depression

how do you tell the difference between when someone is gaslighting you and when you’re doing the distorted thinking thing from anxiety/depression? (for example you KNOW they’re judging you because they’re your parent and you’ve learned what that LOOK means but now they say they’re not judging you which means you can’t trust your own perceptions)
realsocialskills said:
  
One thing that’s important here is that distorted thinking and gaslighting are not mutually exclusive. When you know that you have distorted thinking, gaslighting abusers sometimes exploit that to get you to doubt your perceptions. Even when you are having an episode of actively distorted thinking, that doesn’t mean that the things someone else wants you to believe are necessarily true.
  
I think there are a couple of things that can help to sort out what’s really going on and what’s distorted thinking: outside perspective, and paying attention to your perceptions over time.
 
Regarding paying attention to your perceptions over time: Even if you have depression, you’re not always going to be equally depressed. Even if you have anxiety, you’re not always going to be equally anxious. If you still don’t like what someone is doing to you even when you’re not actively anxious or depressed, it’s probably not distorted thinking.
  
Also, if every time you object to something someone does, they consistently convince you that it’s distorted thinking, something is probably wrong for real. Nobody is perfect, and sometimes you’re both depressed *and* reasonably objecting to something. If someone consistently uses your mental illness to try to make conflicts go away, that’s gaslighting and wrong even if your perspective actually is distorted.
   
 (That said, if you’re actively anxious or depressed, it can be hard to tell in the moment whether or not something is a pattern. It’s possible to feel like it is a pattern when it isn’t, due to distorted thinking. That’s a reason why it can be really helpful to pay attention to how you feel over time.)
   
One way to keep track of how you feel over time is to write a journal. If you write a journal, you can pay attention to how you felt yesterday and whether you still feel that way today. Writing down your perspective is a more reliable way to track things over time than relying on memory. It’s hard to have accurate memories of how you’ve felt over time, and it’s particularly difficult to have accurate memories of what you thought when your thinking was distorted. (That said, journaling does not work for everyone, and if you can’t do it, that doesn’t mean you can’t figure things out.)
  
Outside perspective can also help a lot. That’s one reason that therapy is very helpful to a lot of people who struggle with distorted thinking. If you can find a therapist who you can trust to have a good sense of when you’re probably getting something right and when it’s probably depression/anxiety-related distorted thinking. This backfires horribly if your therapist *isn’t* trustworthy. I don’t really have any advice about how to find a good therapist (I wish I did, and if I ever figure it out, I’ll post about it), but I know that for many people it is both possible and important to find a good therapist. 
  
Personal blogging can also help as a way to track your perceptions over time and get feedback, but be careful about that. Personal blogging attracts two kinds of people who can create problems for those who struggle with distorted thinking: mean people who try to make you feel awful about yourself, and people who unconditionally offer you validation no matter what you say or do. Neither of those kinds of perspectives are helpful for sorting things out. In some ways, unconditional validation is particularly dangerous, *especially* if there’s a possibility that you’re abusing someone.
  
Friends and relatives can also sometimes be really helpful, particularly if they know the people involved or observe things.
 
If you have a sibling you can trust (not everyone does, but some people do), you might be able to have this kind of conversation:
  • You: Sarah, when Mom made that face, was she judging me or was I imagining it?
  • Sarah: Yeah, that’s definitely her judgey face. 
  • or, depending on what she thinks:
  • Sarah: Actually, I think she probably didn’t mean it that way this time. She just talked to me about her obnoxious boss and I think it was her pissed at my boss face.
Similarly, friends sometimes have a really good sense of what’s going on. 
   
The caution about blogging goes for consulting friends/family and other forms of peer support. Be careful about people who offer unconditional validation of all of your thoughts and feelings no matter what. That can end up reinforcing distorted thinking, which is not going to help you learn how to improve your perspectives and trust yourself when your perceptions are accurate.
  
People who are offering you useful perspective will sometimes tell you that they think your perceptions are off base, and they will not be jerks about it when they are critical. They will also not try to coerce you into adopting their perspective. Sometimes they will be wrong. Sometimes you will disagree with them and be right. You are allowed to think for yourself, even if your thinking is sometimes distorted. No one else can think for you, even if you go to them for perspective and help sorting things out.
tl;dr: Gaslighting and distorted thinking are not mutually exclusive. It’s common to experience both, even simultaneously. If you have distorted thinking, people inclined to gaslight you tend to exploit it. Tracking your perceptions over time, and getting outside perspective, make it much easier to sort out what’s actually going on. Sometimes therapy is helpful. Sometimes blogging is helpful. Sometimes friends and family are helpful. Be careful about trusting people who are mean to you or who offer unconditional validation. 
 
