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YARNLADY's avatar

Can a clinically depressed person hold a job or do housework?

Asked by YARNLADY (41421points) October 1st, 2012

I allowed a clinically depressed person on medication to move in my house. She makes absolutely zero effort to help with housework or any other activity, other than doing her charter school home work. Is her inability to help with the housework part of her depression?

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21 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

Well, when you are clinically depressed usually everything is very difficult to do, but it doesn’t mean it is impossible. Depression is not only mental it is physical too. Her exhaustian and lack of enthusiasm is typical. If you can imagine not having slept more than 2 hours a day for several days, and being so sad you cry a couple times a day, and still having to drag yourself to do your chores, than that is sort of similar, but not exactly, and it is different for everyone of course. She can do things, but it feels a little torturous. But, she probably should push herself to help I think. Unless the onset of the depression was very recent and triggered by something specific. Then I say give her a few weeks to feel like total crap and dwell in her misery if she wants to. Sometimes I don’t want to feel better, but it usually only lasts a few weeks, and then I want to feel better. But, I don’t know if I have ever been diagnosed as clinically depressed? Definitely depressed though.

Jeruba's avatar

Maybe yes, maybe no. Is she aware of your expectations? What were the terms of the understanding when you allowed her to move in?

If she’s a very immature person, she may be looking upon you as a free ride and not even consider that it would be appropriate for her to pitch in and ease things for you a little bit. I mean it just might not have occurred to her at all. Some young folks are utterly self-absorbed even if they’re not having serious emotional and psychological issues.

I’m hoping there’s no problem of addiction in this picture.

If she’s going to school and keeping up with her homework, she’s not completely immobilized. Doing something that takes a little energy and gives her a sense of accomplishment and belonging might do her some good.

I’ve known some depressed people who were pretty paralyzed and others who got up, took their meds, and went to work every day regardless. I would not say that was a measure of the extent of their depression but rather of some inner level of coping ability that enabled them to soldier on—or didn’t.

But this observation is strictly a layman’s view and has no clinical authority behind it.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I have a close friend who’s been diagnosed with major depression. He takes his medication as prescribed and has a job. I talk to him often on the phone, and I know that it’s a daily struggle for him. I’ve never been inside his house, but I’ve heard him talk about how hard it is just to wash the dishes.

When I’ve been in a cycle of depression instead of manic, I can say that any amount of care for myself became difficult or even impossible. In my darkest days, brushing my teeth was an accomplishment. The housework wasn’t on any agenda.

During those dark times, I had people to help me, and they set small goals for me. Those might be to brush my teeth and shower, and that would be all for the day. There were other times I could be instructed to do the normal things of taking care of my body and then given a task to complete by bedtime. Washing dishes became one of my favorite things to do.

I would say that the energy required by this person in your house to do homework probably eats up a lot of the available energy. Recognizing that the person is severely depressed is helpful, but that doesn’t dissolve the sufferer’s responsibilities. I would suggest small, incremental activities with rewards at each stage. Even if those rewards are as simple as pieces of candy, they can help.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba Great point about asking whether she is aware of @YARNLADY‘s expectations. Actually, I liked your entire answer. It reminded that there is a TV journalist, I cannot remember his name, who admitted that much of his adult life he had crippling depression, but he did his job, no one knew, except people very close to him.

gailcalled's avatar

@YARNLADY: Should you not discuss these issues with her therapist? He can certainly give you some idea of what expectations to have and how to implement them.

I don’t really see how we, as outsiders and laymen, can give you useful advice, although we can speculate.

Have you sat down and discussed these issues with her? Have you asked her what she feels she can contribute? If she is capable of taking care of personal hygiene and doing her school and home work (I am not sure what “charter school” work means) and sitting down at the table and eating the food that you (I presume) have prepared, then surely she can wash and dry dishes, clear the table or take out the trash.

What are the arrangements of her living with you? Open-ended or conditional?

We should change your moniker to @BRAVELADY

gailcalled's avatar

PS. How old is she?

YARNLADY's avatar

@gailcalled The person in question recently turned 19. She is the girlfriend of my 21 year old grandson. The arrangement was that she would finish high school at the same school my other two grandsons attended, and not make any household work harder for me.

My grandson takes care of her, and he prepares their food and does all the other work that involves having her here. He now has a part-time job, and he is tired all the time. I am just wondering if she could take some of the pressure off him.

wundayatta's avatar

For a year, when I was depressed, I did next to nothing at work. I was able to carry out some of my responsibilities at home, but not all of them.

