Can I Find Love If I’m Depressed?

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Evan, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and I like your dating advice because it’s been quantitative and specific (rather than vague and unclear like most others’). However there is one issue I’ve never seen addressed on this site (or any other for that matter).

Suppose you had treatment-resistant depression (or any chronic mental illness), assuming that you had been going the medication-and-therapy route for years to no avail, and that you were doing all you could to help yourself in your condition, but that you were just not able to function on the same level as a healthy person (i.e., too unstable to keep a job, on social assistance, disability status, etc.). Assume also that you had had this condition your entire adult life and did not expect to get better any time soon–unless there was a significant breakthrough in the field of antidepressants or therapy techniques. How would you go about dating or finding love?

How would you find a partner who would accept that you were not healthy and could not have a job or “contribute” to society, but could still love you for you? Or if your condition did not improve and you stayed that way your whole life, would you be expected to live a celibate/companion-less life? Are there any particular pitfalls in dating that depressed people are more susceptible to than healthy people?

You may wonder why I am not asking a therapist about this…This is because every therapist I’ve ever seen does not take my desire to date or find a partner seriously. Every time I raise this issue in the therapist’s office, it gets dismissed. I’ve never seen this issue addressed in a way that’s been helpful to me. The only response I’ve ever gotten was the clichéd “You need to be healthy to start a relationship. Work on yourself first.”

Essentially, I’m asking you “How does a depressed person find love in a society that believes that depressed people are not deserving of love?” Are depressed people deserving of love? Yes? No? Yes and no? I’m really interested in getting your opinion on this whole complex issue.

—Kristi

Dear Kristi,

I feel for you.

And not in some sort of vague, quasi-sympathetic way either. I had trouble with anxiety in my early 20’s and depression in my late 20’s, so I know what it’s like to attempt to function with that black cloud hanging over your head at all times.

My issue was largely situational — subconscious freak-outs about graduating college in 1994 and the shattered dreams of failing to become a Hollywood screenwriter in 2001. Once I got past the initial trauma and found my footing, the turbulence passed and I’ve been lucky enough to have smooth sailing ever since.

But I’ve never forgotten what it was like to have that demon inside me and not be able to conquer it. I remember watching “A Beautiful Mind” and the feeling of frustration at not being able to think my way out of my own depression. It’s too big. Too overwhelming. Too irrational. You can appreciate all the reasons you have to live and all the blessings in your life but still not feel good about it.

I wouldn’t wish depression on my worst enemy.

This is just my long way of validating where you’re coming from: I wouldn’t wish depression on my worst enemy.

At the same time, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone marry someone who is depressed.

This is not to say that depressed people are not as “deserving” of love as anyone else in the world. But love isn’t based on being “deserving”. Dating isn’t a meritocracy. And frankly, I don’t think anyone “deserves” love just like I don’t think everyone “deserves” to be a millionaire.

If I am to be objective, Kristi, we have to look at romance much in the way that we look at work. There are only so many amazing jobs out there and everyone is forced to make tradeoffs. Some will work for a ton of money doing something that they don’t like. Some will work at something that makes no money because they love it. Some will work in an office even though they hate commuting and being around people. Some will work from home, even though they are extroverts.

And, for whatever it’s worth, there are some people who, through no fault of their own, are unfortunate. They live in a town where all the factories have been shut down. They grew up in a broken family with no positive role models. They got caught up in their own rebellion and never went to college. They had kids too young and couldn’t give as much to their careers.

All of these people might be kind, deserving people, but they’re not going to end up with the dream job simply because they’re kind and as worthy of an amazing career as the next guy. If the next guy went to an Ivy League school, had his still-married parents pay for his grad school, and chose a career path that allowed him to capitalize on the tech boom, that guy is going to have a better job 99% of the time.

Frankly, I don’t think anyone “deserves” love just like I don’t think everyone “deserves” to be a millionaire.

And so it goes in love. Your curse is depression. Some have been cursed by being overweight. Some men are too short. Some are blind or deaf or paraplegic. Are all these people “deserving” of love? In terms of fairness, yes. In terms of reality, no.

It’s perfectly fair for you to not want to date a man who can’t walk if you can find a man who can walk. It’s perfectly fair for you to not want to date a man who is in financial disarray when you can find a man who is a stable homeowner. And it’s perfectly fair for a man to choose a partner who is not depressed over a partner who is depressed.

We can go on and on about how unfair life is, but, hey, I didn’t write the rules. Life is unfair.

