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  1. #1
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Default How can I deal with/help a bitter and depressed teenage INFP?

    I’ve befriended this girl – probably INFP, almost 18 – who also attends my place of worship and am feeling rather overwhelmed.

    She is probably suffering from depression and I’ve discussed this with her – I raised it as tactfully as I could and she took it quite well and said I wasn’t the first person to raise it with her. She has gone to see a school counsellor a couple of times and I’m going to talk to her dad soon. I know her parents slightly, but it is a bit awkward as I don’t know them well and I am pretty sure her mom is suffering from depression too – well, she certainly comes across that way and a couple of people who also know her have told me that they are pretty sure she is depressed and probably has been for years. But I do need to talk to her parents as (among other things) she’s made a few semi-suicidal comments to me recently. (along the lines of “I’m going to do something very stupid if you don’t pay attention to me.”) I’ve discussed this with her as well and she seems ok with me talking to her parents. Not overjoyed, obviously, but ok. She knows that saying things like the above isn’t ok, but has told me that sometimes she just feels totally out of control and does/says things she later realises aren’t ok.

    I think she is going to need some form of treatment for depression. Part of the problem at the moment is that I think her parents are overwhelmed with other stuff and aren’t paying attention to her at all or are dismissing the fact that she’s feeling bad. Honestly, I am rather apprehensive about talking to them because I wonder if they’re going to think I’m interfering in her life/their family, but I think it has to be done regardless – I certainly can’t dismiss the kind of comments she’s made.

    But beyond the whole depression thing – though obviously it is all related – I wish I could do something to a) change her negative and bitter perspective and b) stop her leaning on me so very hard! Her whole perspective is “everyone’s life is fantastic compared to mine, I have no friends and never will, every time someone else gets something good in their life it makes me feel bad because my life sucks” – etc. I am seriously at a loss sometimes as to why she wants me as a friend because whenever I tell her about something in my life, about friends, or something I’m planning, or whatever, she gives me this bitter thing like “oh, your life is so fantastic, you have millions of friends and I have none, you’re so lucky, you have so much money to spend on whatever you want, you can do whatever you like whenever you want…” etc etc etc. I moved to a new apartment recently, a small studio flat, but it’s quite nice and I’m happy with it. She saw it and said “oh, I feel depressed now.” I bought a new leather jacket and she asked me how much it cost. Which of course was rude, and I should have just told her so and not told her the cost, but I did tell her how much it cost and she was like “oh it’s fine for you, you have as much money as you want to spend on stuff like that…”

    I haven’t even told her yet that I’ve booked a trip home to Canada to visit my folks next year, because she’s a Canadaphile (oddly enough) and I’m going to get a whole “oh, you just have all the money you want to spend on this stuff, you’re so lucky, you can go whenever you want and I can’t” speech. Yes, I realise that compared to many people I come from a well-off background and I’ve had many advantages, but in my adult life I’ve worked hard to get where I am and I’m hardly a trust fund child or rolling in it at this point. Not to speak of the fact that I’m single and would prefer not to be, etc etc. I’ve tried to gently give her a realistic perspective on my life (ie. there are a lot of things I enjoy and am grateful for, but I have had to put in some effort for those things, and there are other things I’d like to have but don’t), but it seriously seems like she thinks I (and others) just have every advantage in the world, unlimited resources, a perfect life, tons of friends without having had to put in any effort, etc. I also try to encourage her from the spiritual perspective that we both share but at the moment I think that only goes so far for her. She does in fact have at least a few people who are trying to be her friends but she just treats them like chopped liver half the time – I can’t believe some of them have hung in there at all, they certainly get credit for that. EDIT: of course I have also pointed out many, many times that I'm almost 15 years older than her and have had more time to build up a network of friends, resources, etc. It seems like that just completely goes over her head and she thinks that her life is a total misery because she doesn't have everything that I have.

    If she was an adult, and not just a troubled kid, there is no way I would be putting up with all this (it’s been about six months I’ve been mentoring her or whatever you want to call it.) It is negative and draining. Fortunately I am feeling fairly strong these days or it would have all utterly wiped me out long ago. I tried not to jump to the conclusion quickly that she was depressed, but am now almost wishing for everyone’s sake that I’d jumped to it sooner. But this almost seems like it goes beyond the probable fact that she’s depressed. I’ve known adults who are bitter and nasty about everything that others have that they don’t, and guess what it does? It alienates others, of course, because who wants to be around that? And I guess she’s old enough that I’m worried she is going to become one of these adults. I am really trying with her because despite all I think she’s a nice kid and I would like to see her turn out ok and reasonably happy. But she is leaning on me really hard and some days I just feel like it’s making both of us miserable.