What do y'all think? How do you protect yourself from gaslighting when you struggle with distorted thinking?

Plans, changes, anxiety, depression, and conflict

I have anxiety and depression and probably some other shit I get very scared and panicked when someone says “I’ll be right back” and walks away from me and if I’m supposed to meet someone and they are late or don’t show up. I guess it’s abandonment.
So my question is: how do I keep from flipping out on my boyfriend when he accidentally distresses me, like when I’m supposed to pick him up but he finds another way home. His phone is off so he can’t tell me.
And I guess my other question: is it fair for him to get frustrated and angry with me when I tell him that doing this is inconsiderate? He said he thought he’d get home before I left to get him so it wasn’t intentional, but I still feel disrespected.
realsocialskills said:
   
This doesn’t sound to me like it’s just a depression and anxiety problem. It sounds to me like either something is going wrong with your communication with friends, or people aren’t treating you well, or a combination of both. It’s hard for me to tell which from a distance.
   
Having anxiety and depression does not mean that you are wrong every time you are upset about something. Sometimes, you’re going to be upset because something is actually wrong. 
  
It is not unreasonable to want people you make plans with to either show up or let you know that they’re not going to make it. It is not unreasonable to want people to tell you if they are going to be late. It is not unreasonable to want people you’re supposed to pick up to let you know if they found another ride. Those expectations are normal, and not something unusual caused by mental illness. Most people would be upset if others habitually made plans and failed to show up.
 
(It might be unreasonable to expect people to refrain for saying “I’ll be right back” and walking away, depending on the context. For instance, that’s sometimes a euphemism for going to the bathroom. So if you’re, say, eating at a restaurant and someone says that, it’s probably not reasonable to object.  But if they’re, say, leaving you in the middle of a crowded park without any clear plans for how you’re going to reconnect, that’s a problem. There are any number of configurations for that; it’s hard for me to tell just based on the phrase.)
 
It is entirely reasonable to want people to care that they flaked in a way that was distressing. Even if they did it for a reason or thought it would be ok, they should care that they flaked on you and apologize if it caused you distress. They should also be willing to think about how to avoid that problem in the future. In close relationships, people make mistakes from time to time that cause one another inadvertent distress. If someone gets angry and defensive every time you feel upset about something they did, something’s going wrong.
  
That said, it’s not ok to regularly flip out at people close to you for making mistakes. It’s hard for me to tell from your description if that’s what’s happening. Like, I could see a few possibilities:
 
Possibility #1: You’re actually flipping out in a way that’s not reasonable. Eg:
  • You: WTF?! Why didn’t you show up?! You’re a terrible boyfriend. You always do this. Why don’t you respect me?
  • Him: I thought I’d get home first. I’m sorry.
  • You: That’s not good enough. You’re awful. Why can’t you be considerate ever?

If this is what’s going on, you flipping out may well be part of the problem (but not the whole problem, because wanting people to either keep plans or let you know that they’ve changed is entirely reasonable even if the way you react is not.)

If actually flipping out on people is part of the problem, then it’s important to learn how to distinguish between how it feels to have anxiety triggered and what someone actually did. If you’re freaking out, it might be best to hold off on talking about what’s going on until you’ve calmed down. It might also help to say explicitly something like “I’m not rational right now; let’s talk about this in a few minutes.” (This is also the kind of issue that a lot of people find therapy helpful for. I don’t know if you’re someone who would find therapy helpful, but it might be worth looking into.)

But even if you are doing things that look like flipping out, that may be misleading. It’s possible that he’s intentionally provoking you in order to make you look unreasonable to avoid dealing with the problem. That brings us to possibility #2:

Possibility #2: He’s accusing you of flipping out as a way to avoid dealing with the thing you’re complaining about. Eg:

  • You: I went to pick you up and you weren’t there. What gives?
  • Him: Chill. I thought I’d be home by the time you got here. Why are you flipping out on me?
  • You: Can you please call me if plans change?
  • Him: Why are you accusing me of being inconsiderate? I didn’t do anything wrong.

For more on that kind of dynamic, see this post and this post.

