Bees, Birthdays and Breakdowns

1. Bees or, more specifically, Queen Bee:

The hostess of bee family is an uterus. It is a womanish individual with the developed privy parts. For days it can put aside to 1000 eggs from which bees hatch then.

From the image caption accompanying a photo of a Queen Bee on the microstock site

2. I am now 37 years old. Gosh, ancient. However, I am consoled by the fact that I apparently neither look nor act my age – especially when there are presents for me. 🙂

Quite why anyone would fail to be delighted when they are given presents is beyond my comprehension. I love presents. I was presented with the most gratifyingly fabulous array of cards and gifts on Saturday at my birthday picnic – luckily I had ‘done an Eva’ and brought along my wheely-old-lady-trolley which doubled as a present pack-horse for the return journey.

Good gracious, I am spoilt rotten. 

3. One of my friend/colleagues is having a Very Tough Time. More than one of them, in fact, but I’ll come back to the other one later.

Rose’s* mother died 2 years ago after being in a coma for several years. Rose rushed back to Australia the day after her mother’s funeral in the UK and started her first day of work here. And believe me, working here is busy with a capital Fuck Me Its Busy.

Possibly as a result of not dealing with the grief and its associated issues at the time, her relationship with her fiancee came to an end and she embarked on a brief and ill-fated affair with a sleazy co-worker (who has since left). She and her ex-fiancee have since rebuilt their friendship but are having trouble ‘getting past’ the split and the affair.

Having pushed herself incredibly hard both at work and socially for 2 years, she is understandably now at the end of her tether. She has been having counselling for about a year – they’ve even had some joint counselling – but she has spent the better part of the last month in tears… and then beating herself up for ‘not coping’.

Today she has come back to work after a week off and still seems to me to be the poster girl for fragile. Seriously, she looks like she will either burst into tears or fall over at any second. And I know how that feels. 

I don’t know what to do or say. I have tried to be a listening ear throughout and she has a good support network of friends – but I know how difficult it can be to talk to people who have never experienced Depression. They are sympathetic, but they don’t really get it and it freaks them the hell out.

The problem is that her closest pal here at work has decided that she is fine and thinks that I am exaggerating and unnecessarily pushing her to consider medication as an option. I’m trying not to – just because it worked for me doesn’t mean it will work for her, I realise that. But its a vicious circle when you can’t control the emotions overwhelming you for ‘no reason’ so that you keep crying at work, because then you blame yourself for not being stronger which makes you feel worse and… you get the picture.

I sent her a text last week asking how she was and sending her my love, which got no response. And today she has been conspicuously quiet and went out for lunch with a couple of others, so of course now I’m convinced that I’ve somehow upset her and that she’s avoiding me. Which is dreadful.

Any ideas?

* All names changed to protect me

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14 Responses to Bees, Birthdays and Breakdowns

  1. litlove says:

    Happy Birthday! I turn 40 later this month and am feeling very ho-hum about it. Perhaps a rucksack of presents could improve matters. 🙂

    I feel so sorry for your friend. I never quite know what to do myself under such circumstances, and my policies are always too interventionist. But I guess if it were me, I might well send an email (I’m better writing than speaking) in which I described my own bad experiences as an indication of empathy and solidarity, with a very straight message as to how the corner was turned. But I guess the key to what you do lies in the result you want to produce. What stage do you think she’s at? Do you think that the right act will pop the bubble of withdrawal and she’ll cry and maybe admit she needs help? Or is she so withdrawn now that she needs to be encouraged strongly to get different help? Maybe joining forces with her fiance might be an option?

    I don’t know. These things are really tricky, because ultimately until she decides she needs to do something, any help is going to look like unwelcome coercion, and that’s really hard to endure when you’re wanting to ease her out of the pit. Good luck with it – you’re a human being of the highest order to want to help this way.

  2. Ahh yes, Happy birthday, young woo 😉

    I always feel at a loss in the situation you find yourself in so I can offer no sensible suggestions. Sometimes it may be necessary to do nothing – it could be a case of the person not being helpable until they decide they need help. Just being there for afterwards could be the right thing.

  3. jiva says:

    Happy birthday! you’re a cracking bit of fluff for your age. Phwoar.

    Anyway, on to something a little more serious. I personally could not break the circle until I had several things lined up to look forward to. Little things that take almost nothing to achieve. Until that point I had nothing worth making an effort for. Although I have no way to tell her, and understanding what loosing a mum is like, there is nothing ever going to replace her. I told the doc I dont want to let go. He said you don’t have to. I’ve still not quite got the hang of still holding on to her but still, there are ways.

  4. Damn, I knew there was something I’d forgotten to do over the weekend … I had a cryptic post-it note on my computer that said “TB Sat” and I couldn’t figure out what I’d meant, unless I was planning to go into a sanatorium over the weekend. “Truce’s Birthday” — that’s what it was.

    Happy 37th, you delightful creature. I hope this year is the best you’ve ever had, and that it is full of intelligent dreadlocked surfers who don’t overdress or talk about prostitution rings.

    Regarding your friend at work — poor thing, that’s such a lot to be dealing with. As far as the tension between you, since it’s a work situation, if it were me, I’d address it pretty directly, by inviting her out to lunch or dinner, and if she refused, I would simply her, gently, whether I’d upset her.

    Although you’re quite right that it’s very hard, when one is depressed, to talk to people who don’t “get” it … it can be more threatening, sometimes, to know that someone else *does* get it … if she invests any of her current sense of worth in her own self-control, she may fear that she will break down if she’s presented with genuine empathy, and therefore be avoiding you.

