I have a very good friend who likes to wallow in – well, various things. The dark hole of depression, feeling sorry for yourself, mediocrity.. the comfort zone of sabotaging yourself and setting yourself up for failure, receiving all kinds of good advice, nodding and smiling and never taking any of it.
Now I’m a very supportive friend, but there comes a time when between two good friends you have to be honest with each other, and that time came eight months ago. I spoke to this person honestly – and politely – here’s what you need to do to get yourself out of this hole. I know how to get out of these holes, having been in them myself many times.
So, I then shut up and let them get to work – at the end of the conversation I said I wouldn’t bring it up but if they wanted to chat about it they could always raise the topic. Of course, they never did. A couple of months later this person was feeling sorry for themselves again and told me so, and a pattern began to appear. I’d say all the right things – here’s how to get out of this hole. They would nod and smile and promise faithfully that they would try it. A month or two later, it would happen again. The last couple of times, I haven’t been quite so polite about it. In fact I told them they needed to get off their rear end and get to work and I pointed out this pattern which I saw clearly.
Then just a couple of hours ago this person arrived on my Skype and from the moment they said hello I knew the deal – they were down and feeling sorry for themselves, and they were waiting for me to do my usual there there, here’s how to fix it, pump you up with positives, you can do it, ra ra.
There comes a time in any relationship where you have to draw a line. You have to let go. I’ve been propping you up for far too long now. I know you can do it. I can’t do it for you. Nobody can do it for you. I can make positive changes in my own life, and I do it regularly. But I CANNOT WAVE A MAGIC WAND AND FIX YOU – though you know I would if I could. It takes hard work, and you have to do the majority of it yourself.
The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than what you get. – Jim Rohn
I’m a huge goal setter. I’ve spoken before about my depression and the combat strategies I used, some of them were goals that I set for myself. I set goals all the time – even silly stuff like playing a game on my computer – I’ll want to get to a certain score or achievement before I quit the game.
This past couple of weeks, I have set myself a really unusual goal – to drink more water. I mentioned an article I had read in one of my weekly wrap ups and said I was implementing this change – 9 Great Reasons to Drink Water, and How to Form the Water Habit – but what I did not mention is.. I dislike water. I always have. I would prefer to drink soft drinks, coffee or fruit juice. I used to drink one can of real Coke each day with my main meal but there came a time when I really didn’t feel like it, so I would drink fruit juice instead. Before I read that article, I had begun to substitute water every third day, instead of Coke or fruit juice, mainly because the meal I was having didn’t go with either of those drinks.
So with a goal like this, it helps to break it down. The guy who wrote the article (Leo Babauta) actually did that for me – thanks! ;) – by saying – “Best is to form a routine: drink a glass when you wake up, a glass with each meal, a glass in between meals, and be sure to drink before, during and after exercise.” This is my new religion. I have these plastic cups which hold 250ml (just over 8oz) and a chart where I gleefully tick off each cup I drink. I’m up to 8 a day. A huge change from one every 3 days.
Can you believe that after just two weeks, I would rather reach for water than anything else?
So what I know is, anything I want to achieve, I can set a goal, break that down into smaller chunks, and then set out to achieve it. If I can do it, anyone can. Me who is not very good at self discipline and who isn’t the most organised person in the world.
Sometimes it seems easier to stay in your comfort zone, to keep sabotaging yourself to stay there. The fear of the unknown, the fear of what comes next. It is no different to jumping out of a plane for the first time – except you’re basically jumping out of the plane for the first time over and over, heading towards a bigger unknown than you have ever faced before. Yes, it is scary. It can be terrifying. Who will I be without my depression? At the moment that is what defines you. That’s all you know. You’re gripping on to the doors of that plane so tight your knuckles are white.