    Comments and suggestions welcome…!
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  2. #2
    Senior Member mochajava's Avatar
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    Hi Silkroad - sounds like this girl is crying and crying for help (to you, to others, most of all to her totally-out-to-lunch parents). I think that talking to her parents is incredibly important. What kind of a teenager wants parental interference? The fact that she doesn't object to your doing it makes me think she REALLY wants you to and that her cries for help at home have gone unnoticed. That being said, I don't know what to do if the parents STILL don't respond. I think most people who thrive have some support behind them (family, friends, religion), and it sounds like those things are totally absent for her. And if her Mom is suffering from depression, then it's no wonder she's not getting what she needs at home. Thanks for helping this girl out! Really - it's such a big, important thing.

    And I think that all her money / friends / jealousy comments are really the depression speaking. In that dark, foggy state, you really lack a sense of what you have or what's rude and kind. I think that the neediness and want she's feeling internally probably supersede everything else. Are there counseling resources nearby? What can the school do? Is the school counselor helpful? I mean, you'll have to think about how deep you want to go, I suppose, but ideally there would be something. At my school, there were always some school-based counseling services that were a stopgap, but they would then do referrals out for more longterm needs.

    I think that once she starts getting help both a) and b) will change on their own -- to me, these seem like symptoms?

  3. #3
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    Hmm, I know another INFP teenager who has a hard time connecting with other kids. He finds most of them "too this or too that" or 'too stuck-up', etc and does not realize that it is he who comes across as being 'stuck-up' for refusing moodily to play with other boys without first morally vetting the team! It's sports, bloody hell! What does that have to do with the players character?

    Anyway, looks like the kid you're mentoring is spinning around in circles too. What she needs right now is for you to try to push her into the Nativity play of your church. Get her out of her head, and express some of that artistic temperament most INFP seem to have.

    Are you one of the elders in your church? Can you involve another elder to share the burden of mentoring that kid? Teenagers can suck up so much energy, and a depressed teenager even more so.

    Get the opinion of a professional (that is, if you yourself are not trained in that field). As in - at what point is that depression clinical and when is it 'sub-clinical'? If she has racing thoughts, difficulty sleeping, panic attacks, etc, then, she ought to be properly evaluated and put on medication and cognitive therapy. If not, watch out if she ever gives you something that is precious to her. That would indicate she is ready to harm herself and is distancing herself.

    How much of her depression can be attributed to her being emotionally deprived because of a depressed mother? It might well be that her mother has been depressed because of a badly-managed post partum depression. I am just guessing.

    How about exploring other options like changing her diet (include more fish oil) help her? Or at least break the vicious circle of dark thoughts. Check out the medical literature on this.

    Also, are her dark moods more intense around her monthlies? Or when the weather is dark? How much of her depression can be attributed to SAD?

    How are her grades? Where else does she get her validation from? Is there something she can be proud of? How about her relationship with her dad?

    Is she an only child? That can be a big problem, especially for moody children like that. How about giving her a pet for Christmas? Some creature she can care for and tell stories too and totally root for her while also depending on her?

    Just throwing ideas. Anyway, best wishes for how you are dealing with that kid. Try to get the perspective of some INTJ or INTP on this. They can be very no-nonsense and ground YOU and prevent you from over-investing. I say that because teenagers who are like that, can also put too many demands and if you are biting your tongue to prevent saying things that would make her compare and be jealous, then, you're probably in it too far already. It might be good for another adult to give her (and you) another reaction like bossing her around a bit and not treat her like she is this too fragile creature...

    But again, that would be for a professional to decide. Or a pastor with lots of psychology under his hat.

    Oh, and if she is a Canadophile, steer her towards E.M Montgomery's Anne Shirley series! Those passages where Anne Shirley weeps over her 'bosom friend' and all that and where she gets some interaction with no-nonsense very earthy types are just hilarious.