And as someone who really tried the patience of some well-meaning people when I was depressed and anxious, I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to get too emotionally invested in me.

I was a cesspool of negativity, scattered thinking and helplessness. I was a shadow of my former and future self. I didn’t even like to be around myself — why would any woman enjoy being around me? Especially when she can choose to keep the company of another guy who wasn’t crying spontaneously every morning.

I’ve seen relationships torn apart by depression, generally where one partner tries to overlook the other partners’ significant issues. But those issues always come back to haunt the couple, the same way you’re still haunted by your own chronic mental health. If you can’t escape it, he can’t either. And that’s not a life that most people are going to voluntarily sign up for.

The best metaphor, I think, would be having an autistic child. I have a friend who has one and it’s incredibly emotionally draining on him. And while he’d never say he “regrets” having his son, I think if he were given a choice of autistic vs. not-autistic, he’d choose the latter. It would be hard to blame him.

So while I’m extremely sorry for the loneliness you feel, your therapists are ultimately right. Until you can get happy yourself, it would be very hard to contribute to a partner’s happiness.

It’s not that it’s impossible to find love when you’re depressed — I know of a handful of stories — and those relationships are no picnic – but objectively, there’s only a small percentage of men who are such selfless caretakers that they would choose a depressed partner over someone who doesn’t have serious mental health issues.

I sincerely wish you the best of luck and hope that you get the help you need to one day have the relationship you desire.

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Comments:

  1. 41
    Goldie

    Nathan, I agree with you on one point — that it is probably not 100% correct to, as you say, categorize Kristi as completely undateable. Moreover, I’m pretty sure there will be men willing to go out with Kristi. My point is, why would she want it? it is a lot of work (and, in case of dating, it’s a lot of thankless work with hardly any returns on the investment). On top of all the work she’s already doing trying to get better herself, why load this additional burden upon her shoulders?
      
    Dating and being in a relationship isn’t all fun and games. It isn’t some kind of benefit you get to enjoy in return for being a well-adjusted person. You think Kristi’s doctors keep telling her to work on herself because they are hellbent on depriving her of something fun that they think she doesn’t deserve? I think they say this with her best interests in mind.
      
    Personally, I went back on the dating market when I did, because I was curious to find out what a good, healthy relationship would feel like — I’d never had one. But, at the same time, I thought I was strong and adjusted enough to be able to handle whichever bad things would happen. (I’d overestimated myself, BTW, at least on one occasion.)

    1. 41.1
      amy

      I do get what you are saying Goldie, very much so, and personally, I can see how I’ve progressed and am more ready now to deal with rejections and tribulations of a relationship, rather than isolating, not dating, staying home alone, because now I do love myself for who I am, I know that I can give love in return and care for someone, but I also have lower expectations of life. Not that I will put up with an abusive person or let someone take advantage of me, just that with low expectations, I can manage disappointments better and hey I just might get a nice surprise now and then. I am open. I want and need to be. I closed up and away for 5 years and now I’ve opened all my blinds and let the sun in! I’ve proven to myself by helping others lately, that I can do the give and take of a true relationship if I am lucky enough to find that again…

  2. 42
    Helen

    nathan 40: while I have always enjoyed reading your perspectives because they seem so calm and thoughtful, I do not think that this advice means that Kristi is, or should feel, screwed.  I think that the fact that she received this advice at all means that she is at an ADVANTAGE over those who don’t receive advice, if she chooses to follow it.

    You are so right that many people look like they have it all together on the outside, but don’t on the inside. I confess to being one of them, somehow giving off the impression of smartness when many times I feel like an idiot.  I have been advised by colleagues who care for me most to hold back on reaching for this assignment or that  responsibility until I work on myself first (my position, accomplishments, expertise, and yes, even age). But I have never taken their advice as meaning that I’m screwed. I’ve seen folks at the same level as me trying to reach for those things and devoting too much of their time and energy, and THEY are the ones who wind up screwed and burned out  because they tried for something they were not ready for.

    The advice Kristi received is advice that, as you alluded to,  many  if not most of us should take too, to one degree or another. Take care of yourself first and make yourself as healthy as possible before taking on more of the world, whether that means a relationship or a job or anything else.  It’s not meant to be personal. It’s practical.

