DEAR AMY: I have a 22-year-old niece who lives in another state. She is depressed. She was a cutter in high school, and reacted badly from a boyfriend break up in college. She ended up in a mental facility for a few days. She is now medicated and seeing a therapist. She doesn’t think the therapist is at all helpful, but she doesn’t do anything to find a new therapist or to help herself. I have suggested joining a gym, yoga classes, biking, art classes, etc., which I would pay for. She doesn’t want to do anything. She is needy and depressed. Is there something I can say or do to motivate her to get better, to give her that “Aha” moment? I know the person has to be ready to help herself, but I worry about her and worry that she might harm herself. Talking to her parents does not do any good. Her mother doesn’t care enough and my brother has his head in the sand. Any suggestions?
DEAR CONCERNED: You are kind and generous to try to help. But telling a depressed person to go to the gym, bike or take art classes will not work. It is challenging enough for healthy people to establish new positive pursuits; for a depressed person, it might be impossible. In this context, “aha moments” are a luxury. To paraphrase writer Andrew Solomon, “The opposite of depression is vitality.” Baby steps might be the biggest steps she can take.
It might be helpful if you could visit her and offer to review her treatment with her. Does she have other underlying health problems? Does she check in with her psychiatrist regularly? Her medication should be reviewed. Can you help her find a new therapist? Make some calls on her behalf (but she should stick with her current therapist until she finds another). Is there a support group (in person or online) she could join?
Read and share Andrew Solomon’s helpful and harrowing masterpiece on depression: “The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression” (2015, Scribner), or watch his TED talk on ted.com, for additional insight.
DEAR AMY: My son is marrying a lovely woman. They are both working at great jobs and are paying for their wedding. I get along well with both of them. My concern is their decision to have a “Destination Wedding” outside of the country. I understand that this is the bride’s day; as a young woman I had a lavish wedding (in retrospect I know it was too much), so I understand the desire. But now the “bride’s day” has become four or five days. My son has younger siblings who will need my financial help to make this trip. None of my own siblings or relatives are willing and/or able to make the trip, so there will be no “family occasion” for me. I’m on my own. It feels lonely. I will be using up my vacation time from work, but to me this is not a vacation. Amy, it is just not my idea of a good time. The bride’s family seems nice, but four or five days with them? In a bathing suit? When I raised my numerous concerns about this wedding, the response was, “Why be so negative? It’s not all about you! Just have fun!” I am going, and will get through it. But my heart is heavy.
New Mother-In-Law, With Reservations
DEAR MIL: Back in the day, your older relatives might have scoffed at your lavish wedding, remarking on what a waste it is to spend so much money on the “bride’s day.” And yet — this sort of self-serving choice is what marrying couples tend to do. Sometimes they regret it later, and sometimes they look back on it as the happiest day of their lives.
I suggest that you “happy up,” and get with the program. This is not a family occasion for you. This is not about you. This is about them.
DEAR AMY: “No Prior Precedent” described his wife’s adult biological daughter severing from her adoptive parents and wanting to be adopted as an adult by her two birth parents. As an adoptive parent, I was offended by your advice. You should have told them all that her adoptive parents are her forever-parents.
DEAR OFFENDED: If only this were true . . . but it’s not. Adults have the right to try to remake their families in a variety of ways — emotionally and legally.