For any of us who have a friend or a family member suffering from depression, Dante’s words ring true, as we set sail in an unchartered sea attempting to set them free from their misery and pain.
In Speaking of Sadness, Chapter six,the author, David A. Karp, a sociologist, speaks about Family and Friends of the depressed and how they establish sympathy boundaries in their interactions with them.
The opening paragraph in this chapter quotes a therapist, named Mark, who shares his thoughts on how overwhelming it actually is to deal with someone’s depression — especially that of a friend or relative.
“The thing about depression is that it is overwhelming and anyone who takes it on is going to lose. As a family member and /or friend –anyone who is close –is too overwhelming. And the only way to deal with someone else’s depression is to maintain your own life and to understand that person and emphasize and be there as you can be. But to recognize that fundamentally it’s their experience and you’re not going to shift it. All you can do as a friend is to allow it to happen and to be there again and again and again. ”
When all is said and done it is my own experience that tells me that when I gave them some tools to work with their own experiences, that this was a non-threatening, not in your face attempt to force a change of behavior. Some thoughts that people tell the depressed are “just snap out of it” or “say a prayer” and everything will be better and you will be happy. But the more we tried to force our solutions on them, the more they retreated into their isolation.
INTRODUCTION TO DEP-ANON, A SUPPORT GROUP FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF THE DEPRESSED.
Scores of books have been written on the subject of depression. If you are like most of us, we have all run after and read the latest work on depression. We are looking for clues to see just what is wrong with our loved one and what it is that they face and struggle with. We want to learn how to help.
The DEP-ANON program is very much like AL-ANON where family members and friends gather to help each other learn how to detach and cope with opioid addictions and alcoholism. In the same way, DEP-ANON is an effort of family and friends learning how to live with and cope with their depressed loved ones.
At a planning meeting for DEP-ANON family members were asked to list all the feelings they experienced living with a depressed loved one. These discussions brought out some surprising facts.
When family members were asked to prioritize, describe and list which feelings they experienced most often and most intensly, the following are those which they documented:
- Feeling overwhelmed and burdened by a family member’s depression.
- Feelings of helplessness
- Anxiety about the situation and not knowing what to do about the feelings they were experiencing.
- Feeling emotionally drained.
- Feeling inadequate faced with a loved one’s immobility and lack of motivation to get out of bed.
- Feeling anger and frustrated at the depressed.
- Feeling inadequate.
These are just some of the feelings which family members listed indicating they felt as helpless and hopeless as the people whom they were trying to help.
Now that we learn that the depressed and family members and friends suffer from the same problems of the depressed–isolated, alone and helpless. But the thing that we have going for us is the same thing that the depressed have going for them. We have choices. We can begin to be proactive in our own healing and recovery. We have a program of recovery using the Twelve Steps. We now know, as a family member that we are not alone, in a small boat, being tossed about in a turbulent sea.
Together, not to complain or blame but to face our common problems and pain and live in the solution of a program based on spiritual principles, just like the depressed who can get help with their group Depressed Anonymous. One of the more important things for a family member is knowing that their loved one cannot simply think themselves out of their sad moods and isolation.
In both the DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS and DEP-ANON groups there is a place where experiences, strength and hope can be shard with each other. It is in these two recovery groups, one for the depressed and one for the depressed family member, where both can come and talk freely about their path out of helplessness and the feelings of being overwhelmed. In both groups, with time and work they can discover how to use the tools to live through the trauma of depression and the ongoing acceptance and understanding provided by family and friends of the depressed.
It is a fact that the more supportive a family member is of their depressed member the sooner that family member will recover. This recovery is strengthened by looking at our own lives, dealing with the ongoing frustrations and letting go of our need to fix the other. And like AL-ANON it is in the letting go of the other and their depression but taking care of our own lives. We soon learn that we have no control over other’s feelings and emotions. We learn that all we can do is be there, again, again and again. At the same time, like the depressed, get involved with the recovery tools of Depressed Anonymous, go to meetings, pray and join with others like oneself. We want to find solutions and keep the focus on these solutions – not the problem of others.