Behind Closed Doors: Is there anything I can do?

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My best friend looks at me. We are at a wedding, the wedding of our other mutual best friend. The three of us have been friends for 7 years now, and I love both of them like they’re my alternative siblings. This is such a joyful occasion, my gorgeous bestest girl is getting married, she’s dancing and spinning around and she’s so happy, she lights up the room with her smile. I can’t help but smile and feel joyful just seeing her. But it is not so for everyone, my best friend looks at me, then he stares away from me, and very quietly asks “do you think I have depression?”

He has just told me how he feels, he’s told me he feels hopeless, broken, desperate and empty, that he cannot shake this blackness off, that he can’t cope with life. But he doesn’t think he has depression, he just thinks he is a person incapable of living life happily.

I didn’t know what to say, what the right thing was to do in that moment, but I love my friend, he is an amazing person. He’s done amazing things. He is such a great guy; truly, he’s so funny and attractive and smart and caring and wonderful. He’s been an incredible friend to me, over the years. I could not lie to him, because I love him. He deserves my honesty. So I told him, yes. I think he has depression. His description matches descriptions I have read, from brave wonderful people online, telling the world of their darkest places to help people like me and my friend know what is happening.

I told him I think he needs to see someone, I asked him to call his GP, to ring the Samaritans, to find a counsellor, to try and get help because he doesn’t have to feel this way. I told him that I know he can’t see his way out, but that he isn’t alone; other people have felt this way and survived and got better and come out the other side. I told him that people love him, that I and our other best friend love him. That both our husbands love him too, they’re great friends. That, actually, everyone I know who has met him has thought he was brilliant. I know he can’t internalise these thoughts, but I felt so helpless sitting there, listening to him, I felt compelled to tell him, to remind him.

He hasn’t called his GP. I don’t know what to do. I’m writing this (anonymously, because it is not my issue to share publicly) to ask those of you who have suffered depression, or loved people who have suffered, what can I do? I know I can’t fix him, his happiness is not in my hands. I know he needs help, but he has given in to the hopelessness of it all, he believes he is destined to live unhappily, that this is his lot in life and there is no point in trying to fight it. It is breaking my heart to watch him hurt and hate himself. I don’t know how to help him. Is there anything I can do? Is my only choice to watch him sink lower and lower until he is ready to seek help? I will be here for him, with him, until he reaches rock bottom if that is what he needs, I won’t ever walk away from him. I hope he knows that. I have never suffered depression, so I am asking the wisest people I know for advice, is there anything I can do?

Categories: Behind Closed Doors, Health
20 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted October 25, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    This is hard, and one thing you do need to do is protect yourself. This might seem like strange advice, but supporting someone with depression is a very big undertaking and you need to ensure that if you want to be there for him, you have people there for you. That comes first. That MUST come first.

    Secondly MIND and Blurt do good guides for those who are supporting someone with depression. These are valuable resources written by the experts and they should be considered.

    I would say that this is very, very difficult. This year someone I know has been diagnosed with depression and then refused to take the anti-depressants because they did not think they had it. One thing that can put people off getting diagnosed is that they fear depression, and another is that it slowly creeps up on then so it can feel normal. I know someone who had planned their own death and did not think that was weird until it was pointed out to them.

    Your friend does need to see a GP but you can’t, for now, force him to. But do seek help from Mind on this as they really know this best of all. They have a confidential helpline you can call to ask for advice. And please look after yourself. You must, must, must look after yourself through this. I cannot stress that enough.

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 25, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Thank you Siobhan. That’s incredibly helpful and reassuring to hear, because I have felt guilty for thinking that I need support, like I’m thinking that he is obviously in so much more pain than me, I should put him first and not worry about me. It’s a big relief to hear someone else objectively remind me that I need to look after myself too. And thank you, I will look up Mind now x

  2. Posted October 25, 2012 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    In my experience, making a doctors appointment (and actually keeping it) is one of the hardest steps. As he’s your best friend and is willing to talk to you about it, would you perhaps be able to make the appointment on his behalf (with his permission of course) and take him along? I don’t know if that’s possible based on where you live/jobs/etc. This is also totally dependent on whether he’d appreciate that or resent it, but you know that better than me.

    If he gets some form of diagnosis, maintaining any form of ‘treatment’, be it medication or counselling is going to require willpower which he may not feel like he has right now. It’s a real bitch of an illness in that regard (pardon my French), in that the symptoms act counter to getting decent treatment for it!

    As for whether you said the right thing or not, you definitely did. He (from the sounds of it) wanted the honest opinion of his best friend, and your support. You gave him both. At the end of the day, there is relatively little you can do beyond that – you’re not a miracle worker, or a psychologist/psychiatrist – you’re his friend though, and that’s incredibly important.