  3. 43
    Nicole

    @Kristi, as I mentioned, I went to medical school but I’m not a practicing health professional.   Your doctors are human but I hope you realize they are trying to help you and I dont’ think you should jump around between doctors and therapists just to get the answer you want.   You should do what you want but as you mentioned, there are perhaps more pitfalls than you might face if you were in a better place.   Don’t those bad relationships with people who abuse you make things worse for you?   Don’t you want to find someone who isn’t like that, and do you see how that might correlate with being healthier and stronger?

    The people that I know that have managed to find love and maintain successful careers did a LOT of work to get to that point.

    But I can tell you that they carefully manage their lives with regimens that they have carefully crafted over time, and involved mixing their therapy with medication, exercise, spirituality, rest, etc.   I don’t know what they do when they feel themselves “falling” again.   But I think they recognize it and step things up in terms of the things that make them feel better.   

    I don’t think that formula is the same for everyone, but I do know that some of them have managed to find the balance for themselves.   
    But I do know that one of the best examples of this did find love while at a moment that showed her best self, and I think it’s why she found a good partner.     

  4. 44
    nathan

    Goldie, I agree that relationships include effort and facing challenges. I’m not sure I’d want to venture out into the dating world with all that on my plate, either. And actually, most of what I write about on my own blog, as well as in the comments I make on others tends to point people back in the direction of taking care of their own issues, projections, misreadings, etc. I think it’s vitally important to develop your self-awareness, as well as learning how to deeply listen to others, and learning to respond from that place, instead of simply reacting and/or blaming. So, I’m a bit out on a limb here, but again, something about the tone of comments here reminded me of times when I’ve been depressed in the past, and received repetitive, sometimes patronizing, and ultimately useless advice about how to “get better.”  
      
    Helen, in some ways, I’m just trying to balance out the numerous comments suggesting Kristi should just keep working on herself. At first, by offering another possible angle with the alternative therapies approach, but also by suggesting that this isn’t a 100% open and shut case. Perhaps the advice you have received from colleagues and others was specific enough, and targeted enough, that it actually had a positive impact on you. I have experienced such well timed and thoughtful advice before myself. What I’m hearing from Kristi is that whatever was offered to her didn’t really have that kind of impact. Now, maybe that’s because she’s not listening closely enough   and/or isn’t open enough yet to change, but maybe it’s because what was offered in terms of advice was too general and/or overly negative. I don’t know. However, I do know that if you hear the same kinds of messages over and over again, for years on end, it’s hard not to take it in and feel defective. That’s what I hear Kristi wondering about – if she’s defective to the point where she isn’t worthy of dating. And I want to be a voice against that story, while also upholding the fact that she – and everyone really – needs to keep working on themselves.
      
      
      
      

  5. 45
    Ann

    Kristi@43: In my post #39 I wrote about you going out with a guy, but in fact it sounds like you’re gay. Sorry about that assumption on my part.  

    Nathan: I wrote earlier that I thought your #40 comment was right on the money but the comment didn’t show up (sometimes internet connection breaks without warning). Also agree with #48, that if you keep hearing the same thing over and over it’s easy to internalize a negative message and “act as if,” when really the  message is more about the  original person or the environment than about you.  So you  have to get away from the people who  need for you to be in a certain box (like the “crazy, depressed” box) if you don’t happen to like that box. This comment is especially great:  

    That’s what I hear Kristi wondering about — if she’s defective to the point where she isn’t worthy of dating. I want to be a voice against that story, while also upholding the fact that she — and everyone really — needs to keep working on themselves.”

    That’s where I’m coming from, too.

  6. 46
    Ann

    Also, Nathan@48, I do understand that it is a violation of professional ethics for a psychiatrist to tell a patient that he or she “can’t” or “shouldn’t” be in romantic relationships. I’ve had two psychotherapists in my state confirm this for me. (Intervening in cases of abuse is different, though.) So if a therapist says this, it’s a red flag. Here are some other red flags:

    http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/warning-signs-of-bad-therapy/

  7. 47
    Honey

    It seems that the issue isn’t whether a loving, supportive relationship with a healthy and balanced individual would improve Kristi’s ability to deal with her depression.   I think almost everyone here would agree that it would.   However – and unfortunately – most people have to date a LOT before they find a relationship like that, even if they are mentally healthy.   So the question becomes – will dating (which by its very nature includes those you are interested in rejecting you, those who are interested in you not meeting your standards, having your feelings hurt, feeling bad because you have to hurt other peoples feelings) improve Kristi’s ability to deal with her depression?   I doubt it.   And the more often things don’t work out, the likelier she is to believe that she’s not deserving, which feeds the depression, which leads to the next thing not working out…it’s a self-perpetuating cycle.   I think that’s what EMK is getting at.   Honestly I would suggest that (if she doesn’t have a pet already) that she get a cat or a dog.   Something that will love her unconditionally regardless of a depressed mental state (and thus feed her self-esteem) and also that she is responsible for taking care of (feeding, exercising, cleaning up after, etc.).   I’d also suggest that she stop trying to actively “date” but to view her interactions with every single person as an opportunity to connect with another human being.   Then let the connection evolve as organically as possible.

