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  1. #1
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    Negativity? Depression? How to make a friendship with doom and gloom?

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    I really am curious how anyone can carry around negativity without it crushing them? I say this as someone who was dx'ed as unipolar depressed (I'm bipolar II and trend towards mania now more than anything). I know what depression feels like but I am not sure that's what I would call this attitude. And I'm not sure what it is.

    I live with a roommate who is very, very negative. She's also one of my closest friends and has been for YEARS. I love her to death but I really don't hang around at all anymore. I basically live with my boyfriend and am leaving the place that she and I share this summer to move in with him (no brainer!). She was downright awful all fall, called my parents alcoholics (in an unfounded manner), said my boyfriend was a loser, etc. She eventually apologized and it seemed like we were going to be okay after a bit. I mean, it got to the point that I wanted to move out at one point because I was having panic attacks anytime I was in my place due to her claiming I was "deserting her". I want to continue the friendship and it seemed like we were getting along better but, man, today was nothing but negativity.

    I recently received a big grant to do research in Canada and everyone (for the most part) was psyched for me. I am so, so excited about this great opportunity. It's been a lot of work getting here. Anyhow, she took me out to chat with me today and catch up since she just got back from a trip and it was nothing but negativity and "woe is me". Everytime something good happens for her, I cheer her on because I'm her friend but I get nothing from her. Instead, of us chatting and her asking me for advice on roommate hunting, it turned into how I was deserting her again and 101 reasons why my boyfriend is awful and we shouldn't move in together. The reason she hates him (I think) is because he has two kids with his ex and she was abandoned by her father as a kid. He is not like her father AT ALL, mind you, and no one else has a problem with her but she thinks he's all wrong. None of her reasons even make sense. Today it was, "Are you sure he will want to move with you when you graduate?" never mind we had this conversation months ago and it's been shown that he is in full support of my career because my job is far less flexible location-wise.

    I feel like all I do is listen to her whine and by silence help support her constant negative attitude. But I don't really know what to do better. She has no coping mechanisms apart from spending tons and tons of cash on clothing and beauty products (money she doesn't have). I don't want to make it worse. I have suggested therapy whenever she has expressed wanting to stop being so negative but she blows it off. I say it from a place of "this really helps me, maybe it could help you" not "you should go to therapy". She admits to having issues (I believe she has OCD like me as well, and she concurs) but just says "that's just how I will always be". It sounds like depression but she has doesn't do anything. And when someone is depressed, all you can do is be supportive, I guess. I want to be her friend because she's been a big part of my adult life and big changes are coming for us. We will both hopefully graduate next year, get jobs, and move away and I think I will be getting married in the next year or two I would love to share this stuff with her but I just feel so depressed and frustrated after talking to her. It's hurting me to talk with her but I feel selfish when I say that. I know she has been with me through tough times too.

    This whole thing is compounded, of course, by the fact that we live together and are in the same program.

    Any advice in dealing with this?
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  2. #2
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    Short version: detach with love.

    Long version: She sounds really screwed up. I don't know if there is way to stay friends and not have the lifeblood sucked out of you. You can't fix/change other people, you can only fix yourself and how you choose to react or get involved, or not. Being supportive doesn't mean you have to put up with someone treating you poorly, or let them dump on you. I suggest not trying to justify her behaviour to yourself because she's depressed, has unresolved issues, whatever. Depression doesn't ensure that someone has to be negative and whiny and manipulative. If you still want to hang around, you can set boundaries for yourself, "Mary I don't want to listen to you complain about X. We can talk about something different, or I'm going to go get coffee" (or something ) As long as you make yourself available, she will use you.

    caveat: I've been in treatment for depression for a good part of my adult life. This is why I don't buy depression as an excuse to be a jerk.

    just my two cents.
    Last edited by Irulan; 04-02-2014 at 03:16 PM.
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  3. #3
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    I say this as a therapist and as someone with a friend somewhat like this. Not as bad, but with other mental health issues that I cannot deal with anymore.
    You are right that depression is intertwined with negative thinking and huge cognitive distortions. But, Irulan said it well. You are enabling her to continue this behavior when you don't set boundaries around what is acceptable. Be clear, use a neutral tone, and then detach. I know some people feel this is "mean," but you need to think about you. Therapy seems to have worked for you, and I wouldn't surround myself with anyone with these traits. I have detached myself from a close relative because of something like this. I just can't take the negativity, and refusal to see the glass half full.
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  4. #4
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    What Irulan said.

