With a Little Help from My Friends

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15 April 2011

I get by...

When I'm depressed, I need help in order to prevent myself from staying home and hiding. Yeah, I do that .

It turns out there is nothing I can do to stop this from happening. Once the depression kicks in, I'm pretty much caught in its patterns, and I can't get out until the depression lifts. So a few days of my life disappear, or a week, or two. I don't even have the wherewithal to take medication (and the medication doesn't work for me anyway).

Since staying home and hiding pretty much screws up my life, I've spent years trying all sorts of solutions for this. None work because the depression handicaps all ideas. Shoots each one down in a fiery flaming crash, actually.

It's only recently that I have, grudgingly, admitted that perhaps that I will not sort this out on my own. I am pretty open about being manic depressive and family and friends do look out for me when I am in public. But I haven't really asked for direct help when I am depressed. That's because there's a bit of a difference between "keep an eye on me this afternoon" and "I need you to keep tabs on me every single day and intervene when things are going wrong."

I've always felt that it would be unfair to place such an ongoing burden on anyone.

The turning point came when I realised just how much my staying home and hiding upset my parents and that they were willing to do anything to prevent it from happening. Of course, since I'm fairly clueless, it took many many years to come to this realisation.

I've finally set up this pattern that allows me to get out of the house on mornings. And it relies on my parents and a friend.

My parents live about ten minutes away from me. Our current setup is as follows:

  • I visit my parents every morning at around 7:00 am to have breakfast. This way they are reassured that I am doing ok (and I get breakfast). Afterwards, I go home and change to go to work. A friend passes by me at 8:00 am and we leave at about 8:30 am or so.
  • I usually call my parents between 6:30 and 6:45 am to say I'll be coming. Since I have trouble making telephone calls when I am depressed, not hearing from me is the first sign for my parents that I may not be doing well.
  • My dad will usually call if he doesn't hear from me, because I sometimes forget to call. If I don't answer my phone then he knows that I am doing badly and he makes arrangements to pass by me at around 8:00 am.
  • If my dad has to pass by me at 8:00 am, then he hangs around until I get changed to go to work, and he doesn't leave until I do. That way, he knows that my morning is kick-started.
  • Since it is possible for me to visit my parents, and then come back home and hide instead of changing and going to work, I have a friend who passes at 8:00 am and hangs out with me until I actually leave the house. Having them there ensures that I actually get changed and leave the house.

Sounds complicated, doesn't it? It is kinda. I could have simplified the process such that I change and then go by my parents and then go directly to work. That way I don't need another person to help me out on mornings, and that's what I would recommend to someone else since it's less complicated.

It's just that I usually carry my dogs for a walk and then to visit my parents, and I need to carry them back home before going to work. Before you ask why don't I do all that first, my parents like seeing my dogs.

Anyway, the point here is that my parents and my friend act as the external force. If I am depressed, I won't make myself get up and get moving. But they can help me get it done.

Obviously it's not quite that simple. It's never quite that simple. Here are some additional pieces...

  • Probably the most critical thing is that I was the person who set up this system and agreed to the setup involving my parents as described above. The agreement was critical. If my parents had suggested this pattern, I would not agreed to it, and moreover I would have been annoyed with my parents when they passed by me in the morning and the system would have failed.
  • Having made the arrangements, I have to actually listen to the people who I asked to help me. This sounds obvious, but when you are depressed, it is possible to not let them in your house. Or to be angry with them. My arrangements here work because I have had good experiences in asking people for help (usually asking friends to monitor my actions in public), and then actually listening to them when they tell me to do (or stop doing) something.
  • When my dad passes to chivvy me out of the house, he is nice about it. It isn't about being angry or annoyed or even being encouraging or chipper. All of these things are a turn off when I am depressed and I would dread it if he showed up like that. All he does is show up and act pleasantly - and he brings coffee. We have coffee and then I go and change and then we leave the house at the same time. Important - my dad's presence matters more than any action he takes.
  • My father passes at 8:00 instead of 7:00 because it is possible for me to forget to charge my cell phone and then show up by my parents fifteen late. The hour grace period just prevents my parents from having to rush unnecessarily just because I am slow off the mark.
  • My parents are semi-retired and have the time to visit me on a morning and spend the 20-30 minutes it takes me to change and get ready to leave the house. Of course if your parents can't do it, perhaps a friend may have the time, or the nice old lady who lives down the street. It doesn't have to be family, just someone with some time. And you can pay someone to do this, just as you would a babysitter.

Why is it important for me to get out of the house on mornings? I've found out that if I get kick started on a morning and get out of my house, then I'll do some stuff during the day. I'll probably be at a lower productivity level than normal - sometimes a lot lower, but still - less is better than none. And if I stay home when depressed, it'll be none.

So. To summarise. If I get out of the house on mornings, I'll get some stuff done. But I can't guarantee that I will be able to get out of the house on mornings. So I set up a system so that someone else checks to make sure I get out of the house, and if not they pass by and hang out until I leave the house.

With a little help from my friends and family, I get by.

WP 1 like 2 commentsrobJun 28, 2011User InfoYou are so lucky to be employed and have a supportive family who help you get out of your house.Unfortunately, I stay on my bed all day everyday as I am unemployed, my father is dead and my mother is an idiot who refuses to accept my illnessApprovedSpamTrashLikeEditReplyChris NordstroemJun 4, 2011User InfoYour website and blog have I sent to all my family and friends. I can’t express my feelings as you does. You have helped me a lot in my personal life the last two years since I found your site. My family understands me better, and I understand myself better as well.I am really grateful!Take care.ChrisApprovedSpamTrashLikeEditReply