Possibility #3: You’re responding to a pattern, he’s insisting that you treat it as an isolated incident, and that’s pissing you off. Eg:

  • You: I went to go pick you up and you weren’t there and didn’t call. Can you please let me know if plans change.
  • Him: Oh, sorry, I thought you’d come home first and see that I was already here.
  • You: Ok, but this happened last week too. Can we figure out how to stop it from happened?
  • Him: That happened last week. That’s over and done with.
  • You (raising your voice): This keeps happening! I need it to stop!
  • Him: Why are you flipping out? I *said* I was sorry.

Possibility #4: You both mean well, but you’re setting off each other’s berserk buttons inadvertently. Eg:

  • You (visibly close to melting down): You weren’t there?! You are here? Why weren’t you there?
  • Him (freaked out by the idea that he did something seriously upsetting, also visibly close to meltdown): I tried to be there! I did! I thought it would be ok!

If that’s the problem, finding an alternate way to communicate about problems might solve the problem. For instance, it might mean that you need to type instead of speaking, or use IM in different rooms, or talk on the phone. Or it might mean that you need ground rules about how to communicate in a conflict without setting each other off. For instance, some people need to explicitly reassure each other that this is about a specific thing and not your judgement of whether they’re a good person (sometimes judging people is appropriate and necessary. This kind of reassurance only help if that really *isn’t* the issue).

This is not an exhaustive list. There are other patterns of interaction that could be going on here. But whatever is going on, it probably isn’t just your depression and anxiety making you unreasonable. It is ok to expect people to either keep plans or let you know when they have changed.

alexfienemann:

realsocialskills:

Hi, this is for the person who posted about getting stuck in feedback loops of negativity. I have depression and that happens to me a lot. One thing that has helped me is writing in colorful sticky notes and putting them all over my room,…

alexfienemann said:

Going to try this.  What a great idea!

I am a teacher.  I got a lovely email from a parent once, and she CC’d my principal on it.  This was during an especially trying time for the school and for education in general.  He told me to print it out, keep it in my drawer, and look at it whenever I felt frustrated with my students or parents or whatever.  A lot of teachers do this - keep notes and reminders of how good they are at their job, because while teaching is wonderful, there can be very very bad days and it is very easy to get into a negative feedback loop because you are responsible for so much and take care of so many young lives.

I know, kind of a TL;DR, but I thought it pertained. ^^

fractionalrabbits:

realsocialskills:

Hi, this is for the person who posted about getting stuck in feedback loops of negativity. I have depression and that happens to me a lot. One thing that has helped me is writing in colorful sticky notes and putting them all over my room, in my wallet, in my dresser drawers, in my school binder,basically anywhere I’ll find them. They have little positive messages and quotes that inspire me. So if I’m being mean to myself they remind me to think positive.
realsocialskills said:
Has this worked for any of y’all? And if so, what kind of things has it been helpful to put on the notes?

fractionalrabbits said:

This doesn’t work for me because I always dismiss them because they were done by me, if that makes sense. But when I’m in a really good mood / out of a depressive slump, I try to stockpile on nice things for other people to have on hand whenever they’re having a bad day (like letters or doodles or pictures of pretty things to send them on bad days). I don’t know if this helps at all, but I thought I’d chime in.

but-hehurtyou:

fractionalrabbits:

realsocialskills:

Hi, this is for the person who posted about getting stuck in feedback loops of negativity. I have depression and that happens to me a lot. One thing that has helped me is writing in colorful…

but-hehurtyou said:

it helps me when I ask someone I’m close to to write like 100 of them and then I see them so you don’t think of it as you trying to make yourself feel better, but someone else wanting to see you happier as well.

monochromatically:

realsocialskills:

I have a friend with depression who frequently cancels plans or doesn’t message me back, and even though I know it’s because she has a limited amount of emotional energy and not because she doesn’t care about me, I end…

monochromatically said:

This is really spot on!

As the “Debra” in a similar situation last year, I’d say that actually discussing the emotional hurt in a non-confrontational, calm manner is an excellent way to work out new levels of expectation in the friendship.

My friend used to always make plans and want to meet up every day for “girly” best friend activities i.e. shopping trips, dinners out & spa outings. None of which I could find the energy for when my depression was at its worst. Our friendship really suffered. She felt like I was trying hard enough for the friendship and that I was being a bad friend. I felt that she wasn’t trying to understand what I was going through and not being very understanding/ listening to me.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that communication is really important. Sometimes, planning events that don’t take much energy is a good way to still hang out ~ make outings that are close by, easy to get to, and not too long. Maybe try to message her and ask if you could come over to her house for a cup of tea etc. Keep it short and simple, and most of all, communicate clearly.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, communication is important.

