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Advice Column: Showing up and Loving Boundaries Supporting Friends with Long Term Depression

March 21st, 2014     by Sarah Mangle     Comments

You can view the video here on this page or on YouTube. A transcription is below the embedded video. Feedback is welcomed! - ed

Hello! This is Sarah Mangle here with Logan, and we are gonna give you a video blog today, for Shameless magazine.

And I’m here in my bed, just resting, after a long week, it’s really cold still here in Montreal, I just took a shower and and now I’m ready to do a cozy video blog for you today.

We received a request to do a video blog responding to the question, “How do you support your friends who are in longterm crisis, and how do you make sure you have good boundaries with yourself?” So, it’s a bit of a difficult topic, and a serious topic. I’m not going to talk about any extreme – I’m not going to talk about extreme – suicide, or sexual abuse, for example, but this still could be triggering for some people, depending on what your triggers are. So it’s important to be aware of that.

Also, on the Shameless website with this video blog there is a transcript of this blog underneath it so if you want to skim it just to see if you feel like you wanna watch it, then that could also be a great choice for you.

Originally when I was asked this question I realized there were a few things I wanted to share. Some that were related to acute crisis – when someone is in a moment of panic, hyperventilating, flashback, shock. In the moment of dissasoctiation, and then the other thing that I realized that I wanted to talk about was when your friends with somebody who’s been depressed for a really long time, or struggling with other mental health challenges, over a long period of time. So those were two things that I wanted to talk about.

In this specific video blog what I’m going to talk about friends who have been depressed for a really long time. Hopefully really soon, in the coming video blogs I will have one where I talk about how to support somebody when they’re in a immediate sort of freak out moment. So the other thing that I want to say before I really get into it is that because everybody is different, because all our friendships and relationships are different, these things that I’m going to say to you are true for me, for you, the opposite might be true. So there no absolutes when supporting people, and that is kind of like the most important thing for me to say, and often the most difficulty I’ve had hearing people talk about supporting people is when they say things with certainty, as if, they, you know, there are certain correct things to do. There are things that I have found helpful, and things that I feel work for me and my personality with my friends and their personalities, but we are all different. So, I just really need to say that.

The other thing I want to do first, actually, because I love books and I love zines, is that I went through my books and zine collection and I just found a few things that I thought were relevant that I wanted to share with you. And this isn’t a book review blog, so I’m just going to show you them and say the titles, and you can look them up and find them, this is one: Not Vanishing by Chrystos, very excellent, this is poetry, there are two zines, this, I think originally from the St. Emilie Skillshare, but I’m not sure that those people are still involved with the St. Emilie Skillshare, but these are widely distributed Nailbiter zines that are about anxiety. Theres also several issues of this zine called The Worst, and that is dealing with grief, when someone you love dies. If I Can’t Dance is it Still My Revolution? AJ Withers, really brilliant work, AJ Withers has also written a book about radical disability. AJ does a really great job of the trauma of medicalization, and all the abliest world stuff that happens and how that impacts a person and a person’s community, so I highly recommend them. And then we have Doris, who really was very foundational for me, Cindy Crabb writes Doris zine, it’s been going on for many many many many years, also really widely distributed, names how the messed up world makes us feel messed up, in a variety of ways and also talks about how do we address our small communities that we make ourselves when they are messed up, what do we do and how do we want to deal with it? Maranda Elizabeth, who is a really fabulous writer, and risk taker, saying a lot of things that really need to be said, and they write a lot about mental health and building a home and lots of different feelings and fashion, and they’ve also just recently written a novel, and they currently live in Toronto, so this is a complilation of their zines, Telegram, and then also, Samuel Delany, who I feel like is a fantastic writer, Samuel Delany’s memoire, The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village, I just feel like Samuel Delany, who’s also spent some time in mental health institutions also has some really interesting things to say about crisis, and support and being believed, and things like this. So those are some books I wanted to suggest to you.

