The Friendship Doctor

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Depression, loneliness and friendship

Talk to your physician if your medication hasn't been evaluated for some time

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

In March 2010, a friend of mine was depressed and we stopped doing all the things we had been doing for years. I did not see it clearly then but it led to my own depression and hopelessness and one day without premeditation I took a bottle of Tylenol codeine pills and was found over a day later and was in ICU for 10 days and psyche facility for over 30. The road back has been a hard one but I am thankful for the lives that have touched me and that I have been able to touch since then.

I have had a pain syndrome for over 20 years. There are times when I feel much better but the last six months have been very hard. I've had to let go of many of the things I was involved with before.

About a year ago I made a new friend from my church singles group. He is a nice guy and has filled a need though he is more like a child as he had a sheltered life due to seizures. He is working weekends now and will be for some time so I hardly see him anymore. Another friend who I consider a best friend is busy most of the time taking care of her son. Also, my very best female friend moved back to my town and it gave me something to look forward to again.

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Last night she met a guy I've known for about six months. They totally hit it off and exchanged phone numbers. He is looking for a serious relationship, as is she. I am afraid that will leave me in the lurch. Even with her, my week feels lonely as she works. I am truly happy for her and she has gone through so much that it would be a joy to see her with a good man and loved one day.

I recently started going to an outpatient hospital program to help deal with my loneliness and depression and the suicidal thoughts I have had lately when I'm in pain. My weeks look and feel like years. I am reaching out to volunteer and have in the past. I need to find some rewarding connections like mentoring etc. and will reach out. I exercise a lot considering my health. I do yoga 3-4 days a week and swim 4-5 times a week. I just started Tai Chi classes two times a week and love it.

Sometimes I get tired of it all and figure I just don't want to be here anymore if it means being lonely and in pain but that I have to keep fighting. I have fought so hard and for so long Irene for a better future but my health always seems to set me back.

To close, I now attend an outpatient hospital program and am being treated for depression and hope one of the meds helps but most have not. Even to lift my spirits when I am alone would help. I like the program but it will end within a month or so. I am working to fill the empty places and have reached out to my church but will look elsewhere too. Thinking about moving in with someone too, but not sure where to start. Well, do take care Irene.

My best wishes,
Bob


ANSWER

Hi Bob,

The combination of depression, pain and loneliness you feel really needs more professional help than I can give you. It is wonderful that you are already in treatment and receiving some help. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right medication regimen; perhaps your situation is also complicated by the medications you need for pain control. Be sure to and it doesn't seem to be working.

You don't mention whether you have contact with your family or whether you've had a close relationship with anyone in the past, so my response is based on the issues you did write about. I read a number of positives in your letter that make me feel very hopeful for you. You are good at making friends; you've proven that in the past. You have insight both into your problems and what you are missing; that's a first step in setting goals for yourself. And you are excellent at expressing yourself in writing.

I'm also struck by how much you already do: yoga, swimming, Tai Chi, church, treatment---and you're thinking of volunteering, too. It made me tired to think of all those activities in one week! One thing that might be helpful is finding a support group, either of individuals with chronic pain or one with people with depression.

I think you are on the right track. Just keep doing all the things you are doing to meet new people and to help others. When your medication kicks in and your pain isn't as acute, you may feel much better about your prospects. Of course, if you ever feel suicidal again, contact your therapist immediately. Thanks for reaching out.

My best wishes,
Irene


Here are some prior posts on The Friendship Blog that are also relevant to depression, loneliness, and depression:

Is it friendship anxiety or depression?

When a close friend is depressed

Housebound, lonely and craving contact

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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