Effie came to me with many melancholic symptoms.
Melancholia is an interesting word. It comes from the Greek word for black bile, which is where people used to think sadness came from. The word melan is familiar to us in words we use today, such as melanin, melanocytes, or melatonin. All of these having something to do with darkness.
Effie had been feeling dark inside, like a black cloud was hanging over her. Effie had so many “good” reasons to feel melancholic, as if reasons were needed. She hurt. She had other physical problems. She lost her employment. She was estranged from her family. Isolated.
I asked her what she did every day.
Just sit there sometimes. I just sit there and think about all this stuff.
This wasn’t my first visit with Effie. We’d worked together for years. Some of what she was going through, along with the biology, were her psychosocial stressors and learned negative coping skills to stress. We had been working on these together for a long time but, beyond medications and sleep, Effie had a lot of difficulty working with her directives:
- Medication including supplements
- Connection – groups, church, internet, etc…
- Lose forty-five pounds to decrease multiple comorbid illnesses she was suffering from. These comorbid problems secondary to her obesity looped back and worsened her mood. It was like a brick in her pocket taking her down to the bottom of the sea.
I don’t want to do anything. I just want to be me. It doesn’t matter if that is good for me or not. It just matters that it is who I am now.
Thanks to our work here at FriendtoYourself.com, I felt empowered to pull out the self-care tools and share.
Effie, you need to go to groups. You need to connect. If your child told you that she didn’t want to take out the trash because she didn’t feel like it, what would you say? Maybe, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way. You still have to do your work!’ Are you going to wait until she wants to? Do you tell her to just be herself, that it is ok? Is that nice if you do that? No. It is not nice.
Effie explained that she only came to see me because I was the only one who understood her. She didn’t want to talk to anyone else. Of course that is flattering but I admit, however reluctantly, that I am not that good. There are other people out there who know what she’s going through and she’s not meeting them because of her choice to isolate.
Now folks, this is not to say that when someone is depressed, that we should tell them to bucker up and get on with it. Nor should we say that they are being childish. We all need to be very very very careful about that. It’s ignorant and hurtful. In Effie’s case, however, because I knew her so well, I pushed her a little harder than I had been. I wasn’t saying she was being childish, so much as I was telling her that she needed to do what was good for her, rather than what she wanted.
Effie wasn’t having fun either way, groups or no groups. And although medications had helped, they hadn’t helped enough. As we had seen each other at least once a month, if not more, for about thirty months for this most recent depressive episode, I was as clear as I could be on what had been tried and what hadn’t. I would not do this in anyone who didn’t have this constellation of factors. So, I pushed Effie to do something she hadn’t done yet.
Also, we hadn’t spent enough time on the primitive coping skills Effie was using. What I told her this day was more directed towards getting her away from those.
Being a friend to ourselves isn’t always doing what we want. It is being better to ourselves at least than our enemies. I don’t know many people I would allow to speak to me, the way Effie was speaking to herself. We talked about allying ourselves with the bits inside of us that were going in a direction to benefit, and not hurt. Not collaborating with the parts of us that would further harm us, no. This part we would name together out loud and drive forward to it deliberately. We would see together what happens.
All the while, we are still continuing to work with medications and other therapies directed at Effie’s biology. However, I believe we need to do more. When to introduce different therapies differs depending on the needs and abilities of the individual. This is how it went for Effie.
Questions: When have you done something you specifically didn’t want to do, but knew it was friendly to yourself? How did it turn out and was it friendly after all? Please tell us your story.