Social Question

Just_Justine's avatar

Do you think families and friends can enable a person to stay depressed?

Asked by Just_Justine (6453 points ) March 21st, 2010

If you don’t mind reading, the question is a little deeper than the title.

I was diagnosed bipolar in March last year. The only people who know are a neighbour (who now avoids me) a friend I hardly see and my son who just thinks that means “bonkers” so we never discuss it.

My office does not know. So for the most part because no one knows, nor cares, I think this has helped me. Simply because I do all the things required of me (daily) well most things I have very bad days, periods. I never use my illness to gain (maybe some attention) as I do feel sorry for myself at times, I also don’t have any “excuses” if I take off at someone at work for example. I am accountable like any other person.

Perhaps someone with caring family and friends, would make excuses for one, and in a way “encourage” the illness to take hold even more, and subsequent self defeating behaviours? I am also not medicated currently.

This can apply to any disorders. addictions, issues of course. What is your take on this?

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28 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

I was told that I have the power over how I feel… you need to enable others to enable you

davidbetterman's avatar

Sometimes family and friends are the reason for your bi-polar depressions.

thriftymaid's avatar

Families can be supportive or not. It will not have an effect on the severity of the disease, but could certainly affect the person’s state. Bipolar Disorder, BPD, or any other serious mental disease’s severity will not be affected by the person being ignored, treated differently, or not treated differently from other family members. What I’m saying is attitudes toward the sufferer can affect how that person perceives their reality, but the actual disease will be untouched.

Violet's avatar

You’re not just depressed, you’re bipolar. And you’re not on medication.
You are the one who is allowing yourself to stay depressed by not being on medication.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I understand what you’re asking and have wonderd the same thing. When I had surgery, I didn’t want people to know. I forced myself to work through it. My recovery was quick.
Had I told my well meaning friends and coworkers, there is no doubt n my mind they would have tried to help and support me by lightening the load. I believe it would have taken me longer to recover.
Look how quickly hospitals get you up and walking right after surgery. I was told the longer you wait, the longer it takes to recover.
This works for other illness too. think back to the last cold you had. When you had to get up for whatever reason. It was very uncomfortable but by the afternoon your nose and chest cleared up and you were feeling much better. Now think of the time you were able to stay in bed because you called in sick, or someone took care of you. The mucus continued to collect in your sinuses and chest, and it took days to get it all out. Recovery takes longer.
I truly believe sometimes you are better off by getting back into the game quickly.

Just_Justine's avatar

@Violet that was not the question.

Your_Majesty's avatar

All good family/friends will accept you the way you are no matter what’s happen to you. I think it doesn’t matter if people know that(some people care,some people don’t) since soon or later they’ll eventually find out. You’re a good person anyway. Just be yourself.

Just_Justine's avatar

@worriedguy I tend to agree. I have a few bipolar friends, and I have to word this carefully as it is not my aim to judge people. I will make up their names. The one I met “Cindy” was in hospital with me. Since March, she has been in hospital over 12 times for various reasons. Mostly other strange illness like, her legs were paralysed for no medical reason. A few times for her bipolar. She also left her “very” supportive family and husband for another man. Who was awful and her husband took her back, when she realized her mistake. Then she went back to hospital. She doesn’t have to work because her husband doesn’t want her to experience too much pressure. My other friend “Molly” also doesn’t work her sons look after her. She is bored most the day, and obsesses about people. By phoning continuously, texting me incessantly.

Both are fully medicated, both see psychiatrists regularly, but have family support. I just wonder if the support is helpful. Or if they “had” to get on with life they would.

chamelopotamus's avatar

Yes I think people treat others how they perceive them, and that the other person (probably in some reflexive instinct to enhance communication) will respond with the language that is expected. Terence McKenna once visited an old friend in the hospital, who had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia. His friend was speaking in “Word Soups”, and just talking utter nonsense. Terence treated it like a game, where the object is to say one real thing, surrounded by irrelevant, random things, and they had a full, colorful “Schizophrenic” conversation. Terence actually managed to communicate one or two things to the guy. But if he had been overheard by the men in white coats, he might not have gotten to leave the hospital that day. lol Another anecdote: there was a study done in nursing homes: one nursing home treated the old timers like children: escorting them every step of the day, coddling them, repeatedly reminding them to take their medication, talking in that high pitched voice people use on dogs, etc. Then the old timers would completely act the part, were more helpless, and delirious. An expectation was set, and they met it. Then they compared it to a different nursing home, with people of the same mental health diagnostics, and treated them with respect and independence. The result was that they acted like the grown men and women they were. You can credit the result of how the person behaves, to the way they are treated.