You have to let go and jump out of that plane.. or else you will stay in that hole of depression forever, and I can’t be your friend if that’s where you want to be. You see, I dug my way out of that hole with my fingernails. When my nails were all gone, I didn’t stop digging. I used my fingertips. I was so desperate to get out of there my fingers were bloody nubs by the time I managed to climb out of there – but I made it. I’m baffled that you *want* to stay there. I can’t imagine why you would want to. It’s a horrible place to be.
If you’re willing to get out, I’ll help you. I’ll do everything I can. Except keep going round in circles like this, it is pointless and useless. I’m not going to keep enabling you to feel better every now and then – I want to enable you to feel better all the time.
Have you ever heard the Meatloaf song “I’ll do anything for love but I won’t do that”? So many people speculate about what the thing he won’t do is. The thing I won’t do is allow myself to be dragged back to that hole and pushed / pulled into it – not by *anyone* – because I know how hard it was to get out of there, how much it cost me, how much effort it took every day. I said in a previous post about depression –
Normal people who have never been depressed will not understand the effort required to do just simple every day tasks when you’re down. Just to get up out of bed and have a shower seems like something impossible. The effort involved, to me it always seemed like someone had tied weights to my arms and legs, and it was difficult to move them. Probably most people who have been down will understand that.
I’m not going back there. It’s not until you get out of there that you realize how bad it was. Please, my friend, *please* let go of thinking your dark damp hole of depression is where you should stay. It’s either that, or let go of me, because you’re dragging me to a place I WILL NOT go.
17 thoughts on “Letting go..”
I found your blog from Opal: Vegan Momma.
Two things immediately came to mind when I read this post:
1. You cannot help those who don’t want to be helped. In fact it is more typical to encounter the drowning victim syndrome, the victim will take anyone else down with them in an effort to save themselves.
2. Physics principle – Objects like to be at their lowest energy states possible. It isn’t until there is some kind of discomformt or problem that these objects will move to a higher energy level. I believe people are the same way. We stay at our lowest energy level possible, and it isn’t until we are uncomfortable that we add energy to try to change our position.
Remember the best and most consistent person you have to depend on is yourself.
Hi Snoskred, great post, I think what you say is very true. Sometimes you are doing the friend a favour (as hard as it feels) by saying ‘no more’. I recently read an article: http://johblogs.newsvine.com/_news/2007/07/16/839937-teenage-girls-all-talk-and-that-can-be-bad-
That shows research about teenage girls talking too much and keeping each other depressed. I think this is true for all of us.
I have never been truly depressed, so can’t know how you felt. But I have been “low”, sometimes really “low” and I know how hard it was for me to get going again, so congratulations on reclaiming your “self” and I hope you always stay “up”
great post. it is always so frustrating (and draining) to be with people who so crave and need some help, yet refuse to let you help them. now i know this isn’t an easy thing–i’ve been depressed, too, and know how really hard it is.
Let me ask a question:
Is it always the same problem that your friend wallows in? Or is it simply a similar approach when he/she experiences trouble?
If it is the former, then yes, this person is stuck. It’s both heartbreaking and frustrating to watch a friend remain in a rut, complaining about being stuck and unhappy, but not making a move to get out.
If it’s the latter, then it might simply be a part of the process. And without understanding this, it’s an empathic failure.
My good friends understand that I process out loud. They understand that when I find myself in a pickle, challenged by a dilemma, or unhappy within a problem, my process is “whine-vent- talktalktalktalk-go away-think-resolve.”
The time varies, of course.
And sometimes my attempts don’t lead to success, so I have to talk some more about that and think further (usually out loud) about the situation.
I am dramatic and wordy, and can use drama and verbosity to attempt to paint such a picture that people feel it along with me…this is my way of asking for empathy.
I have had this misunderstood. I have had myself and my life mistaken for something it’s not. And worst of all, I’ve been judged.
How I am in that moment, how I describe that situation, is not per se my entire life. Rarely is anything that simple.
For example: the situation depresses me, but I am not depressed; the situation is frustrating, but it is not everything or the only thing—it’s simply the subject of this conversation.