  8. 48
    Carla

    Kristi,

    I know this is totally off topic but you may want to explore a raw food diet to help your depression.   I eat mainly raw food and I’ve read on several support forums/boards of people curing mental illness by consuming a mainly raw vegan diet when all other treatments/drugs failed.

    As I have found in exploring alternative ways to improve my health, the medical establishment knows very little about nutrition and its impact on your body and health.   And after all I am sure you have been through, what do you have to lose?   And, in my humble opinion, you have everything to gain.

  9. 49
    Kristi

    Nicole@47 , I’m not jumping around from doctor to doctor to hear what I want to hear. I keep jumping around from doctor to doctor because none of my psychiatrists have been of any help

    @ Nathan when you said, “something about the tone of comments here reminded me of times when I’ve been depressed in the past, and received repetitive, sometimes patronizing, and ultimately useless advice about how to “get better.”  

    Yeah, that’s basically what I get from any therapist I visit. They don’t actually listen to my issues and they give advice which is just as patronizing, over-general, and ultimately useless as the average person would. Whatever I say, they just say, “don’t worry about it” and feed me pills that don’t work.
    And again, they’ve all had very different opinions as to what I should do…

  10. 50
    Kristi

    Ann@50 , your 50 warning signs of bad therapists seems to describe every therapist I’ve ever had

  11. 51
    Marie

    I’ve dealt with ongoing depression since I was 11 years old, due to ongoing childhood traumas. Try a therapy method called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It is highly effective for helping people with medication-resistant depression, and the therapist will not discourage you from having a healthy romantic relationship… you’ll also have a chance to work on yourself while you’re meeting new people and building a life worth living and worthy of a stable relationship where depression is something you handle on the side when it comes up, not something that dictates your daily existence.

  12. 52
    SnowdropExplodes

    Kristi:
      
    I’m definitely recommending the Julie Fast “Get It Done When You’re Depressed” book again, if you haven’t already got it, because from your further comments it sounds like it’s got what you’re looking for.     It’s definitely a cut above the patronising crap that friends/relatives/therapists tend to spew (and Lord knows I’ve heard enough of those to last a lifetime).
      
    The two biggest problems I’ve had so far in dating
    1)       Not getting dates in the first place(No one wanting to go out with me before the depression issue even comes up)
    2)       The person I’m dating being abusive/abandoning me after they have found out I’m depressed.
      
    I think these are problems that are risks for everyone and depression can make us more vulnerable when they do happen (and Lord knows, I’ve had #1 so often!)     I think writing a letter to yourself when in a less depressed state about what standards you expect from a partner, and what you’re like when you’re well, is a good option (that’s a version of a technique in the Julie Fast book, blended with a smidgeon of the better snippets of “He’s Just Not That Into You”) can help us keep in touch with what a healthy relationship looks like even when the illness is blinding us to what we really need and have a right to expect.
      
    I won’t write out the same advice from my earlier comment, but just a reminder that love can come true for anyone, regardless of mental health status, but it takes work for everyone and depression is an illness that hates us to achieve anything or do anything and tries to stop us.     I’ll say again: don’t wait until you feel like it, do it anyway and then motivation will follow.     That will enable you to do the stuff you need to attract someone who is good for you and whom you deserve.

  13. 54
    Ann

    Kristi@54:  I know. It’s really hard to find a therapist that you can have a good, helpful relationship with because they have their baggage, too. But I am pretty clear that a therapist cannot interfere with our big-life decisions, such as choosing to partner up or not. Having relationships is a part of life and their job is to be our advocates and help us navigate the tricky passages, not to make us dependent on them for our decision-making.

    Of course, part of the therapeutic process is to come to a place of trusting the doctor. That can take time, and the doctor has to do his/her part in developing that trust. Such as discussing with you why you’re taking this or that medicine and why he/she is advising a certain course of action. They have to have the humility to admit that they may not know what we should do,  while letting us know  that they’ll still be there for us if our decisions don’t work out the way we wanted. And we have to open our minds to trusting them and really understanding where they are coming from. Hard to believe that “you’re too defective to have a relationship” is a helpful or therapeutic message in any circumstance.

