Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

How can you possibly know how to deal with a person who subconsciously feels they don’t deserve happiness?

Asked by wundayatta (58722points) February 17th, 2010

In a discussion about revenge sex, Val123 was speculating about the circumstances under which someone might abandon a relationship. She asked, ”what if someone just really doesn’t want [the relationship] badly enough? What if they can discard what they have at the moment with the confidence that “something better” is waiting for them just over the horizon? Even if that confidence is misplaced…

To which, I added, ”And in addition to that, what if they are depressed and don’t think they deserve happiness?” A few lines later she asked the question in the title.

I happen to be in this situation. When I get depressed, I don’t feel like I deserve happiness. I believe I don’t deserve to be married to my wife. I push her away, hoping she will kick me out. This scares her, and makes her scared that it will happen again if I get depressed again (which she thinks is likely). She doesn’t know how to deal with me when I’m like that. She asked me about it this morning and I had nothing to tell her.

What can she do?

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29 Answers

MissAnthrope's avatar

The person feeling that way has to do a lot of work on themselves to stop feeling like that and to find their self-worth. There’s only so much another person can do and I would think constant reassurance and such would get exhausting after a while.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

I have a friend who’s like that. To live with someone with that mind set would be terrible. I’d think. You’d be fighting a losing battle. I’ve told this person 100 times that she DOES deserve to be loved. She, too, has mental issues. What I can’t get through to her is, that makes no difference. Mental illness is just like having any other illness. Would you be loved less if you had…say..MS? Does that make you less worthy of love? Less lovable? NO. Her husband loves her. Always has & I’m sure, always will. I just try to keep her talking, because I care so much about her & I love her.

Jude's avatar

You want an honest response? I don’t think that I could deal with it. It’d be too draining. I wouldn’t stay in that relationship (if I did, I wouldn’t be happy myself).

Cruiser's avatar

Being depressed sucks there is nothing else quite like it. Time to find a good therapist who can prescribe medication too if you need it!

CyanoticWasp's avatar

How can anyone possibly presume to know what another (or even we ourselves) can feel or believe “subconsciously”? This seems to me like the height of arrogance and presumption. Not to mention illogic.

This is why one can’t (reasonably) get into arguments with another and have any kind of rational discussion with statements that contain the phrases “you think”, “you want”, “your intent is” and words such as that.

If you have the feelings that you claim to have, then that’s fine for you to express them. I can’t possibly pretend to “know” that you have those feelings, though… not even when you say so explicitly and clearly. I can see and say what you DO and what you SAY, and I can say how your actions and statements make me feel, but I can never—ever—presume to know your thoughts, your will, your intent or your beliefs.

And to say for another (or even for oneself, for that matter), that this is how you feel “subconsciously” is ludicrous. If you feel it and believe it, then by definition it is not subconscious.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I would think a therapist could help that.

Val123's avatar

The pineapple should always be eaten second.

Val123's avatar

@jbfletcherfan Do you ever wonder if your friend is just looking for sympathy, or fishing for compliments?

partyparty's avatar

You need to get your self-esteem back.

When you wake in a morning, give yourself at least five reasons why the day is going to be a good one. Don’t start your day thinking negatively, you are only allowed to think positive thoughts. This will then become a habit.

Your wife is obviously very supportive, you should be grateful each and every day of your life that she is still concerned and loves you very much. Thank her for this.

I wish you well

susanc's avatar

Living with someone who’s very depressed is exhausting and painful. What helped me was going to Al-Anon, of all places, and learning about a concept called “Detachment with Love”. You can get a little flyer about it from them.

But it was still exhausting and painful. And often confusing. Made me cry.

Val123's avatar

Your last question was “What can she do?” The main thing is, What can YOU do. Go see a doctor. You know, I’ve always been ambivalent about the meds used to treat depression. I didn’t understand it because I’ve never, ever been “depressed.” Well, I finally had to come to grips with the fact that my middle daughter does indeed suffer from depression…..and she has all of her life. Her doctor recently proscribed Zoloft for her, and the change has been almost magical…...

wundayatta's avatar

No, I really do mean what can she do. We’re already doing everything plus some more for me. The issue is the one that @susanc answered. That was very helpful.

@CyanoticWasp You are right. One can never know what someone else is thinking.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@wundayatta thank you. I can never hear ”@CyanoticWasp You are right.” often enough. (I know that given my political, economic and “climate” views—and the prevailing views of the fluther—I won’t hear it here that often, but I keep plugging anyway.)

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@Val123 No, I’ve never gotten that impression. She’s just insecure, I think. She lives on the west coast, so I can’t really sit down & talk to her. I’d love to. To look into her eyes & tell her she IS worthy of love. I just don’t know what to do for her. I know when she’s having a bad time. I don’t hear from her & she won’t answer me. Then when things get better, she’s there. I’ll never give up on her. I think that’s what she’s most scared of. Being abandoned. I know I’m hundreds of miles away from her, but I’m here for her as much as I can be. It gets frustrating. I just want to shake her by the shoulders & say “stop it!” You’re a good person. Just believe in yourself, damn it!

marinelife's avatar

I agree with @susanc that your wife needs some support of her own around the issues that come up with you over and over again.