    I hope this isn't entirely true, I don't really want it to be true, but most of what I've gotten out of years of therapy for double depression is that I'm not so much of a jerk as I used to be (at least I don't think I am ...). I don't know that I really feel any better inside myself, but I've tried to learn what behaviors are "normal" and appropriate and what ones aren't, and therapy has been really important with that. Maybe there's some way you can put it to her that way, I don't know because it doesn't sound all that appealing or worthwhile really, but somehow express that therapy could help her act better even if it doesn't help her feel better?
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  5. #5
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    You want friendship don't you? And friendship is a 2 way street. Gently ask for it in a discreet manner and then shorten a visit, etc. if she refuses to adjust her behaviour...to at least make you happy as her friend /being a friend to you.

    By the way, do you jog, bike together or some non-competitive sport together? Maybe some companionship in this way while it lets her temporarily enjoy time with you in headspace together.
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  6. #6
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    Personally I’d start spending less time with her. That doesn’t mean deserting her. When I have to deal with a negative person, especially a friend, I try to remember Pema Chodron’s advice to look at it as a way to work on the non-judgmental awareness of my emotions and thoughts.

    You seem to know some of the reasons for her misery/pain/fears. You might want to use that as a guide in looking at yourself with emotional intelligence and perhaps realizing things about yourself. That way you learn from her rather than having negative thoughts to yourself about her. Chodron is big on looking at situations as teachers.

    Kindness, empathy, strength and forgiveness are better and healthier than feeding the habit of negative emotions in ourselves. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t have irrational moments of just not wanting to deal with someone at times and I allow for that. I do try and encourage the positives in myself though. Time will tell how the relationship works out and if you find your way to get through it in positive way, you and perhaps she will just benefit from that.
    ‘The negative feelings we all have can be addictive…just as the positive…it’s up to
    us to decide which ones we want to choose and feed”… Pema Chodron

  7. #7
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    There was some Eeyore thing going around facebook that was something along the lines of, even though Eeyore is clinically depressed, his friends don't try to cheer him up or change him, they include him in their adventures and they don't expect him to be happy about it.

    Unless you can have that attitude about her, give yourself some space. You're not doing either of you any good by feeling unhappy about her unhappiness.
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  8. #8
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    that is awesome.
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  9. #9
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    Gonna respond to a bit of everything. Thanks, ladies. I appreciate it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Irulan View Post
    Short version: detach with love.

    If you still want to hang around, you can set boundaries for yourself, "Mary I don't want to listen to you complain about X. We can talk about something different, or I'm going to go get coffee" (or something ) As long as you make yourself available, she will use you.

    caveat: I've been in treatment for depression for a good part of my adult life. This is why I don't buy depression as an excuse to be a jerk.
    I feel this way (about the bold) a lot as someone who wasn't frequently described as a "jerk" while depressed but instead quiet (which is not me). People told me after the fact that I was easy to deal with because they would bring me along, I'd be quiet at first, but then I would relax a bit. They knew the depression was much better when I was back to being very extroverted. That said, I know everyone is different. I've tried boundaries before. I will say "I have to go if you're just going to go back over x." Or "I just can't support you buying x right now because you said you could barely afford y. I'm not going to let you go on and on about why you bought it" but it usually results in her crying and getting on the phone with her mother (in front of me). She freaks out with any push back anymore. I feel like being honest is really hard.

    That whole thing started when she damaged my mental health this summer. She had a kidney stone and I was the only person in town to take care of her. I did because that's what friends do. Problem was, she refused to take her meds as planned, was as helpless as a child, had no pain tolerance, and would then ask me to bus her back again and again to the ER. Now, I've had surgery for stones and they SUCK but she was such a hard patient to care for that I couldn't take the meds I needed to sleep at night (impair my driving). I got manic and then I got sick and she and I came to blows over me saying "Someone else has to step in here" because I was years behind in my studies, not sleeping, and going crazy slowly after a month of her being incredibly inconsiderate about my helping her. She didn't even bother to ask me about schedules for things she could and I finally (calmly) told her this was too hard for me to deal with and asked her to call another friend to take her to ONE appointment. Instead, she went into hysterics and called her mother who (on speaker phone) told me I was an awful person. After that, things never really got better.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crankin View Post
    I have detached myself from a close relative because of something like this. I just can't take the negativity, and refusal to see the glass half full.
    This is what my therapist says. His line is basically, "In this situation, you have to do what's best for you." but it just seems so harsh. Up until 10 months ago, things were swell.