At work, papers piled up on my desk for a year. I couldn’t get it together to file them or do anything about them. I simply couldn’t do it.

At home, I was responsible for finances. But I didn’t do them. I paid the bills—barely on time. That was it. I couldn’t file the bills and doing taxes was quite simply, beyond my ability to tackle alone.

I was able to do some things. I had always been the cook in the household and somehow I managed to do that. I did maybe one quarter of the gardening I did when I wasn’t depressed. I couldn’t do the car stuff. I was barely able to handle taking my son to piano lessons and practicing with him. I’m not sure you could say I handled it, since I lost it on several occasions, yelling at him and making him cry. That, more than anything, was a symptom showing how sick I was.

I had no energy to do anything. The thought of doing anything was overwhelming. I couldn’t start to do anything.

The only things I could do were things that were habit and that required barely any thought and that had to do with the basic necessities of life, like food. I spent most of my time on the computer, on fluther, since that was the only place I felt at all useful or appreciated.

Everyone responds differently to the disorder. Some can do more, and some can do nothing at all. Asking a depressed person to do household chores could make them feel guilty and even more worthless than they already are. They might feel unwanted and could decide it might be better to be homeless than to be a leech.

On the other hand, you are dealing with a teenager. And if I recall correctly, when I was a teenager, I didn’t want to do anything around the house, anyway. I didn’t understand my role in the household. I did chores, grudgingly, but I seethed about them. I simply could not understand why my parents expected me to do anything.

I’d say you have a tricky situation, to say the least. I think what you might do is to tell her you understand what depression does, but that you also have an expectation that health people will contribute to the household. You don’t know what you can ask of her that will be possible for her to do given her disability, but you’d like her to see if there’s anything she can do. Let her know she will feel better if she can do something, even something very small.

But be careful about pressuring her. It could easily backfire and make her feel worse because she can’t do it. But maybe she’ll feel she can try. Let her know you will help her in any way she needs, and that you understand how hard it can be to get going with any task at all. So you will help. Together, you’ll figure it out.

gailcalled's avatar

@YARNLADY: Have you discussed this with your grandson? Are you taking care of her financially? Where is her family?

@wundayatta raises some really interesting points, particularly about her possibly being a recalcitrant teenager under the best of circumstances.

Have you asked her directly what she feels she can do daily to help make things run smoothly?

I wonder whether presenting her with a list of possible small chores and letting her choose just a few that she can do might be an option?

JLeslie's avatar

So, your concern is really for your grandson. Have you talked to him about it? If he feels he is doing too much work? If he resents her not helping more? It seems like the situation is more complicated than at first glance, because if they are a couple and he chooses to take on the responsibility of basically caring for her, then that is his choice. Although, since it is in your house, and you are having trouble watching it take place, certainly you have a right to address the matter.

There are too options I guess. Talk to her, which will probably guilt her, even if you don’t meant to, about your grandson doing everything. Maybe it won’t at her age. She is at the perfect age to just take things for granted. Or, talk to your grandson and do your best not to make it sound like you think your grandson is getting taken advantage of.

DigitalBlue's avatar

It’s hard to know whether she is just being a typical teenager, or if it is the depression. I have dealt with major depressive disorder for most of my life, and sometimes I am able to sort of function despite being depressed, and other times it is much like @Hawaii_Jake described… where tasks like brushing my teeth or taking a shower are just too much. In fact, I often gauge just how bad off I am by whether or not I have the energy, motivation, desire to brush my teeth or wash my face. Those are huge indicators to me. Hold a job? Wash the dishes? Sometimes I can’t even bother to feed myself, let alone do daunting things like a load of laundry.

It may sound silly to someone who has never been severely depressed, but it’s very real. Many people truly struggle to manage simple daily activities of living when they are depressed.