It’s also hard. Because sometimes, people think they’re communicating about the problem when what they’re really having is more like this conversation:

  • Cathy: It really hurts my feelings when you can’t do things you’re incapable of doing right now
  • Debra: I’m sorry. I’ll do those things. I don’t know why I don’t. I’ll be a good friend now that I know how much it’s hurting you.

And that conversation just make everything worse, particularly when it happens over and over. 

A conversation that would be better:

  • Cathy: It really hurts my feelings when we make lots of plans that you don’t keep. I feel like you don’t care about me when that happens. Can we figure out a different way of doing things?
  • Debra: I really wish I could still make plans and do those kinds of things, but I can’t do that right now. What if we hung out more online?

tl;dr Talking about feelings can backfire. Feelings are not always the primary problem. When there’s another problem, it’s important to talk about that problem as well as or instead of hashing out feelings.

aura218:

realsocialskills:

I have a friend with depression who frequently cancels plans or doesn’t message me back, and even though I know it’s because she has a limited amount of emotional energy and not because she doesn’t care about me, I end up feeling really neglected and hurt every time. We’ve talked about it and she knows how I feel, but it isn’t getting better. I keep thinking I might have to just stop talking to her to protect myself from getting hurt, but that feels mean. What do you think I should do?
realsocialskills said:
I can’t tell you whether or not you should keep talking to this person, that’s a deeply personal decision.
The first thing I want to say is that it’s ok to decide you don’t want to spend time around someone who regularly hurts you, even if the reasons they hurt you aren’t entirely their fault. Your needs matter.
That said, I think part of the problem might be that you are expecting things from your friend that aren’t possible right now, and that it might be possible to salvage the friendship by changing your expectations. 
Here’s a dynamic that may or may not resemble what’s going on with you, between friends I’ll call Cathy and Debra:
  • Cathy and Debra are in a culture in which the assumption about how friendship works is that Good Friends regularly make and keep plans, and answer each other’s messages in a timely manner
  • Debra has major depression, and isn’t currently capable of doing either of those things
  • Cathy wants to think of Debra as a Good Friend and give her the benefit of the doubt, so she keeps trying to make plans, and sends messages assuming that she will get prompt replies
  • Debra wants to think of herself as a Good Friend, so she keeps trying to make plans even though she’s not actually capable of keeping htem
  • Debra can’t actually keep most of the plans or reply to most of the messages, so she doesn’t
  • This hurts Cathy’s feelings, because she’s counting on Debra to act like a good friend, and Debra is doing things that signal that she doesn’t really care about or respect Cathy
  • Neither of them talk about Debra’s actual capabilities, or make plans taking them into account
  • They keep assuming that, somehow, being Good Friends and trying will solve the problem
  • And meanwhile, it doesn’t, and Cathy gets more and more hurt

If this is what’s going on, I think that making stuff better has to start from the assumption that, no matter how much your friend cares about you, she’s not currently capable of doing some of the things that you currently think of as central to being a good friend. If depression means she can’t do those things right now, no amount of talking about how much this hurts you is going to fix that. If those kinds of conversations gave depressed people more abilities, no one would be depressed. 

That might mean that you can’t be very friendly to one another right now, or it might mean that your understanding of how friendship works needs to change to account for her capabilities. I don’t know which answer is the right one for you. Both are possible. 

But, as far as shifting understandings and assumptions:

Regarding messages:

  • I think your current assumption might be that replies are more-or-less automatic
  • And that if someone doesn’t reply, it’s because they’re actively withholding a reply
  • Which is the case in some kinds of relationships, but it’s probably not what’s going on when your friend doesn’t reply
  • Replies are probably really, really hard for your friend right now, and she’s probably often not up to making them
  • So, with this friend, it might make more sense to assume that not replying is the default, and that sending a reply is something hard that she does when she’s up to it
  • What if when you sent your friend messages, you assumed something along the lines of “My friend will probably like getting this message, but she will probably not be able to reply to it this time”?