It sounds like you are this person’s dumping ground. I have been that person a number of times. It can be soul-sucking if you let it.
I think—and I hope this is okay, because I’ve noticed you do it so hope it’s okay to give back as well—that it sometimes appears that on occasion you on other people’s, and want to solve them, then and there. You see so clearly the surroundings and path out.
I understand…BTDT. I learned a few things for myself (and do not know if this is applicable for you):
1. Being the dumping ground friend is no fun. When I looked closely, I saw this person having a good time elsewhere, and often not sharing that bit with me. I was Free Therapy.
2. I have an outside perspective, which is both clearer and less clear. Things are often yes, both that simple and not that straightforward when it is another person’s life.
3. The friend does want a solution, as you said, shows up seeking it, but then rejects it out of hand as soon as you offer it. I figured out (a) that this was the out loud devil’s advocate some of us use, and (b) it doesn’t mean the solution is forever rejected, it might just be debated.
4. I created (well, helped create since it takes two) the dynamic that made me the dumping ground friend. I may have focused on my own troubles with this person, or allowed them to exclusively focus on their troubles.
5. I invested overmuch in my POV and proposed solution. I had to hand it over, like a gift without expectation, and let it go.
If I didn’t let it go, I got way too frustrated with the person not doing what I told them to do, which I was SO SURE would just solve everything.
Anyway, I don’t know you well enough, and I don’t know your friend at all, so I don’t know if this is on at all.
But it’s what came to my mind as I read your post: that maybe the letting go isn’t just for your friend.
Now generally and hypothetically— wrt to friends, enabling them, tough love, empathy, etc. I do sort of agree with Clare (quoted in my post) a bit: we can’t solve another person, we can state an opinion, but should withhold judgment or application of values onto them…otherwise we are injecting negative emotional energy into it, which can bring us both down.
Err hmm brain meltdown?
Let me try to retype this paragraph so it actually makes sense LOL (I must have inadvertently deleted a portion):
I think—and I hope this is okay, because I’ve noticed you do it so hope it’s okay to give back—that it sometimes it appears you take on other people’s problems, and want to solve them, then and there. You see so clearly the surroundings and path out.
I’ll come back to the other comments soon but let me answer Julie first.
Is it always the same problem that your friend wallows in? Or is it simply a similar approach when he/she experiences trouble?
Always the same problem. The issues we discussed yesterday are (essentially) the same issues we discussed in November of last year.
Back when we talked about them in November, we came up with an action plan of sorts. When we talked about it a couple of months later, none of the things on the action plan had been.. actioned. And the very first one – the one I felt was most important, which was getting to a doctor and seeing whether anti-depressants were necessary or not – has still not been actioned. November to July. That’s a pretty long time, no? Several of the other important things on the plan haven’t been actioned during that time, either.
My friend is also an excellent excuse maker. I’ve heard every excuse under the sun as to why these things don’t get done.
If it was “whine-vent- talktalktalktalk-go away-think-resolve.” that would be great! But as it is, there is never any resolve which is one of the more important parts of that cycle. It is more like whine-vent- talktalktalktalk-go away-think- whine-vent- talktalktalktalk-go away-think- whine-vent- talktalktalktalk-go away-think-.
I’ll play that game for a certain amount of time, but there comes a point when I am ready to move the f*ck on, yano? And we’re talking about eight months. Eight months is valuable time wasted sitting in – as you say, a rut.
You’re right, I do clearly see the way out of things. That’s because I’ve been there done that before, you know?
A quote from the west wing episode, Noel
This guy’s walking down a street, when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep. He can’t get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up “Hey you! Can you help me out?” The doctor writes him a prescription, throws it down the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up “Father, I’m down in this hole, can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. “Hey Joe, it’s me, can you help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole! Our guy says “Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here!” and the friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.”
