. So she just falls deeper and deeper into the pit.
It’s so incredibly frustrating for me.
She’s a very sweet lady, and a very dear friend. It pains me to see her struggling so much, and feeling so bad. I know what that can be like, and it’s horrible. I so want to help her, and not being able to tears me apart.
I wonder… how many of my friends and loved ones experienced that with me when I was going through my own troubles? Was it just as frustrating and difficult to be around me when I was so unreachable? Of course it was. And then there’s the big question. Is it possible that it was a contributing factor to the end of my marriage? Sure, she had to deal with much more than just the depression as I also went through my manias. But you can only try to help someone for so long without being overwhelmed; and sooner or later the point can be reached where you just can’t try anymore.
I know that the reality is I can’t fix my friend. I can make suggestions, I can be as supportive as I can, and I can understand just how hard it is for her. Ultimately though, it’s really up to her. My heart goes out to her and it is painful to see. But that’s all I can do.
Over the years I’ve been angry that those around me have avoided me, distanced themselves, and completely abandoned me when I needed them the most. I was completely devastated when my wife gave up and moved on. Now though I can see just how difficult it is, and how painful and frustrating; especially knowing that there are ways to cope and heal. I so want to help my friend, and yet know that I can’t. I realize now just how difficult it is to witness someone who is so caught in the absolute misery that is depression. And no matter how much you want to help, or how much you understand, or how frustrating it is, you just can’t make it better. Maybe now I understand what I’ve put so many others through.
I get it. And I’m sorry.