  5. That should have said “simply ASK her.”

  6. piereth says:

    I do agree with David – she may simply have reached critical mass and be unable to share. Ask her to dinner. If you get a rejection, tell her you’re there for her whatever happens, and step back.

    I think you know you haven’t done anything to upset her, not really. You’re a great person to lean on in a crisis, always have been. She will know this about you if she knows the least thing.

    Happy Birthday – I’ve got your present sitting leering and gurning at me on my dressing table. I suppose consigning it to the mails would be the next logical step! 🙂


  7. Fugitive Pieces says:

    Happy Birthday! and rarely can there have been someone more fun to give presents to…
    I’m with David, although everyone else is right too. It’s more frightening talking to someone who does truly understand depression, especially in the middle of the workday that is the only thing providing structure, self-worth, a reason to get up, yadda yadda. It’s hard to accept that friends who are worrying about you don’t constitute another part of the intolerable burden that your existence places on the world. It’s easier to have lunch with oblivious people.
    I know you’re frantic to do something; I think all you can do is leave her a private message (that she’ll find away from work), that you’re there for her, and making it clear that there’s no need to respond until she needs to. Let her do her best to function, because she needs the validation. Anguished glances and an oppressive silence between desks will just make both of you want to throw biscuits.
    You’re not letting her fall into the abyss – you’re giving her the dignity of trying to manage. However tenuous her hold on control is, as long as she wants to hang on, then let her. She knows how much you care for her (she couldn’t have missed it). It’s a question of matching your need to help with her capacity to accept it.

  8. modestypress says:

    Also, what David said.

  9. woo says:

    Litlove – I can highly recommend the rucksack approach to birthdays! The issue with Rose is not so much that she won’t admit that she needs help – she is, after all, seeing a counsellor already. Its more that she may need a little extra medicated help while she’s processing all the emotions from the counselling, to allow her to cope while at work, rather than crying all the time which is what’s been happening for the last month or so. But you’re absolutely right that until she’s ready for it, any help is going to look like unwelcome coercion.

    Archie – thank you! And why is it that doing nothing is often the hardest thing to do?

    Jiva – oooh, ta very much 🙂 And that sounds like excellent advice – tricky to pull off, but excellent.

    David – “unless I was planning to go into a sanatorium over the weekend.” Oddly, that’s exactly what first occurred to me when you mentioned the ‘TB Sat’ note. Thank you mille fois for the extremely kind wishes. As ever, that is an extremely perceptive comment – I now think, after another day back in the office with her, that if she *is* avoiding me it is largely because she knows I get it, which makes it that much more difficult to maintain the facade. And the facade is vital, right now.

    Piereth – you’re quite right, of course. She does know me well enough to know that I’m there if she needs me. And she has called upon me in the past when in emotional turmoil. I’ll step back. And there is no need to send me a present, my dear, but a photo or two of the new habitation would be lovely!

    Fugitive Pieces – thank you again! Such a beautiful gift. And the eski was jolly useful, also. 🙂 “Let her do her best to function, because she needs the validation” – never a truer word spoke.

    I feel much better about my part in the whole thing now, thanks everyone.

  10. OmbudsBen says:

    Trucie (I’m not used to “Woo” yet): a belated happy birthday, I’m glad to hear it went so well, and you made out like a bandit. You have such a good heart, and you so deserve it.

    About your frail friend, I have a couple questions.

    Is there something she particularly likes to do? Some activity or hobby she particularly enjoys, and would take her mind off (or get her out of the cycle of dwelling on) her problems?

    Is there something you could then do together? And very much not talk about any of the troubles, but simply enjoy the moment, then let her know somehow that your door is open, so to speak, if she wants to bring things up with you later on. Just a thought.

    Now, back to the birthday itself — imagine me with one of those birthday horns in my hand. The kind with a colorful paper coil on the end that inflates when you blow on the horn, straight out at the honoree, and sounds a ridiculous note. I’ve aimed it at you and am raising it to my lips. Here I go! *Blaaaaat!*

  11. pandemonic says:

    Happy birthday. I too have been delinquent. That’s because I have other things to do. Sorry. I liked the Queen Bee thing. I might use that in my current writing. There are a lot of women and someone has to be the queen.

    As for your friend, she sounds like she needs counseling. She should go with her fiance for couples counseling. If he can’t get over it, he should consider breaking off for good. The good thing (if you want to tell her) is that a similar thing happened to me. It took almost five years of counseling before we had our joint Eureka! moment. And we lived happily ever after.

  12. woo says:

    Ombudsben – *claps delightedly at the birthday horn blast!*

    That’s an excellent idea, she likes diving and kayaking and we’ve done both of those things together before, so I’ll suggest another outing for some fun and see how we go.

    Pandemonic – yep, that Queen Bee description had me giggling for ages. One shouldn’t laugh about other people’s language difficulties, I know, but really, I couldn’t help it.

    My friend and her ex-fiance are both having counselling, jointly and independently. And I’m sure it will all work out eventually, one way or the other, its just that she is finding it so hard to cope with work and life in the meantime, while they are working through all the other stuff.

    But actually, she has been much better yesterday and today, after having spoken to the boss and explained and been given permission to take as much time as she needs. So that’s good.

  13. Jenny says:

    Getting older really is a nice thing. Think about it … you look better, you feel better about yourself, you know yourself better! Happy Birthday!

    Glad my last post made you laugh out loud!

  14. woo says:

    I agree Jenny 🙂 Thanks!

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