    Quote Originally Posted by OakLeaf View Post
    Maybe there's some way you can put it to her that way, I don't know because it doesn't sound all that appealing or worthwhile really, but somehow express that therapy could help her act better even if it doesn't help her feel better?
    CBT was LIFE changing for my OCD and has helped me cope better with my PTSD. I swear by it. She knows all about the changes I made in CBT and recognized them. The one time she asked me directly about doing it herself, I explained it but she said it sounded "stupid" because she all therapists are the same. I have no clue why she asked me just to say it was stupid. Perhaps she's afraid of it or something?

    Quote Originally Posted by shootingstar View Post
    By the way, do you jog, bike together or some non-competitive sport together? Maybe some companionship in this way while it lets her temporarily enjoy time with you in headspace together.
    I wish! I got that MTB/commuter last summer post-her-kidney stone when trail running was still a bit high-impact and stressful for her and the gym wasn't in her price range. I purposefully put platforms on it to begin with because she said she'd come with me on the trail if I did. So, I did that and then she was all "no" about the trail because she had an accident on one once. I suggested quiet streets. She said no to that, too. I said we could ride the paved trails in town (I would haul us there). She was adamant against it. She also hates being outdoors. I can't go to her gym (it is very expensive, getting in and out by car gives me panic attacks, and it has a schedule that is useless to me spin-wise) and even if I did, she just runs on the treadmill which I don't do because of PF and does classes you have to pay extra for (more money), so it's really not an option.

    We used to go for walks but she won't do that anymore. Today was the first day we walked anywhere in ages but even then it was non-stop reasons why my SO was awful and why her life was so hard. I just can't with that.

    Quote Originally Posted by rebeccaC View Post
    You seem to know some of the reasons for her misery/pain/fears. You might want to use that as a guide in looking at yourself with emotional intelligence and perhaps realizing things about yourself. That way you learn from her rather than having negative thoughts to yourself about her. Chodron is big on looking at situations as teachers.
    I'm intrigued. How does this work? Like a specific example? Mental exercises really help me calm down and try to stop SOLVING but instead observe and learn something.

    Quote Originally Posted by Melalvai View Post
    There was some Eeyore thing going around facebook that was something along the lines of, even though Eeyore is clinically depressed, his friends don't try to cheer him up or change him, they include him in their adventures and they don't expect him to be happy about it.

    Unless you can have that attitude about her, give yourself some space. You're not doing either of you any good by feeling unhappy about her unhappiness.
    That's true. I just wish there was something we could do that would allow for that. The problem is, she has alienated most of our friends. Apart from one couple we hang out with who have been friends with her even longer, most people are fed up with her CONSTANT negativity, the constant "I'm so hideous no man will want me", "I will die alone", and constant picking at everything everyone says. She's become incredibly judgmental of everyone around her all while insisting people should not judge her. So, she's pushed anyone away that we used to hang out with. It's hard to see because I know what she REALLY wants at the end of the day is people to be around her. It's just that she can't stop practicing behaviors that turn people off.

    And I've tried the bike, I've tried walking, I've invited her out a million times, etc. Shopping is usually a sure-fire way to win with her but I can't do that with her anymore because she doesn't have the money to spend and neither I do. But she will. She spent like $500.00 she didn't have the other weekend and then complained about not knowing if she'd have funding next year, a job, a place to live, etc. My BF says it's an addiction and that it's like going to a casino with a gambling addict or a bar with an alcoholic. It's just not good. That's how I'm beginning to feel.

    If we could just go back to the way things were in April of last year, I'd be happy! Well, not completely because my BF wouldn't be in the picture just yet, but I want my friend back and I know she's hurting right now.
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  10. #10
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    Negativity? Depression? How to make a friendship with doom and gloom?

    I know, it's easy for me to say, RUN because I'm not in it. But, wow, just wow. This woman has you so manipulated....very toxic. .it's no different than the guy who says, "if you break up with me I will kill myself."
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  11. #11
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    I think I’ll always be a work in progress in letting my reactions and judgments lead me as a teacher to greater self-understanding. Perhaps that’s why I like Pema Chodron’s teachings at this point in my life.