They say the best way to make sure that an “untrustworthy” man will be trustworthy, is to trust him. On that same token, the best way to keep a person depressed is to think of them as depressed, think depressing thoughts, be depressed, therefore treat them like they were depressed, and therefore make them depressed. It’s a good thing you don’t advertise your conditions. It’s all a matter of perception, and you can live a much more balanced life if you intend to just live, the way you are.

j0ey's avatar

I do hear what you’re saying…....

I’m in a bit of a similar situation to you…my friends dont know what to say to me, so many of them dont call me anymore. My REAL friends do though, only the superficial ones don’t.

My family don’t provide any emotional support really, BUT if I need to take time off work they help me financially.

I feel like I have been struggling by myself for as long as I can remember, not letting anyone really know what was going on with me. But because everyone expects me to function normally, when I cant, it makes me feel like a failure…

Sometimes I wish I had someone there to remind me, that SOMETIMES I do have an excuse.

But I guess my situation might be different considering I’m in my 20’s and a full time student and I only work casually…..I don’t know.

Just_Justine's avatar

@chamelopotamus thank you! I wish I could give you 2 GA’s as I tend to lean toward that kind of thinking. Not to mention of course that it has been proven in psychological studies that people can be enabled further into their illness or behaviours.

I can be for example “snappish and aggressive”. If I use my “illness” as an excuse then surely people would say “Oh she is being bipolar just leave it” I would never work on my snappish behaviour therefore. Or my friend who keeps two timing her husband. He makes excuses for her. Thanks for actually reading my question :)) and to the others who did too.

Just_Justine's avatar

@j0ey Yes I understand totally. I guess you have highlighted the point that a middle ground is better. One does feel alienated, when one is having a bad day. Like I am today. With me, I am a rapid cycler, I haven’t even read up that much on it, but I am told that my “high” periods are most peppered with agitation and aggression. So I guess some understanding is called for particularly if I answer a question here for e.g. and sound like a bitch from hell.

12_func_multi_tool's avatar

I’ve had family members make my excuses for being absents from a party a lot. If you are talking about others walking on eggshells when around you, I get more annoyed at that then I think they are. Keeping up with pride is a losing proposition, as you already see your neighbor seems to have written you off, you need something to balance that out.

Just_Justine's avatar

@12_func_multi_tool I only really realized the neighbour thing quite recently. It’s funny how people are isn’t it? Maybe it is fear of the unknown. Manic depression runs in her family so maybe that is why. I somehow cannot get my brain around the fact that people call it a “serious mental” illness? What is so serious about it? You are right a bit of balance would be called for, as opposed to being an island unto myself perhaps.

Trillian's avatar

Anytime you have a lay person who has a limited and/or erroneous understanding of a condition such as mental health you can expect for lots of assumptions to be made. And yes, you can expect some people to walk on eggshells around you, fearing they will say the wrong thing and “set you off”. Others will believe that you need to “suck it up” and carry on smartly. I don’t know that this in itself would enable or facilitate depression, especially if the contact with them is limited to work. But I’d strongly encourage you to try to get on a good medication regimen along with counseling. Medication is tricky. Many take up to six weeks to come to the correct level in the bloodstream and you to receive full benefit. Since people are all different, it is not an exact science and adjustments in dosage and combination often need to be made. Since we’re taught that we need instant gratification everywhere we look, mental health patients often get discouraged and quit taking the meds and the correct dose or combination is never achieved. They then say that they can’t be helped, it didn’t work the last time. Please, for your own sake, get in to see a good doctor and get started on a regimen.
I’m rooting for you.

CMaz's avatar

Yes, just another form of codependency.

