I’m in a social/friendly Facebook group where people randomly share situations in which they are needing advice from others. Here is one I saw and how I responded:
I need some friendship advice. I’m in a difficult situation with one of my friends — he struggles with severe depression and even suicidal thoughts, and he leans on me quite a bit because he feels like not that many people care about him or are willing to be there for him when he feels bad. I’m glad he feels like he can count on me, but this is getting to be a burden and I don’t really know what to do. How can I continue to be a good friend while dealing with conversations that often leave me drained and down?
Here’s how I responded:
I would tell him that you don’t feel equipped to deal with that level of depression. There are people who are trained to help him. Depression is extremely treatable using medication and counseling.
Of course you want to assure him you are his friend but that it’s hard on you to hear how bad he hurts and not be able to do anything about it.
Pay attention to how he responds. People tell you who they are by how they respect your “no.”
Hopefully he’ll handle it well. If he doesn’t, that is information you need.
I’ve interacted with people before I was a counselor who tried to guilt me. They were gamey and manipulative. When I became a counselor, my supervisors taught me how critical it was to set boundaries especially if someone has Borderline Personality Disorder and I’m not saying that person does, but it could be the case.
Also, each time you let him go on and on and on about his depression, it frees him up, a bit, emotionally and then he never has to get the help he really needs. It’s as if someone is using you for a drive-through Starbucks. They get a lift, but you feel awful.
Hope this doesn’t sound harsh. I’ve had a lot of experience with this.
I know the person’s original question pertained to depression, but if you’d like to know more about Borderline Personality Disorder, watch the video below:
*Disclaimer: I am not offering individual or personal counseling here. This is general information. Any person struggling with depression should consult a doctor or professional therapist.
Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty teacher at Colorado Christian University.
She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."