Regarding plans:

  • I think it is not a good idea to keep making plans that you will be upset if you friend breaks
  • If she’s not capable of keeping plans reliably, then making them and expecting them to be kept just hurts both of you.
  • So what if you didn’t make plans, and instead only did things spontaneously on rare occasions on which she was up to replying immediately to suggestions?
  • Or what if you made plans with the assumption that she might not be able to keep them, and found a way to be ok with that?
  • Eg: inviting your friend to a group activity, and still going and having a good time with the other people if she cancelled?
  • Or making plans to go to a movie, then going by yourself if she wasn’t up to it?
  • Or planning to go over to her house, but assuming that there was a good chance she wouldn’t actually be up to it, and not making that plan often enough that it would prevent you from doing other things that are important to you?

All of that said, I don’t know what you should do, and I’m not telling you that you have to keep talking to this person. I’m saying that, if you do want to try to keep interacting with them, I think this might be an approach that could make it possible to do so and still feel ok. But it might not be. What I have suggested is not going to work for everyone, and that’s ok. It does work sometimes for some people, though.

Any of y’all have other suggestions?

aura218 said:

My friend and I have a friendship that works b/c we’re both like this. Basically, we did the meetup suggestions above. We both planned to go to group things, events, movies, etc, but if the other didn’t go or was late, that was fine. 

Another thing that worked for us was taking the friendship online. We kind of commuted our friendship to an 80% online friendship. We text several times a week, go on each others’ tumblrs to keep up with what we’re doing, and comment on each others’ creative blogs. It helps us keep up with out lives and keep that connection in a low-pressure way.

depression and friendship

lilyuphigh:

realsocialskills:

I have a friend with depression who frequently cancels plans or doesn’t message me back, and even though I know it’s because she has a limited amount of emotional energy and not because she doesn’t care about me, I end up feeling really…

lilyuphigh said:

I’m both a depressed person and have been friends with depressed people!

Yes, making plans to go over can be good. But it can also be very difficult if the depressed person isn’t a good house cleaner and then they are embarrassed about their house. Keep that in mind.

One thing that works for me is making plans for near somewhere/sometime I’ll be out anyway. As a depressed person, if I have to be out of the house for an appointment, it’s not much harder to stay out of the house a little longer for fun times. As a friend to depressed people, if they have to last-minute cancel, well I’ll just go on with the rest of my scheduled day.

Definitely the group plans are good too. As a depressed person, I feel less pressure to show up which makes me feel better which makes it easier to show up after all.

One factor could be that the depressed person is getting worked up a bit about feeling like a bad friend already. Like, from personal experience, if I’m preparing to hang out with someone, I might worry that maybe I can’t make it, and then I’ll be a bad friend, and especially because of all the other times I’ve let you down, etc etc, and it can build to the point of being too much pressure and making it impossible to go out. BUT if I know that they will not be hurt and that our friendship will be fine, then it’s easier to not get drowned in negative bullshit.

I have a friend with depression who frequently cancels plans or doesn’t message me back, and even though I know it’s because she has a limited amount of emotional energy and not because she doesn’t care about me, I end up feeling really neglected and hurt every time. We’ve talked about it and she knows how I feel, but it isn’t getting better. I keep thinking I might have to just stop talking to her to protect myself from getting hurt, but that feels mean. What do you think I should do?
realsocialskills said:
I can’t tell you whether or not you should keep talking to this person, that’s a deeply personal decision.
The first thing I want to say is that it’s ok to decide you don’t want to spend time around someone who regularly hurts you, even if the reasons they hurt you aren’t entirely their fault. Your needs matter.
That said, I think part of the problem might be that you are expecting things from your friend that aren’t possible right now, and that it might be possible to salvage the friendship by changing your expectations. 
Here’s a dynamic that may or may not resemble what’s going on with you, between friends I’ll call Cathy and Debra:
  • Cathy and Debra are in a culture in which the assumption about how friendship works is that Good Friends regularly make and keep plans, and answer each other’s messages in a timely manner
  • Debra has major depression, and isn’t currently capable of doing either of those things
  • Cathy wants to think of Debra as a Good Friend and give her the benefit of the doubt, so she keeps trying to make plans, and sends messages assuming that she will get prompt replies
  • Debra wants to think of herself as a Good Friend, so she keeps trying to make plans even though she’s not actually capable of keeping htem
  • Debra can’t actually keep most of the plans or reply to most of the messages, so she doesn’t
  • This hurts Cathy’s feelings, because she’s counting on Debra to act like a good friend, and Debra is doing things that signal that she doesn’t really care about or respect Cathy
  • Neither of them talk about Debra’s actual capabilities, or make plans taking them into account
  • They keep assuming that, somehow, being Good Friends and trying will solve the problem
  • And meanwhile, it doesn’t, and Cathy gets more and more hurt

If this is what’s going on, I think that making stuff better has to start from the assumption that, no matter how much your friend cares about you, she’s not currently capable of doing some of the things that you currently think of as central to being a good friend. If depression means she can’t do those things right now, no amount of talking about how much this hurts you is going to fix that. If those kinds of conversations gave depressed people more abilities, no one would be depressed. 