I think it’s more I have a take on peoples problems – I know the way out and I want to show it to them. I don’t like to stand by when people are suffering – and I don’t like to keep quiet when I can see someone is involved in a pattern that they can’t see.
If I tell them the way out, it’s up to them whether or not they choose to get out, you know?
If it were anyone else, I would have given up long ago. But this is one of my best friends, someone I really care about, someone who has been there for me just as much as I have been there for them. I’d hate to have to walk away, but I would if I had to save my own sanity.
To me it is like this person is a Boeing 747 sitting at the gate with an engine hanging off. I’m there saying hey – you have an engine hanging off, don’t you think you ought to fix that before you fly again? And the plane is like Yeah, I see there’s an engine hanging off, can you help me make a plan to fix that? And I do, we come up with a plan. I say ok, you have the plan, you know what to do, if you have any troubles let me know.
The plane doesn’t bother to follow the plan, doesn’t say anything to me about it, and keeps on flying with a broken engine, and a couple of months later when I spot it again, now there’s two broken engines. We have the same discussion – hey, you have two engines hanging off, you ought to fix that. Oh yeah you’re right! ok, i remember the plan we made last time. Don’t worry about it, I’ll sort it out. I say let me know if you need my help.
The next time I spot the plane, three engines are hanging off! I say hey, you’re going to crash if you keep this up. You better get off your rear end and fix that.
Am I surprised when I find later that all four engines are broken, and the plane is flying only by flapping its wings, which takes a great deal of effort? No, not really. Will I be surprised when the plane eventually falls out of the sky and crashes? Sadly not. But at least I know I did everything I can to fix it, short of becoming an airplane mechanic and fixing it with my own two hands.
There’s nothing more I can do from here than be supportive, listen and offer good advice. This person lives a long way away. If they lived here, there’s a lot more I could do. But there’s only so many times I am going to listen to the same things over and over when I have already told them how to sort it out, the steps they can take to get out of that hole yet they’re just not willing to make the effort. :(
So where I’m at, is basically letting it go – and if they can’t dont or won’t fix it, they’re going to have to let me go. Because like I say, I’m ready to move on and I’d like them to go with me but right now they are like an anchor holding me in the same spot. I’m ready to sail. They can either sail with me, or I’ll go on my own.. sad but true.
I know that might sound really heartless and terrible. :(
The other person is probably reading this, and maybe they would like to chime in?
Thomas – you’re the one who wrote that great Technorati article? :) I’m about off to bed but I’m bookmarking you to add to my reader etc. ;)
I agree that the best person to rely on is myself, but this friend is one of my backbones, someone who I would hate to let drown. I’m certainly not going to let them drag me under, but I’ll give getting them out of that water a good try before giving up completely. ;)
Joh – I said some things last night which were really tough for me to say. I’m hoping that helped to get the message through.
Re the teenage girls thing – I’ve seen that effect happen in workplaces too. Negativity can be like a cancer which spreads through a workplace. :(
River – it was a horrible place to be. I would not wish it even on my worst enemy, which is why it is heartbreaking to watch someone you care about very much stay stuck there.
Christine – out of everything I have done in my life, going through that depression was the hardest. And I’ve done some pretty tricky things.
Also Julie, re the judging. The only person who I think should be judging is Judge Judy. She’s very good at it. She has her own TV show especially in order to judge people. When I watch her show, I usually agree with her no-nonsense statements and sayings, but I leave the judging to her.
So much trouble in this world is caused by making judgments. Therefore, I avoid it as much as possible. ;)
If I see a pattern, I speak up, but it’s not intended to be a judgment. It’s intended to show someone else what I (and possibly others) are seeing. Sometimes when you’re in the middle of the forest you can’t see that you’re walking in circles. :)
I kind of get what you’re say, Snoskred, about the same thing over and over. I’m dealing with that with a very good friend of mine as well.
Some people just have a very hard time putting plans into action. They get caught up in who they are in the moment and don’t see who they become.