    All the best.

  14. 55
    Sarahrahrah!

    Love this thread.   

    I’ll qualify my opinion by saying that I have a background in mental health.   From that basis I would say that perhaps Kristi could find a meaningful and ethical relationship with another person who is dealing with depression as long as both people acknowledge their problems and are committed to allowing each person to deal with his/her problems on their own.   

    Almost every journey we travel in life is enhanced through companionship.   I don’t see why Kristi couldn’t have this so long as she was open about her issues and protected herself from potential predators.   The idea of having a date/partner who also suffers from depression (or anxiety, because they might actually complement each other better) means that they might find some understanding that they wouldn’t get from most others and also not feel the pressure to act phony or falsely happy, as is often the practice inour inauthentic culture.

    As long as she is honest going into things and keeps her eyes wide open, I don’t see why this couldn’t be a possibility.      (And I didn’t even mention sex which has an energizing and antidepressant effect on people.)  

  15. 56
    Joe'l

    I am struggling with somewhat of a depression.   Im going through a divorce.   I have 2 children, I have cerebral palsy and thyroid cancer.   I am recently interested in someone and he said he just doesnt want to be in a relationship right now i took it personal and cried and cried.   Not in front of him of course.   I still think its me.   And it might be me.   The bottom line is i have to do something to get myself back to the way i used to be.   My hormones are all out of wack so i understand how hard it is to struggle because its not about a routine or staying busy to try to make your self feel better.   There are vitiams available you can take to make your self feel better.   I have low self esteem and i think it would help    if i had someone that made me feel good about myself and wasnt always going to put me down.   But i realized that no one was going to take the time to build my confidance.   I had to do it myself.   I also learned that if someone really loves you it wont matter to you what is wrong with you.   They will hold your hand and help you through it.   You just havent meant that person.

  16. 57
    Kristi

    Sarahrahrah!@59 , that’s what I want to do. I myself am pretty self-aware and honest about my issues, but I find it hard to predict whether someone else is self-aware before investing in them.
    In the past, everyone I’ve dated who’s had issues has been in (at least partial) denial about them. I’ve noticed people who are not honest with themselves about their issues are the type to project things onto others, blame others for their own behavior, try to force other people with obvious issues to hide their symptoms or act falsely happy around them, not communicate their feelings or needs, be emotionally abusive, ect…

    I’m wondering if there are any “warning signs” that hint that someone may be dishonest with themselves or others, so I can be a better judge of character, and avoid dating someone with denial/dishonesty issues.

  17. 58
    Nikki

    I only read about half of the comments, so if someone already said this I apologize. I’m not a doctor, so my opinion is entirely based on my own experience before anyone attacks! I’ve had depression since I was 6 – I first tried to commit suicide when I was 12. I’m not sure if its situational, as there were many, many situations that could have brought it on. It could very well be chronic. For me, while love may be hard to find while depressed, it can very well be a worthwhile pursuit. While I understand what Evan and others are saying, I think sometimes love can be the very thing that can push a person to make the changes needed to become a “functioning” person. Again, this is based on my experience. I know that for many years, I did everything my therapist said: affirmations, changing negative thinking to positive, working on myself, gratitude journals, etc. None of it took until I fell in love. For me, the relationship pulled me out of myself. For once, I had to focus on something other than myself. I had someone who told me they loved me, and that I was worth fighting for. I had someone (not a therapist I paid once week) telling me that I was a worthwhile person. I saw the world through another’s eyes. Essentially, the experience made me WANT to get better. It’s very difficult sometimes to work on yourself, just for the sake of working on yourself. You can very well do everything your doctor tells you to do, and the hard work is not worth it if you’re still lonely, pushing you back into a depression. For some people, it takes a little bit of kick in the rear or someone who cares about them believing in them to get them to move in the right direction. Regardless, best of luck Kristi – I’ve been there. While Evan is right about people not entering into a relationship with someone simply because the person “deserves” it, I hope you find a good one. Because I’ve seen the transformations in people who found someone who loved them.

    1. 58.1
      Candace

      This was beautifully stated and very accurate. I hope people that believe depressed people should put love on hold until they’re happy READ this comment.