And so now, there’s just a few things that I want to focus on in this blog that actually repeats some of the things I’ve said in past blogs but we’re returning to them in a different way. So remember this sign? [WEIRD FEELINGS] Originally this sign was dealing with what do you – how do you tell your friend that you have a crush on them? Weird Feelings. Weird Feelings. You’re gonna have weird feelings. We have weird feelings about all sorts of things so I wanted to start off by saying – where is my “showing up” sign? It’s really important as it is in a lot of areas of friendship, if your friend is having a hard time, if your friend is feeling depressed, you need to follow through and show up. You just really do. And sometimes we make excuses that we’re like, showing respect by not showing up, we don’t know what to do, so we don’t show up, we’re afraid of making our friend angry, so we don’t show up in their lives. This is a really important moment, if your friend is having a hard time. To be consistent with what – do what you say you’re gonna do. Build trust by following through. This leads to another really important thing which is, remember this sign? SETTLE INTO YOURSELF? Do not promise things you cannot deliver. You cannot save your friend from their situaiton. You can support your friend but you cannot magically save them like that. You cannot be their super hero, you cannot be their saviour, and I guess another really tricky thing that I’ve struggled with an other people I know have struggled with, is that if your friend is articulating certain needs to you, “I really need you to be here with me”, “I really need you to show up now”, these things, take a pause. Settle into yourself, and make sure that you can be there. And make sure that you can be present with what they’re asking. And if somebody is in crisis, it does not mean that you should or if it’s reasonable for you to forgoe all of your needs, and just support them. This is a moment where you need to hold a space for them and for yourself and be reasonable about what you can do. So, if somebody is in crisis, you do not need to do everything possible that they’re asking you to do.

You need to settle into yourself and reflect on: what can I do, and how can I support and also pay attention to not only what your friend is saying, but also what your friend is doing, their body language, their intonation, the fact that they’re contacting you when they’re contacting you, and also connect with other – figure else who else is in the network of support with your friend.

We don’t actually live in communities where we all know who eachother are. Often we don’t know who our friends are talking to on a regular basis. Ask your friend, “Who else are the supports in your life?” And find out who else are some key people and if its possible, be honest about talking to those people. We need to not be afraid of pissing off our friends who are in crisis. If we are afraid of making people angry we are often not doing what we really need to do or what we think our friend may need for support. But one other really great important thing to do is to be able to check in with other people in your friend’s support network, to figure out what else is being said, because we all also have our own personal relationships to our friends, and those dynamics are specific, and so certain things are probably going to be brought to different friends, knowing, havin some contact will really help you know how to navigate what you can do versus what other people can do. Just like everybody: people who are experiencing depression can’t hear everything we say the first time we say it, or the way we might intend to say it. So just like a lot of other situations, you may need to repeat yourself multiple times in order to be heard. This is the case with everything. Often, if I’m in conflict with a close friend, I may say the same thing many times before we both understand eachother. So this is another one of those situations. But depression makes it really hard to see yourself outside – to see the future and to sort of have as much perspective as you might have if you were not depressed, so, it’s sometime hard hear certain things.

And then lastly, well, two more things. One, things change. A strategy that you use today that doesn’t work may work in the future, people’s needs shift. Thank your friend for telling you how they feel, thank you friend for being, for making contact with you. And then also, don’t let your friendship be an island of isolation. And if your friend says, you are the only person I’m going to talk to, really, I would say, encourage your friend, be stern with your friend, depending on your relationship, to reach out to other people and connect with other people. Don’t keep your friends crisis just yourself – between yourself and your friend. It’s just not a safe scenario and also you can show your friend you expect more for them, and you know that they can do more, by connecting with other people. I think sometimes when someone is having a really hard time, we don’t want to ask a lot of them, we don’t want to give them a hard time, but sometimes giving someone a slightly hard time and saying, “I expect you to connect with people, I need you to call people, I need you to tell people what’s going on,” also shows them that you know they can do it. And that is also really important because often when someone is depressed, they’re having negative self talk, that is like, “I suck, I can’t do it, I can’t do anything, I’m terrible”, and you saying, “You can do it, you need to do this. I will do this with you,” interrupts that negative self talk and helps institute new stuff. So, yeah, I mean, I think there’s a lot of different things to say, but those are the things I’m gonna start with, and please be in touch if there’s anything specific that I didn’t mention that you were looking for, perhaps, in this kind of blog. I have this: so you can get in contact with me and let me know what you’d like advice on. All right. Have a great night! Bye.

Tags: advice

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