  4. #4
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Hey...thank you both for your suggestions. At the moment I am starting with the talking to the dad side of things. I think that's basic. I really think she needs to get checked out medically. I've encouraged her to continue seeing the school counselor though I'm not yet sure what effect it's having, but that's only been a couple of visits. And I am quietly getting a small number of other people on side as well, friends of mine/ours. Mocha, I agree that the fact she didn't kick up a big fuss when I told her I would talk to her dad is an indication that she just really wants SOMEONE to get their attention for her. She is too clingy and too attention-seeking, especially for her age, but from observing the family dynamics and what she's told me (one sided as it is) it is not so surprising.

    I tend to think a lot of it is depression with some bad attitude thrown in. (And yes, emotionally deprived because of her mom's depression, I don't think there's any question about that, based on things she's said to me, and what I've observed of her mom.) Unfortunately she may have to learn the hard way over some things... She has told me herself that she keeps getting lectures from parents and others about how she's going to have a hard time keeping friends if she goes on like this (attitude-plus, that is.) She's just very up and down, back and forth with the attitudes and moods. To be fair, I wouldn't say I mostly treat her with kid gloves. I mean, I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I have also discovered that she can mostly take it when I am pretty direct with her and I have genuinely told her off a few times. She takes things on board and doesn't hold a grudge over it, which I like about her. I have also been direct with her about how I need my space, and how she needs to be able to stand on her own. That has been tricky, but I think some progress has been made. Also, she is a good artist (though her opinion of her abilities is in free-fall at the moment which is all tied up with the low feelings) and I have often told her so and tried to encourage her there.

    Depression related to SAD...hm, I wonder. That's interesting, I hadn't thought about that so much. I doubt it helps. We live in England and it is damn dark here by now. And she has seemed to get lower and lower the last couple of months. I think it may be an aspect.

    I think things will improve, it has just been kind of draining lately, and a tricky situation somewhat different from anything I've been involved in before. Thanks again for the comments, I do appreciate it. And Immaculate, I'm not sure if she's read Montgomery yet (she likes reading and we do chat about and share books) but that's actually a really good idea...
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  5. #5
    Senor Membrane
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    I wouldn't get too many people involved.

    Just thinking about myself at that age, I was pretty down and cynical, and if someone would have taken it as their task to manage my problems, it would have backfired when the issues were known by too many people. If she trusts you and you make progress with the parents, and she's seeing the councelor, it is already a lot more than what I could have handled at that age.

  6. #6
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nolla View Post
    I wouldn't get too many people involved.

    Just thinking about myself at that age, I was pretty down and cynical, and if someone would have taken it as their task to manage my problems, it would have backfired when the issues were known by too many people. If she trusts you and you make progress with the parents, and she's seeing the councelor, it is already a lot more than what I could have handled at that age.
    Yeah I hear you on that too. It's more just a couple of people who have known her a lot longer than I have and who would like to offer a bit more support. I know I do have to be careful with that, particularly in a community, where people inevitably tend to talk. Otherwise, keeping it quiet (except encouraging her to talk to the right/helpful people) and doing what I can.
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  7. #7
    Certified Sausage Smoker Elfboy's Avatar
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    this is going out on a limb, but it may help to introduce her to MBTI and Enneagram for a plethora or reasons
    1) INFPs usually feel like freaks, the difference between insecure INFPs and confident ones is that confident INFPs feel proud of our freakiness
    2) INFPs (according to a number of sources I can't site off the top of my head) are the most inclined of all the types to be interested in personality theory
    3) depression is caused by emotional and cognitive needs (which often overlap) not being met (unless it is caused by the inefficient circulation of seratonin to the brain, which is treatable but requires medicinal treatment)
    4) MBTI measures how the brain works, cognitive preferences and the needs of these these cognitive preferences to work properly. some of these needs for Fi and Ne to work properly in an INFP are
    - lots of time alone
    - friends to talk about ideas and have intelligent conversation with
    - the ability to go at their own pace (which is usually much slower than most people's, especially in america where people rush with everything)
    - an environment that doesn't inhibit intellectual freedom or control behavior
    - a safe, relaxed environment (this is true of most types tho, with the exception of some SP types that seem to thrive in danger and desperation)
    - tremendous amounts of creative and intellectual stimulation (in fact, this is a need that is rarely met in INFPs)
    5) Enneagram measures the most basic motivations and fears of a person as well as their emotional needs. in fact, this may be more crucial for a severely depressed person to learn about. for instance, if she was a 4 (which I believe is the most common type for INFPs) some of her needs might be
    - LOTS of creative expression and stimulation
    - someone to vent to when they're feeling extremely unhappy (this is especially true for unhealthy 4s)
    - freedom of all kinds (any kind of loss of freedom can be severely traumatic for a 4)
    - lots of time to think about themselves
    - good friends who give each other lots of support and affection
    - safe and relaxed environment
    - comfort
    - someone they can talk to about each other's emotions
    I obviously can't say as I don't know her personally, but it is likely she is a 4. 4s have the most emotional needs of all the enneagram types and living conditions that won't effect some types at all can be severely psychologically harmful to a 4.

