Back in 2010, @debihope (Not Einstein!) said, “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.”
When patients seek treatment for their depression or anxiety, I often find that despite its many possible causes, their emotional pain is occurring within the context of and is a result of one or more interpersonal relationship(s). Unfortunately, the patient invariably owns the pain and feels profoundly alone. They believe the loss of pleasure and feelings of worthlessness are caused by their own weaknesses, defects, or shortcomings. They seek treatment to fix themselves, believing they are broken.
When I point out to the patient that perhaps their depression and anxiety may be the result of living with an alcoholic, an abusive narcissist, or working for a sociopath, the incredulity and relief in the patient’s countenance is breathtaking and humbling.
No, my darling, it is not you who is crazy...it is those around you.
I must do a full stop right here: I’m talking about patients who are already prone to depression and anxiety due to negative childhood circumstances and who are stuck in an interpersonal situation fraught with difficulty. It is these people for whom this double whammy is a recipe for depression and anxiety. Empaths and neurotics, not addicts and the personality disordered.
When abusive people live, love, or work with others, it can be nearly impossible for those others to avoid becoming affected and infected by the Interpersonal Crazymaker’s (IC) sickness and psychological vomit. He or she will spew and contaminate those around them, especially the empaths and neurotics.
One of the very first metaphors I give my patients is the Windshield Analogy: When you’re driving and a bird poops on your windshield, it doesn’t get all over the upholstery or on your clothes. The filth hits the windshield, drips a little, and then your windshield wiper sweeps it away. So, when you’re with your IC, imagine a windshield surrounding your sanity. When the IC spews his or her vitriol, dispassionately observe it hit your windshield, drip a little, and then watch your windshield wiper sweep it away.
Keep your sanity clean and fresh in the climate-controlled interior of your spotless mind.
Stay strong, my darling.