If you have a profoundly depressed friend, you may need to set reasonable limits.
What do you do to safeguard your own sanity from an extremely depressed person, who sucks you dry, complaining over the same thing. No amount of listening and support seems enough. She is draining and has been so for 30 years, which has been compounded by a recent stroke.
I just shut down and have not contacted this person for a week in order to recoup my sanity. She has not called so I think she knows I have had it. I feel bad about having to shut her out.
It is common for someone who is profoundly depressed to continually complain and see everything in a negative light. You sound like a very compassionate and caring friend—but friendship has its limits.
Yes, it can be frustrating to deal with a depressed friend—but bear in mind that depression is a real illness, not a flaw in character. Also, sometimes, strokes can lead to depression or can compound depression that has predated a stroke.
It sounds like your friend requires more help and support than can be expected from any one friend. If she has not already been assessed and/or treated by a mental health professional, try to urge her to see one. (You might even mention to her that people often get depressed after a stroke.)
If she is resistant, see if you can involve one of her family members or any friends you have in common in helping her.
Enlisting the support of others will not only help your friend but also relieve some of your burden. Remember that your first responsibility is to yourself, and if you are feeling so drained, you may really need some time off.
Hope this helps.
My best, Irene
Prior posts on The Friendship Blog that discuss friendship and depression:
- Psych 101: When a close friend is depressed
- Depression, loneliness and friendship
- Is it friendship anxiety or depression?