I don’t think it is good for her to not push herself at all, it doesn’t help anything for her to succumb to the desire to not live her life in any way, if that is what is going on. But I think @wundayatta really nailed it. Anything that seems too demanding, or too impossible, could easily make her feel guilty or pathetic and could easily backfire and make things worse for both of you.
It’s a fine line, and it really isn’t fair that you and your grandson have to walk it with her, but there’s no way for us (or you), to know for certain if she is just a lazy kid or if her depression is severely impacting her ability to function. It is good that she is focusing on school, it’s entirely possible that it is all she is able to manage, or at least feels it is all she is able to manage. Does she have a social life? Go out with friends? I think a big indicator is what she has zest for outside of school and housework. When I am depressed I don’t have the motivation to get out of bed or out of a chair, let alone hang out with friends or go out and do fun things. If she has energy and drive to have company or go out with her buddies, then I don’t think it is the depression. If she spends the majority of her free time lying around, sleeping, generally being mopey and seemingly in slow motion – then I would lean more toward the depression being the problem.

The best way that I have ever been able to describe my depression to someone that hasn’t been depressed is that depression does not make me sad. It takes away my will to live. Not in the sense that I am automatically suicidal when I am depressed, but it’s literally like my drive to live my life, to do anything at all, simply isn’t there. It leaves you feeling very depleted, like an empty shell, and the desire or energy to do normal things just doesn’t exist.

I would talk to her very gently to try and get a feel for what is going on with her. It would be good for her to take on small tasks, but overwhelming her will almost certainly make things worse. Perhaps “I know that you are battling with depression, and that can make things very difficult. I am proud that you are doing so well with your schoolwork, but I worry that it isn’t enough to help you climb out of your depression. It would mean a lot to me if you could (insert small, appropriate chore) around the house, and I think that it would be beneficial to you, as well.”

YARNLADY's avatar

I have not discussed this with her or my grandson. I am trying to find out what to expect.

@DigitalBlue Thank you for the specific comments that could help.

gailcalled's avatar

Really inciteful comments from @DigitalBlue. Thank you..

@YARNLADY: Where is her doctor in this scenario? She is under some sort of supervision, isn’t she? Someone is, at least, monitoring her meds.His or her input is vital to you.

As several people have wisely pointed out, it isn’t fair to make you and your grandson have to be the diagnosticians.

wundayatta's avatar

Excellent answer, @DigitalBlue. I like the way you describe what it is like to be depressed—to lack the will to do the simplest activities necessary to stay alive. The inability to understand why you can’t do it and why you aren’t like everyone else.

For me, I could never understand it, and after a while of being like that, I often started to feel that there was no point in continued existence. It just hurt too damn much to feel that way.

YARNLADY's avatar

@gailcalled She is under the care of a doctor and has counseling every other week – it’s a free clinic. I have no contact with her doctor.

I’m just wondering if I should encourage her to help out more around the house or at least get out once in awhile. They go out once or twice a month, to the zoo or a restaurant. They are also trying to get more exercise, with an exercise DVD. They got some free passes to a near by health club, and went for three weeks.

She has a dog which she takes on walks two or three times a week, and also has a cat. They keep their own room clean, and it appears that he takes care of the pets.

Jeruba's avatar

@gailcalled: insightful…yes?

gailcalled's avatar

@Jeruba: Is there any way that I can blame that on spellcheck? Proabably not.


If she has enough energy to walk a dog and get out to socialize (which they should be doing), she is capable of pushing a vacuum, drying a dish, or sweeping a floor (a very good exercise unit.)

You have every right to ask for help around the house, which is a separate issue from them getting out once in a while. They are not mutually exclusive activities.

Jeruba's avatar

@gailcalled, no, but you can certainly blame overexposure to that spelling both here and elsewhere. After long enough, some aberrations start to look correct.

@YARNLADY, I definitely think the place to start is with a conversation, perhaps with both the young woman and your grandson. But I notice that you haven’t mentioned your husband at all. Does he have a voice in this matter?

gailcalled's avatar

@Jeruba; That is defenately to true.

JLeslie's avatar

@YARNLADY Do you get along with her overall? I think if you are willing to do the work with her, it might help her. I know you don’t want to do extra work, which I am totally behind you on that, but maybe she can help you too with something else? If some of her depression is linked to feeling lonely or low self esteem, maybe a relationship with you, and getting some positive feedback for doing a good job, and your appreciation for her help might help her? In fact, I would venture to say asking for her help, like valuing her opinion on something, some project you might be working on in the house, could build her self esteem and help her feel useful. Of course, I don’t really know what is wrong with her, and if it will help or not. I don’t know the full situation obviously. And, so true what others have said about teens not wanting to do anything.

augustlan's avatar

As several have already mentioned, it can be hard to breathe, let alone do anything else, when in a deep depression. Be very, very careful of how you approach this. I like @DigitalBlue‘s suggested wording.

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