“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with ass holes.” ~ William Gibson
You should especially make sure that you are not surrounded by ass holes if a doctor has already diagnosed you with depression. Until you identify them they will keep you from ever getting better.
You can’t hope to regain a hold on yourself without a proper frame of reference for reality. Ass holes will not give you this, they will join in with the chorus that’s already in your head telling you that everything in the world is your fault. They will tell you that your madness is what’s real. They will promise you the earth in aid of your recovery, only to never be heard from again.
I learned this the hard way.
First there was the guy who, despite having taken me to the hospital to see the crisis intervention team when I wanted to stay home and take an overdose instead, despite knowing that I was there until 6am and that they sent me home with tranquilisers, got angry with me for not being up for going pet shopping with him on his lunch break the next day. So angry that he sent me a barrage of increasingly antsy messages about it while I was still knocked out in bed. So angry that he sent a bunch of messages to a mutual friend demanding to know what he thought I might be playing at. So angry, in fact, that he gave me my boxes of pills back. The ones that had enough tramadol in them to help me kill myself five times.
When the same guy got over his being antsy he came over and offered to tidy my apartment. I accepted because I really couldn’t face doing it.
The whole time he was here he kept telling me how much he was judging me for my poor house keeping, as well as my ‘failure’ to take out my bin everyday because it doesn’t need it. He also threw away the box my mom’s birthday present came in, I’d just taken it out to have a look at it, and so I couldn’t give it to her. This wasn’t an innocent mistake. I told him literally twenty times not to. I was too ill for anymore shopping, so my mom didn’t get anything this year.
He agrees with all my paranoid delusions, and insults me and belittles my illness at every chance he gets.
He’s since tried defending his behaviour by simply stating that I’m the one with social skills. Yeah. Never mind that I’m also the one with the mental health problem. The mental health problem that I don’t want, didn’t ask for and can’t get rid of. I’m the one who has to make allowances because he’s spent twenty-nine years carefully cultivating his rudeness and I mustn’t interfere with that.
He told me that helping me was inconvenient but that he did it so that he could say he was awesome. Yeah… Great.
And he wasn’t the only one using my mental health problem to feed his own ego.
There was also the guy who offered to spend time with me, particularly over night, ostensibly to help with my anxiety, but really just because he was lonely. But then he refused to let me stay with him to avoid being admitted to hospital, when I was suicidal, because he wanted to get a good night’s sleep as he had a meeting the next morning. He knew everyone else I could have asked was out of town.
This guy was continually making promises to do things so long as I didn’t hurt myself. None of these things has ever happened. When I pointed this out to him, and suggested that maybe I couldn’t rely on him to help with my recovery, he admitted he probably never would do any of them, but said that I had to keep him around because he wanted to believe that he was a good person.
The last time I spoke to him he insisted that he was going to step up and do everything he could to help me to get well again. I haven’t heard from him since. He’s found himself a girl – she has no discernible personality, but she doesn’t cut herself – and has started a relationship with her. So he doesn’t need me anymore. And who cares what I need, aye?
Now I’m feeling better I can see both these guys perfectly for what they are, and I’ve undertaken a spring clean of my social circle accordingly.
But when I was going crazy and couldn’t tell the difference between the madness of the voices in my mind and reality, I thought I should be grateful for the fact that they apparently cared. I blamed any misgivings that I had on those voices in my mind and their relentless negativity. And the fact that I accepted their behaviour as normal held me back in my recovery because it added to the struggle to regain my sense of perspective and my self esteem.
I’ve noticed though, that this seems to be a problem for a lot of women who have been through difficult situations. If you’ve been used to having people in your life who treat you badly when someone comes along who behaves a bit better you’re happy to have them. It’s because you’ve become socialised in such a way that you fail to appreciate that they still aren’t behaving well enough to deserve to be a part of your life.
I’ve seen this lots of times with women I’ve worked with who’ve been in abusive relationships or come from abusive families. They fall into a pattern of being taken advantage of by friends and partners, because they either forget or never learn that’s there’s another way to relate to people.
There was once a girl I encountered through work, her boyfriend used to pimp her out to other men, film the encounters, and put them on the internet to make himself some money. Money she never benefited from. But she didn’t think he was a bad person because he didn’t beat her up like the previous one did.
Over time, as you become used to the fact that people in your life have behaved badly, it seems that your standards become lower, and so you tolerate things that people who’ve never been abused would never dream of accepting.
I think it’s also the case that because we have such a negative cultural stereotype around the idea of people with any kind of ‘baggage’, people who’ve come out of difficult situation,s or who’ve experienced serious health problems, have a tendency to be grateful to anyone who is willing to ‘take them on’. Which means that they often settle for less. And they shouldn’t have to.
This is why I think it’s so important for people with depression to identify the ass holes and weed them out.
You can’t hope to recover properly until you have a bench mark for what being better looks like. You can’t put the right amount of work in if you can’t see how far you need to go. You deserve to be well, completely well, at least as much as anyone else. So you need to get rid of anyone who’s holding you back.
If someone frequently criticises you, or often isn’t there for you when they’ve said that they would be, ask yourself if this is someone who really deserves your time. What value does this person really add in terms of your recovery? If you’re unsure whether the problem lies within the relationship or is just a construct of your own paranoia, it might help to talk it through with a third-party you can trust to give you an honest perspective.
If you find the answer is that they do more harm than good, try to talk to this person to see whether you can change the relationship so that it works for you. If you can’t then it wouldn’t be unreasonable to distance yourself from them. Your healing process is too important to jeopardise for fear of hurting someone else’s feelings. Especially if they aren’t willing to give your feelings the same consideration.