Silhouette's avatar

Yes they can and some do, others don’t. Depends on your family and friends. If you have the kind of family and friends who will rush in a carry your load even if you need to do your own heavy lifting, their good intentions are going to hinder your progress. I have a bipolar friend, half of his friends cater to all his moods the other half of us don’t. Those that do, get a needy whiner ALL the time. The rest of us get a man who has an illness, sometimes he is depressed and others he is like an oak. We don’t make it easy for him to quit, we don’t allow his illness to run the show.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I can only give you my story. While I’m not bi-polar, I have undergone a similar dynamic with my relatives. When people in enmeshed families try to break out of the role that they’ve been given in order to heal themselves, family members who are personally invested in them keeping to that role feel threatened, yes indeed.

I remember when I was shedding my relations, I got called a lot of names, yelled at, “accused” of things and was raged at as they tried to bully and pressure me to stay the same person and play the same emotional caretaker and secret keeper roles that they’d molded me into as a child. They were extremely threatened by my assertion of independence, but I stood firm. And now I know that they didn’t much care for me anyway (not like they would know how, but that’s a different subject), and at this point, they know how to reach me.They haven’t in years. It was a revelation, and no mistake.

If there are people who get angry when you try to heal, know then that you are on the right track. Friends and family who love you will support you in becoming your best self and as you work towards emotional health.

JLeslie's avatar

I have not read the above, so sorry for any repeat. I do think family can enable depression in some cases. I do not think family can enable bipolar behavior, or it seems much less likely, especially mania. With depression I think people can reframe their thinking through therapy or changes in their experience. People who are bipolar seem to me more at the mercy of the prewired state of their brain. Still, that does not mean that family can’t make things worse.

jazmina88's avatar

Find some new friends who dont avoid you and dont tell about your illness. Let them figure it out. Family not being supportive can be a quiet negative impact on you. My cold sister sets me off from her lack of love. i was told I was bipolar 20 years ago. I am balanced in my opinion, mentally.

Maybe those meds dont work for you….try another….it’s hit or miss. Confide in a therapist.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

It’s just my opinion, but discouraging a person from seeking medical help would be detrimental to a person’s depression. That’s not exactly “enabling”, but it’s not helpful.

PacificToast's avatar

Families can be supportive or demeaning. If they know, then they prolly won’t be the latter. Though they may treat you differently in fear of perhaps making it worse.

Pandora's avatar

I think it can. My daughter has a bipolar friend. He would sometimes get nasty with his friends and they would let it go and say its because he’s bipolar. My daughter however would yell back at him and told him if he wants to continue their friendship than he better be in control of his rants. The rest of the friends say its because she’s a girl but he’s not interested in her in that way. I think he simply puts more effort into controlling his urges because he knows she’s not going to put up with his crap.

My uncles wife was also bipolar. She would get down right nasty with everyone except for my mother or any of us. I think it had to do with the fact that unbalanced or not my mother would’ve knocked her into next week.

Violet's avatar

@Just_Justine then why talk about your depression, if it has nothing to do with the question? What exactly does your depression have to do with enabling?

Just_Justine's avatar

@Violet part of bipolar is depression right? This question was aimed at any mental illness including depression. I was saying I have found it “helpful” to have no one know, I have also found it helpful that I am not treated any different than anyone else.

In other words, I deduced that having a family “put up with bad behaviours, pandering to ones needs, treating a person differently can have an adverse effect.

Like if you had flu’ and got treats and cakes and got to stay in bed and watch Noddy all day. You follow?

I have functioned very well, and I mentioned I am not on med’s. Simply because I do not see any bi polars functioning that much better than me. My point was I am functioning quite well, no meds no family support, to which you answered “go on meds”. Is it clear now? This question was not about meds, it was in one small sentence at the bottom.

Just_Justine's avatar

I realize now I am terribly inarticulate when asking questions.

Violet's avatar

@Just_Justine oh thank you so much for explaining. Yes, part of bipolar is depression. Have you ever experienced mania?
I know a girl, who has a couple of serious illnesses. However, she is very high functioning. She is in college, and she has worked in the past. Her mother, doesn’t work, just so she can be her daughter’s personal assistant (calls doctors, arranges appointments, drives her, etc).

Aster's avatar

Some non-pharma involved (of course) experts are saying bi-polar doesn’t exist. They say that it is within normal psychological limits to be depressed and quiet one day and happy and energetic the next. Maybe what is needed is techniques to handle disasters. So instead of being depressed we’ll know how to deal with them, accepting that they’re life-long.
Just speculation.

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