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 25, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      Thanks Fiona, it’s reassuring to hear that, I was so scared of telling him I thought he had depression, I didn’t want it to make him feel worse or feel isolated or stigmatised, because I know so many people have problems with the stigma of it, and I’m not a medical professional so I can’t diagnose him, it sounds to me like he has depression but there’s no guarantee I’m right. I did tell him that it was only my possibly wrong opinion, but I just couldn’t lie to him. That’s the main reason I want him to see a GP, because I think he needs someone who knows what they’re talking about to discuss and potentially diagnose x

  3. Posted October 25, 2012 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    He’s obviously come far enough to talk about it, which is an enormous step and something to feel very positive about. It’s a step on a long road though. Telling him about the help out there is great, but from my experience it can sometimes be overwhelming knowing where to start to begin to fix yourself. Find counsellor recommendations from friends or work colleagues in the local area. Having a number in front of him takes away the interim steps of doing it for himself that are frankly a bloody impossible mountain to climb when you’re in the pit. Then just keep supporting him, which is absolutely the best thing to do. Don’t let it take too much out of you though, Siobhan is right, you need to know when to step back.

    Good luck. You are obviously a great friend.


    • Anonymous
      Posted October 25, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Thanks Penny. I’ve seen a counsellor myself in the past so I might call her and ask if she knows of anyone in his area. Then I guess I can give him the number and step back to just being there as his friend x

  4. Em
    Posted October 25, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Honestly I truly feel your pain here, my best friend has been diagnosed with depression for 9 years now and sometimes the feeling of helplessness is just too much to take.

    If he has started to talk about it, this is only a good thing. Things can only go up from here, but it will be in baby steps. He will find help when he feels ready, and sadly, you cannot push him to do anything, he has to want to be helped. But you can be there for him, you can help him through this and you can forever tell him how loved he is. You definitely did the right thing, he wanted an honest opinion, and you gave it to him, and hopefully you being someone he can trust to tell the truth, that may kick-start him into getting some help.

    You sound like a truly wonderful friend and you both sound lucky to have each other and make sure YOU look after YOURSELF :)

  5. Esme's Mum
    Posted October 25, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry to have to say this but he has to do this himself. As someone who was married to a depressive for 20 years the best advice I can give you is tell him that you love him and that you care. that you know he is depressed and that there is care out there for him. But if you start taking the active role and leading him through this he will only come to depend on you for his mental health and may come to blame you if it doesn’t go as well as you all hope.

    I agree with the first comment – protect yourself. You have a life and a family and it can be very emotionally and physically draining looking after someone with depression. You have the right to look after yourself first.

    Give him all the information that you are getting and let him make his own mind up as to whether he follows your advice. But do not do it for him, please.

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 25, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Thank you. This is exactly what I suspect my Mum would say, if I could ask her. I don’t feel I can though because she knows the friend in question and I feel I’d be breaking a confidence. It is good to hear it from someone, because I feel guilty for not helping, for just watching his pain, even though I know in my rational mind that it isn’t my fight and there’s not a thing I can do, so thank you x

  6. Posted October 25, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I think I agree with Esme’s mum. I think he needs to do this for himself as from experience dealing with various issues when I was younger, it was only me that could keep and attend the appointments. Yes, it was friends and family that gave me the courage to go and will me along – it felt like I was doing it for them rather than me – but gradually I learnt that I could do it without them propping me up.

    This is what I think you need to do – support him, tell him you love him and that you really want him to feel better, but it is him that needs to find the courage to see somebody and keep going. Your support and love will make it seem slightly more worth it for him, and will help him keep going and hopefully put him on a path to recovery.

    L x

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 25, 2012 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Thank you Laura. All these reminders that it is not my battle are really helpful, I’ll keep trying to support him, and I’ll always keep loving him x

  7. Alison
    Posted October 25, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I went through something similar with a friend who is now, eventually after at least 18 months of struggling, seeking help with counselling.

    I had to convince her that they way she was feeling wasn’t normal and that other people didn’t feel they way she did and that she deserved to be happy. There wasn’t anything different about her which meant she had to suffer like this. She didn’t want to label herself as depressed and resisted it for so long (although she knew within herself, as it sounds like your friend does) but I kept reinforcing it because once it’s labelled as that, she could get help. It’s an illness, a chemical imbalance, which can be fixed with chemicals (if he’s comfortable with that, my friend wasn’t) or counselling. I didn’t let her shrug it off as ‘that’s just the way she is’.

    I struggled at first because she didn’t want me to talk to anyone about it, then relented and I could share with my husband. Which helped a lot. You will need support. Because it’s so tough seeing your friend struggle and not be all that you know they can be. If they know you love them and will be there for them through it all, that will help. Good luck, I wish you and your friend all the best.