    When I begin to feel the negativity of a situation really bothering me one of my strategies is to think of it as teaching me to be still with the discomfort of that energy and challenging me to open to the situation with as much courage and kindness as I possibly can. I find that helps in controlling judgment and strengthening something positive in me rather than strengthening anger/resentment. As Pema writes…”we can live with a dissonant note, we don’t have to play the next key to end the tune”

    If this thinking interests you, you may want to read Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart for a number of positive strategies in understanding the teaching opportunities of numerous situations.
    Last edited by rebeccaC; 04-02-2014 at 11:59 PM.
    ‘The negative feelings we all have can be addictive…just as the positive…it’s up to
    us to decide which ones we want to choose and feed”… Pema Chodron

  12. #12
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    If her behavior was enough stress to cause a manic/hypomanic episode, then, RUN. You seem to have your stuff under control. One of the main treatments for Bipolar Disorder is just to be able to recognize the triggers of hypomania/mania, and avoid them, as well as recognizing the symptoms of an episode.
    Have you done any work with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction? It's a huge part of DBT, which I totally agree with and use with almost all of my clients with mood disorders. You might like it. Ask your therapist.
    And, geez, I am glad she thinks I am the same as every other therapist . In fact, the comment I get from a lot of my clients, is that I am not!
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  13. #13
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    Negativity? Depression? How to make a friendship with doom and gloom?

    Quote Originally Posted by colorisnt View Post
    That whole thing started when she damaged my mental health this summer.
    I don't know how to say this gently: she didn't do anything. You LET her do it. I'm sure that is very tough to hear, but until you understand that nothing will really change. Its a whole new mindset to give yourself the power to do something about it.
    Last edited by Irulan; 04-03-2014 at 07:27 AM.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crankin View Post
    If her behavior was enough stress to cause a manic/hypomanic episode, then, RUN. You seem to have your stuff under control. One of the main treatments for Bipolar Disorder is just to be able to recognize the triggers of hypomania/mania, and avoid them, as well as recognizing the symptoms of an episode.
    Have you done any work with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction? It's a huge part of DBT, which I totally agree with and use with almost all of my clients with mood disorders. You might like it. Ask your therapist.
    And, geez, I am glad she thinks I am the same as every other therapist . In fact, the comment I get from a lot of my clients, is that I am not!
    The DBT was something we have done before. We've also done a lot of "drop the rope" exercises which I try to do on a daily basis when I get really wound up before bed worrying about something. And no, she has NO clue what happens in therapy. She has a crazy mother who ONE TIME sent her to see a family social worker (who was not a psychologist) and that lady wasn't useful. She doesn't seem to care that there are other options.


    Quote Originally Posted by Irulan View Post
    I don't know how to say this gently: she didn't do anything. You LET her do it. I'm sure that is very tough to hear, but until you understand that nothing will really change. Its a whole new mindset to give yourself the power to do something about it.
    No, you're right. The problem was that, at that time, if I hadn't "stepped up", she never would have gotten to the hospital, wouldn't have been able to feed herself, woudn't have been able to go to/from her surgery or appointments - nothing. Everyone else had already been so manipulated by her that they were ignoring her or were out of town at the time. Her own mother deserted her. I was able to be there for her. When it got so bad I wasn't sleeping and made myself so run down, I developed an ear infection and a sinus infection, I told her that was it. I had had enough. And, I did what I needed to do. I went home to my parents' place where I could sleep uninterrupted and get away from her. I felt like that was the only possible option for me at that point. My therapist was glad I finally was being mindful of what I needed. And I've learned a lot since then. It's why I'm really not back at the house much anymore. It's kind of a toxic situation. I feel uneasy while there more often than not, so why force myself to stay when I have other places to be?


    Quote Originally Posted by rebeccaC View Post
    If this thinking interests you, you may want to read Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart for a number of positive strategies in understanding the teaching opportunities of numerous situations.
    Interesting. I might have to look into this.


    I'm beginning to think that for now, I'm going to spend as little time over there as possible (again) and will try to keep to boundaries. The minute she starts being rude or incredibly negative, I will point it out and say, "I just can't talk about this anymore. It really bothers me." and either see if we can change the topic or something else. I think I've begun to "loosen up" around her again with that and she's reacting to it.

    I really, really keep hoping that when I move out things will magically get better and we can be friends again sans-business-relationship-issues but I don't think magic works for adults.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irulan View Post
    I know, it's easy for me to say, RUN because I'm not in it. But, wow, just wow. This woman has you so manipulated....very toxic. .it's no different than the guy who says, "if you break up with me I will kill myself."
    I have to agree with this. This person is not really your friend. It is not your responsibility to take care of her. You can't fix her or solve her problems.

    Take care of yourself.

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