I don’t know how you make someone see who they can become. I’m not sure you can. You can point them in the right direction. And keep doing so.
Or you can simply refuse to discuss this particular situation. Be there for everything else but not this one thing. You know?
Hello. Here via Aurelius’ blog. Regards to water. Well done :)
I was a 1-2 coke a day addict, sometimes three, sometimes a whole 1.25l bottle. It was, upon reflection, quite disgusting, and it showed. The thing was, I was addicted to the caffiene, not the coke. And I didn’t drink enough water. To cut a long story short, I no longer drink coke. Well, maybe one a month-ish. And I drink lots of water and well, water is lovely, isn’t it? Just plain refreshing! Huzzah for H2O :D
“If you’re willing to get out, I’ll help you. I’ll do everything I can.”
Exactly — that’s the difference between a friend and an enabler.
I love water. Welcome to the team.
I think “helping” others is a slippery slope. Most of the time, simply standing back and letting someone else make their own choices about how to do something, being a supportive friend while that person finds his or her own way, is the best way to go.
Your friend is not going to perform on your timetable. If you are weary of hearing the process, that’s perfectly valid… and you have the right to back off. It’s not your job to take someone else’s journey.
I’m just really reluctant about the concept of “fixing” other people. There are too many considerations involved, including belief systems, coping styles and abilities… People are too complex for quick fixes.
Just my two baht…
Kaliroz – the good news is, this post has started a process for that person, they’re starting to walk down the road they have been sitting there staring at for a good eight months now. :) So I am hopeful. However I am also wary. We’ll see..
Suburbanhen – I’m sorry for your loss, thank you so much for dropping by and commenting at such a time, I really appreciate that. I’m back to one coke a week, and I’ll probably end up somewhere like one a fortnight, one a month. ;) Well done for getting there!
Emily – Thanks – I appreciate that especially because I have felt like I have been enabling this person to stay where they are at times.
Chani- I can’t disagree with you more. If I did what you suggest, this person would still be in that dark cave of depression years from now. What makes it worse is the ability of those who are depressed to hide it from everyone else.
When I was really, really down, only my online friends knew it. One of them took an extraordinary step – he called my parents and told them what was really going on with me. I hadn’t had the guts to do that – keep up appearances, you know. Pretend like everything is just fine. Nobody’s depressed. But I was really in a bad place and I probably would not be here today to type this if not for my friend making that call.
I think you might be speaking of me trying to help you rather than this specific situation. I don’t know why you would say it about either situation given that me saying that so many times and then someone finally backing me up on it has started you on a process you have been needing to make of your own. Would you have preferred to keep going around in circles with that cycle? ;)
I don’t expect my friend to do it on my time table. Like I said, I’ll do anything I can to help and I don’t care how long it takes as long as they are taking steps towards getting out of that depression. And they are now. This post was what they needed, the catalyst.
I really am so thankful for your comments everyone. ;) I am even more thankful that today my friend made it to see a doctor. Hallelujah.
This post reminds me of a few quotes from Carlos Castenada which always give me a little guidance when I find my head a little buried:
“When a warrior realises he can do something which he previously could not do, that thing itself has not changed. What has changed is the warrior’s view of himself.”
“Warriors do not win victories by beating their heads against walls, but by overtaking the walls. Warriors jump over walls; they don’t demolish them.”
“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”
Glad to hear your friend is seeking help. Good on both of you.
Marquis – wow, those are fantastic quotes. Thank you so much for posting them! :) Come back soon with more wisdom.. :)
Snos, this is a very interesting discussion, certainly, and one which we clearly differ. Not that it’s wrong, mind you. :)
In fact, I kind of enjoy hearing your process and how you frame things. It’s such a different view from mine that it is almost polar opposite. You are very much a pragmatist, and there’s a needed place for that. And I am glad you are having a good influence on people.
As for the rest of the message, there’s much to be said… but not here.. and not now. It’s better we let that go (speaking of letting go… LOL)
Peace to you,