      One person stated that love does not cure or improve depression the same way it doesn’t cure or improve cancer. WRONG! Countless studies have shown the vast improvements that love and support from others has on mental health AS WELL AS physical disorders (cancer patients have far better treatment outcomes when they have love & support vs those who are alone with no one but themselves). And the same is true for treatment outcomes of mental disorders.

      I am a licensed therapist with years of education and experience, so yes, I know what I’m talking about. To Kristi and anyone else with a mental disorder, do NOT stop seeking out the love and companionship that you desire and deserve (of course this is assuming you are relatively stable and not in constant crisis). The RIGHT partnership will actually improve your health overall. The only caveat is that because of your vulnerability to depression, you have to be more careful than the average woman NOT to waste your time on men who will treat you badly. When you see those familiar red flags, you are not in a position to overlook them like many of us do.

      So NO you absolutely do NOT need to STOP seeking a partner, you simply MUST date smarter and waste no time on losers! 🙂

  18. 59
    Lynn Williams

    Its no surprise that this article prompted a good many responses.   Depression and relationships is a tough one and if you can’t shake your depression then what?   This article did make me ponder what must be a very difficult situation.   Its difficult to know what to tell someone in this situation.   I guess the best most of us can do is listen.

  19. 60
    Kay

    Kristi,
    Thank you for your letter, for having the courage to put into words what I privately stress about. I have severe recurrent depression. I have come very close to committing suicide twice and the thought is always lurking in the background. Medication (pretty high dose) during those two episodes only served to even out the worst of the symptoms so I could get on with the basic routines of everyday life.
    I was fortunate to have come across two wonderful therapists (one a social worker, one a psychologist) and two psychiatrists who helped me. They all taught me how to recognize my triggers. The psychologist told me right off that she practiced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It was talk therapy, but it was also very concrete. She didn’t just talk things out with me, she walked me through exercises step-by-step — in the therapy room with a simple task, and to prep for a functional task in my daily life. And she always brought it back to how I felt about it. Having her break down each step, and helping me learn how to break tasks down myself, was what eventually made the difference for me. It wasn’t just telling me to focus on one thing at a time. She involved me, and it stuck. Suddenly what was so overwhelming before became manageable. I don’t know if you’ve gone through CBT before but I believe it’s worth a try (not sure if it’s the same thing as DBT that someone mentioned). It sounded like you’re looking for something concrete and actionable.
    You’d also mentioned that you don’t shut out friends and partners. Are they willing to make a deal with you — holding you accountable for one thing, however small, everyday? Have a visual to show that you did whatever it was, over a period of time. In the beginning you might just feel like you’re going through the motions because you don’t want to let your friends down, but having the visual might help you realize that you can indeed manage certain tasks over a period of time, and therefore give you a sense of accomplishment.
    A speech-language pathologist (speech therapist) who specializes in treating executive functions might also be able to teach you to break things down, plan things out, and actually carry through. Merely a suggestion because I know for me, the smallest thing becomes overwhelming when I’m going through an episode and I end up pulling the blanket over my head.
    As far as dating goes, I struggle with whether to be upfront about my depression or not. If it’s someone I really, really like, I am generally upfront. Better to know before even more feelings are invested. I might temper it a bit by alluding to bits and pieces to gauge the guy’s reaction each time. You asked about any warning signs. I’ve learned to be wary of anyone who:
    (1) quotes incessantly — I want to know your thoughts in your words, not someone else’s words.
    (2) uses a lot of meaningless/pat answers that tell me nothing — I ask ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions, when appropriate. If they glide over the answer every time, warning bells ring in my head.
    (3) can only converse about people and things, and shy away from ideas (doesn’t have to be deep thoughts). To me, being able to step away from first and second person points of view and look at ideas from all angles tells me that the person is less likely to play the blame game.
    (4) turns everything into a debate. What happened to discussion?
    (5) is overly sarcastic. It seems too many people pride themselves on having a sarcastic sense of humor. Sorry but I don’t find that to be an attractive trait. Sarcasm can be taken the wrong way by the closest of friends. It can slide easily into real criticism.
    Granted, there are exceptions to the above. They are just my observations from personal experiences over time.
    Kristi, I hope what I’ve written is somewhat helpful. I am going through an episode right now, in fact, but it hasn’t been as bad as before because I remember what my therapists taught me, and practiced them actively during my good periods. I don’t know if there are days that are easier for you than others. If there are, try out different strategies, find one(s) that work for you, and practice them on your good days until they become automatic.
    p.s. EMK and Helen – I found your thoughts to be especially helpful for me. Thank you.

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