She can also know that no matter what she is feeling (pushed away; unloved), she needs to hang on to you right? She needs to put her arms around you (even figuratively) and ride it out with you. (Thus, why she needs support around doing that from outside the marriage.) You can tell her this when you are not in that place.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

This is a GQ, and one that books have been written about. How do we help deeply depressed individuals?

I had that opportunity recently with another person and to view it in myself.

With my friend, I kept things very simple and very much to the point. I would ask him if he’d brushed his teeth that day, checking to see how far his sefl-care had slipped. I’d ask him how many dirty dishes were by the sink. Then I would strongly encourage him to do just one nice thing for himself that day. By keeping it simple and focused, I believe that he was able to perform the daily tasks of self-care that people who aren’t severely clinically depressed take for granted.

When things got a little better, I took my friend to the park. At first, we just sat. After a couple of days of that we wandered around, and then finally we got to where we were walking. I required a great deal of patience on my part, and it took a lot of trust on the part of the depressed person.

Your wife might try keeping things very simple for you, and she’s going to have to have the patience of an angel.

Recently, I went through a bout of depression myself. I got to the point of telling myself that I didn’t even deserve to be alive. It was horrible. What did I do? I relied on my support system to help lift me out of it. I have a handful of very close friends I can turn to in these times who will not judge me. They keep things simple for me and direct my actions toward healthy ways of acting. I also go to therapy twice a month and have done so for decades. It helps me a great deal, and my therapist gives me assignments geared toward lifting me out of the abyss.

Importantly, I rely on the meds prescribed to me by my psychiatrist. I never miss a dose. I take them exactly as prescribed. Luckily, the meds work for me, but I recognize they will only work if I take them. Over the years of my mental illness, I’ve changed meds many many times. Each time something stops working, I tell my doctor immediately what I’m experiencing and act as my own self-advocate.

Being mentally ill is a tremendous challenge. It is little understood by the population at large, and it can be difficult to treat. By keeping things simple, I believe we have the best chance to help others and ourselves.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@hawaii_jake I’d like to give you an entire day’s worth of GAs for that.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@CyanoticWasp : Aw shucks. I’m blushing. shuffles feet

wundayatta's avatar

@hawaii_jake Let me chime in with @CyanoticWasp. I think I’ll print that out for my wife.

@marinelife She needs to put her arms around you (even figuratively) and ride it out with you.

But do you think…. well… I know this is a low self-esteem thing… but my first reaction is that I have no right to ask that of her. She has given too much already. I need to take care of this myself and take care of her in the process. Honestly, I can’t imagine how anyone would have the chutzpah to ask that. It’s too much for anyone to ask of anyone…. isn’t it?

My second thought is that you never would have written that if you didn’t believe it was ok to do, so it must be ok. Other people must do that. Still—I don’t know if I could ever ask that. The idea terrifies me. What if she says, “no?” It’s better no to know.

Of course, this is my issue. I know that love is bounded, because that’s how it was when I grew up, and that’s how it always seems to be. The trick is to not get to close to those boundaries. If I hit one, it seems like I’ll fall over the boundary, and….. I don’t know. So I can only ask for so much. And then less than that, just for safety. Which seems to defeat the whole purpose of it. How sick is that?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Your wife and you have been through a lot – I have been the depressed person and found the fact that the partner is always there (in good and in bad) comforting. It is exhausting but it’s important to make sure to tell her how glad you are to have her when you have moments of clarity. This must be hard on you both.

marinelife's avatar

@wundayatta Your wife wants to know how to help. She wants to know what to do. She would be glad to have something to anchor her feelings to. Something that you told her she could do that would help (even if it didn’t seem like it was helping). She is asking you to tell her what you need. That is how you get the courage to tell her.

And, then. as @Simone_De_Beauvoir says, you tell her when the thought occurs to you, when you’ve pulled out of a particularly bad place, you tell her how much you appreciated her putting her arms around you and holding on. That it helped keep you together.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Treatment for depression is very successful in helping people change their negative self-statements and the internal states that are associated with them. Low self-esteem and self-worth, hopelessness and helplessness can be dramatically improved. Cognitive behavioural techniques have been very effective both as a treatment and as a prophylactic to returning to the downward spiral of depression.

It takes training and experience to know how to deal with depressed people. When the affected person is in treatment, they frequently are given homework assignments in which loved ones can get involved.

ninjacolin's avatar

you’re going to get whatever you want, wundayatta.
so take care to want the right things.

YARNLADY's avatar

Nobody really knows how. There are tips and ideas to work with, but each person is different, so what works with one won’t necessarily work for another. Even with the same person, what works one day might not work another time.

Life is all trial and error. If you hang around long enough, you just get used to it.

evandad's avatar

Me mean to them.

Just_Justine's avatar

@hawaii_jake Have you ever thought of starting a “blog” on that? I would love to know the healthy ways of acting?

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Just_Justine : No I haven’t thought of that before, but I’m thinking about it now. Thanks.

thriftymaid's avatar

It’s very difficult and usually requires some professional help.

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