That might mean that you can’t be very friendly to one another right now, or it might mean that your understanding of how friendship works needs to change to account for her capabilities. I don’t know which answer is the right one for you. Both are possible. 

But, as far as shifting understandings and assumptions:

Regarding messages:

  • I think your current assumption might be that replies are more-or-less automatic
  • And that if someone doesn’t reply, it’s because they’re actively withholding a reply
  • Which is the case in some kinds of relationships, but it’s probably not what’s going on when your friend doesn’t reply
  • Replies are probably really, really hard for your friend right now, and she’s probably often not up to making them
  • So, with this friend, it might make more sense to assume that not replying is the default, and that sending a reply is something hard that she does when she’s up to it
  • What if when you sent your friend messages, you assumed something along the lines of “My friend will probably like getting this message, but she will probably not be able to reply to it this time”?

Regarding plans:

  • I think it is not a good idea to keep making plans that you will be upset if you friend breaks
  • If she’s not capable of keeping plans reliably, then making them and expecting them to be kept just hurts both of you.
  • So what if you didn’t make plans, and instead only did things spontaneously on rare occasions on which she was up to replying immediately to suggestions?
  • Or what if you made plans with the assumption that she might not be able to keep them, and found a way to be ok with that?
  • Eg: inviting your friend to a group activity, and still going and having a good time with the other people if she cancelled?
  • Or making plans to go to a movie, then going by yourself if she wasn’t up to it?
  • Or planning to go over to her house, but assuming that there was a good chance she wouldn’t actually be up to it, and not making that plan often enough that it would prevent you from doing other things that are important to you?

All of that said, I don’t know what you should do, and I’m not telling you that you have to keep talking to this person. I’m saying that, if you do want to try to keep interacting with them, I think this might be an approach that could make it possible to do so and still feel ok. But it might not be. What I have suggested is not going to work for everyone, and that’s ok. It does work sometimes for some people, though.

Any of y'all have other suggestions?

More on how to eat when food is too hard

katalogofchaos:

When food is too hard

dyzzyah:

luxuryofconviction:

bramblepatch:

ktempest:

feministbatwoman:

realsocialskills:

Content warning: This post is my reply to someone who reblogged calling some of my low-spoons food strategies lazy and unhealthy. Some of y’all might be better off…

katalogofchaos said:

I’d like to add some tips which are helpful for my partner (and me) when he is struggling.  

In addition to getting the motivation to make food, he can get overwhelmed by the decision of what to make. There was a suggestion above to have a friend text you with a reminder to eat, but taking it a step further and having them tell you what to eat can be useful too.  I sometimes leave notes “chicken in tupperware” or he will text me “I’m hungry” and I reply with something like “there is peanut butter and honey on the counter and bread on the table, make a sandwich.” If I can take the burden of that choice away, that increases his chances of eating. 

Ordering pizza or take out is a great way to avoid the stress of preparing food, but it can sometimes mean even more choices than eating at home. One solution is to have a go-to order. At some point pick a pizza place, pick a pizza and toppings and save that as your default pizza.  If you pay with a card save your card information in the system.  In the future, ordering a pizza is reduced to one decision and one click. 

He also finds it helpful to have a generic/default order when we go out. He gets a bacon cheese burger with fries at any restaurant that has it, because then when he’s sitting at a table with 4 people and a waiter standing over him, he doesn’t need to make that choice.  

When he is feeling more stable, it also helps for him to cook for us instead of just him.  I still pick a meal, and make sure he has a recipe, but if he is cooking for me, he will follow through and cook the meal, and then there is something for him to eat as well. Strategies for living with a partner struggling with anxiety/depression is another post, but him cooking meals also helps to balance the support/supported roles in our relationship in a way that helps us both feel better. It helps him feel useful and that he is contributing, and it helps me feel cared for. 

