I’ve had a 15 year history of depression and my family of origin just doesn’t get it.
Q: I’ve been struggling with depression since I was about 23 yrs. old. I went to therapy for about 12 years and have been on various meds. They don’t seem to be helping much right now. I’m close to my mother and 2 older sisters, yet harbor a lot of resentment toward them for not even trying to understand my depression or even talk with me about it. They dismiss it as just something I need to get over (“everybody gets sad sometimes”).
I recently wrote them a letter trying to explain my inner world and what it is like to be me. It was so hard to write and took so much courage to give it to them. I never got a response from my sisters; they’ll call sometimes but never ask about how I’m doing. They ignore it. My mom’s response was to email me some links to websites about how to overcome depression. I’ve since talked with her by phone, but she just said I should read a book for overcoming depression. I don’t know what I expected for a response, but I’m just heartbroken & angry. I just can’t bring myself to initiate a sit down family talk. I’ve tried it; they stay behind their protective walls. What can I do about my need for emotional support from my family?
A: I think trying to have a sit down talk is a great idea but if you don’t feel brave enough to do it on your own, why not enlist the help of your therapist? If you aren’t currently in therapy maybe it’s time to find someone who does family therapy and treats depression to help you out on this, even if it’s just a short-term thing.
The other thing to understand is that they aren’t experts on this, you are. You are the one who knows how you feel and what you have already done to try to help yourself. I’m sure in the process you have educated yourself on depression and its treatments. Maybe if you take the approach that you can help educate them and teach them how best to support you, you might not feel so disappointed. Come from a place of empowerment and let them know what you need and what you find helpful.
Last but not least, sometimes when we aren’t getting what we need from our loved ones, we just have to accept them as they are (just like you want them to do) and find the support elsewhere. Find the local NAMI or depression support group, lean on your friends, join online groups, start your own support group, etc. Reach out and find what you need, even if it’s not coming from those closest to you. Once you do this, maybe it will free you up to feel close to your family again, even if they don’t seem to understand what your life is really like. Good luck and hang in there.
Counts, H. (2007). I’ve had a 15 year history of depression and my family of origin just doesn’t get it.. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 29, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/08/14/ive-had-a-15-year-history-of-depression-and-my-family-of-origin-just-doesnt-get-it/