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 25, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Thank you Alison, it’s so good to hear from someone else who has been through it. I completely agree, the problem is convincing him that this isn’t normal and it is something that can get better and improve. He just seems to feel very much that he is ‘meant’ to be this way and that seeing a GP won’t make any difference because it’s who he is and cannot be altered x

  8. Posted October 25, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    From the perspective of someone who suffered with depression and whilst doing so shut out all her friends and most of her family, I hate to say it but he does need to break through this under his own steam.

    There was nothing, not a single thing, that any of my closest friends could have said or done to affect how I felt at my lowest and most fragile. I never doubted that they cared and loved me, but it simply wasn’t their fight.

    I know that’s perhaps not the most helpful answer to a question so full of love and concern that it makes me weepy…but really, you just need to remind him constantly but gently that you’re not going anywhere and that you love him.


    • Anonymous
      Posted October 25, 2012 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Thank you, this comment made me cry. It is a relief to know there’s no way I can help, in a way. I just feel responsible because I know he has told no-one but me. If all I can do is keeping showing him how much I love him, I will always always keep doing that x

  9. Anonymous
    Posted October 25, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Thank you everyone who has commented, you’ve all been amazingly helpful. I’ve felt quite alone, not knowing what to do or how to react, all of your comments have made me feel so much better. I do have a tendency to over-empathise and take on emotional responsibilities that aren’t mine (honestly, somewhere my old counsellor is choking back a laugh at that understatement), so it’s good to hear from people that I need to step back and simply be his friend, be here for him and love him. It takes away the guilt.

    And thank you to the AOW ladies for the outlet of BCD, because I really needed to talk about this, and I wasn’t able to do it anywhere else. It’s invaluable x

    • Lara Blue
      Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, I am coming to this late but I just wanted to send you a virtual hug. It is incredibly hard to see the people you love struggling, especially when there is nothing you can do and/or you feel like you should be doing something. As people have said, it needs to be your friend that takes those steps for himself for it to truly make a difference but you can still let him know that you love and care for him because even if he doesn’t respond or seem to absorb it, somewhere it is sinking in and is appreciated. xxx

  10. Alice
    Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Having witnessed the very deepest depression of my mum, and experienced a milder form myself, I agree with a lot of the comments that say this is something he needs to do himself – with support from the people around him of course.

    This is obviously incredibly personal and specific to the individual, but one thing that often cracked the armour that I’d built up around myself was that, even if I thought I wasn’t worth taking action for (which I believed at the time), my family and friends were suffering too because of me, and therefore I owed it to them to do something while I still had that ability. In my experience, depression can make you so incredibly self-absorbed that you lose sight of the fact that you are part of a relationship, a family, a friendship group, a community, a society – sometimes, reminders of that can ‘get in the way of’ the depression that you have normalised, but sometimes they can give you that glimpse of a life outside of the depression, something to aim and hope for. So, as other people have said, be there for him, support him, love him – and don’t give up on him and the life he deserves to lead.

    And so importantly, as others have already said – look out for yourself in the process too. You can only give so much of yourself before it will have an impact, and you can only help and support your friend if you are in a place of strength yourself. I wish you and your friend all the very, very best. x

  11. Posted October 25, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I was diagnosed with reactive depression a few years ago and my doctor pointed me towards a site called Living Life to the Full. I ignored it for a while, in addition to all the literature she had given me, until it came to a point when I realised that this was nobody’s battle but my own and I started to read and use the tools on the site to pinpoint where my depression was stemming from (it didn’t take a genius but it was deeper rooted than I initially thought) and began to deal with it.

    I agree with all of the comments above, look after yourself first and foremost but ensure that your friend knows that you are there to support him. Point him in the direction of sources where he can get the tools and information to work through this but recognise that he’ll take his own time getting to the right place to make full use of them.

    Big hugs xx

  12. Fee
    Posted October 25, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    From my own personal experience, it sounds like you are already doing the right things. Sadly, he does need to seek help himself as he has to be willing to fight the battle for himself – it sounds harsh and it is deeply unfair but admitting help is needed is the first huge step on the road to managing depression (as admitting total recovery may not be possible is another huge step he may have to take).

    To a friend, I would say the biggest and best thing you can do is mean what you say and only offer support you feel able to. There’s a gigantic difference between the friends who text you and say ‘Let me know if there’s anything I can do’ but then you don’t hear from them again and the ones who will turn up and sit with you in silence if that’s the support you need or understand why you don’t answer the phone to them for weeks at a time.

    It sounds like you are the latter and he is lucky to have a friend like you. I hope it all works out ok x

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