I’m going through a breakup and am dealing with pretty crippling anxiety and depression despite the fact that my ex and I didn’t end on bad terms. I am a very socially awkward normally and my ADHD sometimes causes me to act impulsively. I have three questions: 1.) How/when/who is it appropriate for me to discuss my problems with (Like when people ask how I’m doing I normally lie but I think that may not be good for me.) 2.)How long should I wait before spending time with my ex, seeing him is like tearing off a band-aid and 3.) What is a good way for me to cope with my loneliness when my social anxiety prevents me from being able to be around most people?
Realsocialskills answered:
A few thoughts:
First and foremost, there is no one solution to this problem. You’re going to have to slowly find ways of making your life better. You’ll probably feel better if you think of it that way.
I get the sense that you might be thinking of the problem as “How do I get over my ex, stop being so impulsive, not be depressed, not be anxious, and not be so isolated, so that everything will be ok?” That’s a really overwhelming problem, but it’s not actually the problem you have to solve. The problem you have to solve is “What things can I do to start making my life better?”
And there are a lot of things that might be worth trying, and other things worth avoiding. I’ll start with the things I think you should avoid:
Don’t rely on your ex for emotional support:
  • It’s not good for either of you
  • Part of what being broken up means is that you need to separate emotionally and regain your own space
  • Relying on your ex for emotional support makes it damn near impossible to do this
  • Especially if you don’t have much else in the way of support
  • It is not your ex’s responsibility to make your life ok post-breakup
  • It’s probably not a good idea to spend time with your ex until you’re past the point of the breakup feeling like an excruciating loss when you see them

Respect other people’s boundaries:

  • Someone asking you how you are isn’t necessarily an invitation to share
  • “How are you” is usually a fairly meaningless socially greeting.
  • Sometimes people ask because they are concerned and really want to know. These are usually people you are already close to, or people you’re related to.
  • If you’re not sure whether they really want to know or if it’s just social noise, you can say “It’s kind of hard right now” or something similar, and see if they ask follow up questions
  • If they ask follow up questions, it’s usually ok to tell them what’s going on
  • But keep in mind that it’s ok for people to decide they don’t want to be your support system
  • And it’s important to respect that
Meetup.com
  • Meetup.com can bee a good way to meet new people in an unthreatening way
  • It’s easier to talk to new people when you know that you share an interest and are gathering to talk about it or do something
  • It’s also often ok to go and listen to other people talk
  • And it’s ok to leave if you need to

Interacting with people on the internet

  • A lot of people who can’t interact easily in person get a lot of social interactions from Tumblr
  • This counts as social interaction. Don’t devalue it
  • It also might help to seek out some other type of forum, like a message board about your interest/fandom/whatever
  • Email lists can be good too, especially if they’re the kind that don’t have archives that can be googled
  • Even with people you know, it might be easier to interact on chat or Facebook or some other internet based way

Religion

  • If you have a faith tradition, it might help you to go to church/temple/synagogue/mosque/place of worship.
  • If you have a bad experience with the place of worship you grew up with, you might be able to find one that works better for you
  • Most communities have a number of places of worship. Some of them probably have nice people
  • Unitarian Universalist churches work for some people who don’t feel comfortable in the organized forms of the religion they grew up with, but don’t want to reject it either
  • Going to a place of worship can be a way to meet people
  • It can also be a way to be around people without having to interact too much directly
  • For some people, being near people without having much conversation can be a way to feel less lonely without anxiety-inducing pressure
  • There also might be things you can volunteer to help with that aren’t too socially intense
  • There also might be study groups that work for you, because you can talk about the topic or just listen
  • Prayer can also help some people. Talking to God can help, even if you can’t talk to people.
  • Organized religion is not right for everyone, but it can be really good for some people

Reading fiction or watching TV

  • For some people, stories are a good way to cope with loneliness
  • Reading or watching stories is sort of like vicarious social interaction
  • It can also help you to learn a bit more about people and relationships
  • There’s a reason why lonely isolated kids coping with growing up by reading novels is such a pervasive trope
  • This isn’t helpful for everyone. Fiction can be really misleading and not everyone can understand it. But for some people, it can be good.

