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My wife has depression, and for the first several years of our marriage it was undiagnosed and untreated. Her use of language is, to this day, the single biggest thing I remember about that time.

She used absolutes a lot. Things were "terrible" or "horrible". The house was "a disaster". It was never partly clean, or messy. It was either clean, or a disaster.

But the biggest issue was that her perception of the world, including her perception of what people were saying to her - what I was saying to her - was utterly skewed. Anything I said to her, she took in the worst possible light. A compliment that could be shaded negatively, was. If I told her I liked her dress, that was taken as my not liking her other clothes. If I told her I appreciated something she did, that was taken as my not liking anything else she did. Every once in a while I managed to figure out how to say something that was so clear that it couldn't be misinterpreted, and when that happened it was as if I were speaking Greek. The statement literally did not make any sense in her mind. It was fascinating to watch; there was actually a discernible lag as she processed, and figured out how to misinterpret, anything I said.

It was as if she had her own private version of English, with her own definitions, which were more black and white (and shaded towards the black) than the vernacular version everyone else spoke. In order to speak with her I had to become conversant in her version of the language.

After a while it really felt like she was gaslighting me. Anything I said or did, she took in the worst possible way, and then blamed me for it. It took an enormous amount of emotional fortitude to keep reminding myself that this was fundamentally not my fault. I feel tremendously lucky that I didn't become depressed myself.

Happily, she eventually did recognize that something was wrong and got help, and is tons better today. Bit what they say about depression is completely true: your mind is lying to you. I watched it happen. And the even more fascinating thing is that, although she now recognizes she was depressed, she still doesn't remember those times the way I do. Her memories are still skewed.

If you are suffering from depression, please seek help. And if you are in a relationship with someone suffering from depression, find emotional support. It isn't your fault.

> If you are suffering from depression, please seek help. And if you are in a relationship with someone suffering from depression, find emotional support. It isn't your fault.

An underrated piece of advice. Not to take at all away from what those with depression are suffering, but supporting a loved one with depression can be a tremendous task in itself, sometimes involving a lot of emotional abuse. Thanks for sharing.

Get professional help before it rubs off on your children. I grew up with anger/sensitivity/delayed development issues due to the non-stop theatrics of a depressed parent.

"Theatrics" may be the wrong word.

From experience, I’d describe it as an “emotional whirlwind”. The person suffering has a lasting, chaotic impact on the household. Similar to a whirlwind the very winds that start it can’t really be seen or predicted with ease.

I don't know man, maybe it is? Not the performance aspect, for sure. But isn't the purpose of drama heightened emotions?

I have seen this pattern multiple times in various people, most recently in people who work under me. In those cases, I am not confident that I can suggest that people seek help. Marriages are (hopefully) different in that they are built on a foundation of love and trust (i.e. oh yeah, why did I marry this person again? I really did love and trust this person, right? Maybe I can still trust him/her?).

As a new manager who came in to manage a new team, I was completely clueless about many of my team members' very personal emotional baggage (everyone had different stories, but the key point is that everyone often made very negative assumptions and interpretations). It would require immense effort to earn their trust, but I had no idea at first. By the time I realized this baggage existed, I was already the enemy, the horrible evil manager who just wanted to fire everyone at the first opportunity; the only reason I hadn't succeeded is because of insert-reason-here.

In that frame, if I were to suggest that someone seek help, I think it would only be taken as a significant attack and increase the conflict? It's taken me a few years to get to the point where my team no longer believes I'm trying to fire them. I've been able to understand that they've all had various traumas in their lives (it slips out when they're emotionally upset about things).

I'm glad that your wife was able to get better, and I hope that she'll continue to get better. I wonder if anyone has any suggestions for how to make the suggestion to seek help when you're the boss of the one who needs help. Because I'm certainly no psychiatrist.

Similarly, random strangers who need help, perhaps they just needed that one person to nudge them. But too scared of creating unnecessary drama instead of having a positive impact. I guess the only easy thing to do is try to be kind to people and let it go if it backfires. It's better to say it's not my job, or it's better to be the Good Samaritan?

It doesn't help that my EQ is quite low (though it's higher than it used to be at least).

I'm afraid that I can't suggest anything. I can't recall whether or not I tried to suggest that my wife get help; it's been nearly two decades now. But I'm fairly confident that if I had, she would have misinterpreted that suggestion as a criticism of her. It was that difficult to have a conversation with her that didn't go off the rails. There was just no way I could have brought the subject up without her interpreting it as an attack.

What finally happened was that she recognized that her feelings towards our 2-year-old daughter weren't right. And, oddly enough, our dog. We had a fabulous, beautiful, well-trained Aussie, the best dog I've ever seen. My wife is a vet. When she started thinking of the child and the dog as both being problems in her life, that's when she recognized that she herself had changed for the worse, and realized she needed help.

There may be ways to go about intervening. Support groups with trained staff would probably be able to help. But I wasn't smart enough at the time to find one.

I suggest that you talk to a lawyer and/or HR before making any mention of other employees's medical conditions to anyone.

Also, remember that you're a manager, not a doctor and not a friend. Getting emotionally invested beyond your job role will hurt more than it will help. There is only so much of you to go around, and without proper training in handling this sort of problems you will run out of your own sanity in short order.

100% agree, and there are legal ramifications given that you're their manager. As always, the universal answer to everything in the workplace, "talk to HR".

EQ isn't a real thing. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14940184

And you by the way seem very apt in considering other people's emotions. This dilemma you're posing would be hard on anyone to navigate.

> I was completely clueless about many of my team members' very personal emotional baggage (everyone had different stories, but the key point is that everyone often made very negative assumptions and interpretations).

Serious question, how did your team have that many people with these issues. I presume that presuming a standard distribution, every team would have certain number of people with certain mental health related issues, but if your team has more than others, then there must be some hiring heuristic which skewed things that way. Am I correct?

The organization doesn't normally fire people and these people had been working there for over a decade, some near 2 decades. Whatever hiring heuristics existed, I'd have to ask several generations of managers and directors prior to me.

I think you hit the head on the nail with describing someone in my life. I always thought it was deep-seated insecurities about their appearance causing this behavior, it very well may be but now it dawned on me that depression and insecurities may not be mutually exclusive and insecurities may stem from depression. Thanks for sharing.

Wow.. this is my wife right now. I feel like I cannot say anything around her because she will take it wrong way. We just watch TV and don't really talk. We may talk about paying bill or picking up groceries but nothing serious or something I really want to talk about.

I am not sure what my next steps should be.

Whether or not she will get help, you should. I would offer to go to couples' therapy. If she takes you up on that, terrific. But if she is not willing to go, you should find some emotional support for yourself.

My brother, who is a minister, has a saying that helps: "If I didn't break it, it's not up to me to fix it." Your first job is to see to your own emotional health. You can't make another person's decisions for them.

This reminds of Dido's song "Quiet Times", a song about dating someone with depression:

"Now I miss you,

Now I want you,

But I can't have you,

Even when you're here"


holy crap, i know this discernible lag and delay to hear how something is alternately interpreted than plainly and positively intended. thanks for writing this all down so clearly.

What treatment helped her the most?


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