Therapy is helpful for some people

  • Some people find it helpful to talk to a therapist
  • Sometimes therapists can help people manage social anxiety and depression better
  • Or figure out executive functioning strategies
  • Or learn appropriate boundaries that make friendship easier
  • Therapy is not a good idea for everyone.
  • For some people, it isn’t helpful.
  • For some people, it’s a matter of finding the right therapist
  • For others, it’s actively anti-helpful and damaging.
  • For some people, it’s sort of helpful but not worth the costs
  • Therapy is something that can help some people to get support that helps them to figure out how to improve their life incrementally
  • Only you know whether therapy is a good idea for you (and it’s ok to decide to stop going to therapy if you decide that would be better)
  • In any case, therapy isn’t magic and it’s not a cure. There isn’t actually such a thing as “getting help” and that fixing your life. There’s just trying things and seeing what works.

Medication can be helpful for some people

  • Anxiety, depression, and ADHD are all conditions that some people find easier to manage with medication
  • For some people, medication is useful in the short term even if it’s not good in the long term
  • Some people don’t benefit from being on medications regularly, but do benefit from having medication available for occasional use to control anxiety or panic attacks
  • Medication is not right for everyone.
  • For some people it doesn’t work
  • For some people, it works, but has intolerable side effects
  • For some people, it works, but it takes a lot of experimentation to find the right medications and doses
  • Only you can decide if medication is right for you
  • Medication is not a cure or a way to become a different kind of person. It’s a strategy for managing things that works well for some people
  • If medication doesn’t work for you, that doesn’t imply that you don’t really have depression/ADHD/anxiety.
  • It also doesn’t imply that your condition is mild
  • Or that you’re not serious about making your life better
  • All it means is that medication is not a good strategy for you

Hi. I’m triggered by outbursts of anger and by people being majorly depressed around me. My roommate has outbursts of anger and major depression. Help?
My first thought is that you’re probably not compatible roommates. Living with that person probably means you’re inevitably going to get triggered by them a lot, which isn’t good for either of you.
That said, it might depend on how being triggered works for you:
  • Some people can learn to detect when something is about to become triggering and avert it.
  • It might be possible for you to do things like figure out which kinds of contact with your roommate are triggering, detect when it’s about to happen, and extract yourself
  • For instance, if it’s about seeing facial expressions your roommate makes when they’re angry, it might work to leave the room when things are getting too close to the edge
  • But not everyone’s triggers work this way.
  • It may not be possible to find ways to avoid being triggered while still living with someone who does a lot of triggering things
  • If that’s how it is, it’s not a personal failing, it just means you probably can’t safely live together.
  • Not everyone is compatible, and that’s ok

It also might depend on how often it happens, and what the consequences are:

  • If it’s infrequent, it might be bearable. Depending on how that is for you personally
  • It also depends on what kind of trigger it is, and how you feel about it
  • Like, if it’s the kind of trigger where you have to spend an hour freaking out and convincing yourself that you’re safe, you might decide that that’s bearable
  • It’s totally ok to decide that being regularly triggered in that way is deal-breaking, though. Either is ok, it’s a matter of what you want
  • If it’s the kind of trigger where you spend a week fighting suicidal feelings, it’s probably really important to get out of that living situation as soon as possible

Aside from what to do in the roommate situation, some thoughts about being triggered by anger:

  • Anger is a particularly difficult trigger to deal with
  • Because anger is an inevitable part of just about every relationship ever
  • Sometimes people will be justifiably angry at you, and have a legitimate need to express it
  • And sometimes you have to deal with the thing they’re angry about even though you get triggered by the anger
  • Even though it’s not your fault, even though you can’t avoid getting triggered
  • The underlying thing they’re angry about still has to be dealt with
  • Getting triggered by things people can’t reasonably avoid doing is really awful

Further thoughts about anger:

  • Having to deal with anger sometimes doesn’t mean that you can’t ever avoid it
  • Sometimes people have a legitimate need to express anger about something you’ve done, but most ways you’re likely to encounter anger in your day-to-day life aren’t like that
  • Not all anger has anything to do with you, and when you’re not the person someone is angry at, it’s usually reasonable to avoid engaging with anger
  • For instance, it’s ok if you don’t want people to vent to you when they’re angry at someone else or angry about politics
  • And it’s ok to avoid watching angry movies or following angry blogs
  • Or to block angry bloggers who trigger you, even if they’re good people who you respect
  • Or to use tumblr savior or xkit to block tags etc that are mostly people being angry
  • Or to decide not to spend time with people who get angry with you over minor things
  • Or to decide not to spend time around people who are frequently angry or appear angry much of the time
  • In particular, you might be better off not sharing living space with someone who gets angry a lot

I’m not sure what else to suggest. Do any of y'all have thoughts?