  8. #8
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elfboy View Post
    this is going out on a limb, but it may help to introduce her to MBTI and Enneagram for a plethora or reasons
    1) INFPs usually feel like freaks, the difference between insecure INFPs and confident ones is that confident INFPs feel proud of our freakiness
    2) INFPs (according to a number of sources I can't site off the top of my head) are the most inclined of all the types to be interested in personality theory
    3) depression is caused by emotional and cognitive needs (which often overlap) not being met (unless it is caused by the inefficient circulation of seratonin to the brain, which is treatable but requires medicinal treatment)
    4) MBTI measures how the brain works, cognitive preferences and the needs of these these cognitive preferences to work properly. some of these needs for Fi and Ne to work properly in an INFP are
    - lots of time alone
    - friends to talk about ideas and have intelligent conversation with
    - the ability to go at their own pace (which is usually much slower than most people's, especially in america where people rush with everything)
    - an environment that doesn't inhibit intellectual freedom or control behavior
    - a safe, relaxed environment (this is true of most types tho, with the exception of some SP types that seem to thrive in danger and desperation)
    - tremendous amounts of creative and intellectual stimulation (in fact, this is a need that is rarely met in INFPs)
    5) Enneagram measures the most basic motivations and fears of a person as well as their emotional needs. in fact, this may be more crucial for a severely depressed person to learn about. for instance, if she was a 4 (which I believe is the most common type for INFPs) some of her needs might be
    - LOTS of creative expression and stimulation
    - someone to vent to when they're feeling extremely unhappy (this is especially true for unhealthy 4s)
    - freedom of all kinds (any kind of loss of freedom can be severely traumatic for a 4)
    - lots of time to think about themselves
    - good friends who give each other lots of support and affection
    - safe and relaxed environment
    - comfort
    - someone they can talk to about each other's emotions
    I obviously can't say as I don't know her personally, but it is likely she is a 4. 4s have the most emotional needs of all the enneagram types and living conditions that won't effect some types at all can be severely psychologically harmful to a 4.
    Thanks. I have actually introduced her to MBTI though she might have come across it before, I think. She took the Humanmetrics test and got INFP and it totally makes sense for her. She did tell me once or twice that she was reading up on it a bit, and that she identified with a lot in INFP (and INFJ, I think) but that she also identified with quite a lot from other types. When she's NOT having a crazy moment, she's often quite rational and self-aware, and I think she even said "maybe I should try this again when I'm a bit older." Like, her personality hasn't settled down yet, which does make sense. And at the moment she may just be feeling a bit too confused about everything.

    Enneagram, yeah, I'm pretty sure she'd be a 4. I find it more difficult to explain to others than MBTI, though...

    One thing I think I need to do myself is read up a bit more on being helpful/good friend to an INFP, especially one in distress...
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by SilkRoad View Post
    One thing I think I need to do myself is read up a bit more on being helpful/good friend to an INFP, especially one in distress...
    I think the main thing is to just be there, and not make a too big of a hassle about it. Think of it like this: There is the councelor and the parents, and it is likely that they will treat her "condition" as a project. What she needs after that is someone who doesn't see her as something to be fixed. You know, I can't really think of anything more stressing than being told I've got something wrong with my mind and then being encouraged by everyone to fix it, like there is a schedule for it, or something. So, I would appreciate a friend that let me be me and talk if I want to and not talk if I don't want to.

    It may sound weird, because of the suicidal thoghts, but I'm pretty sure it isn't going to help if all the people close to her start to think it is dead serious and we should treat her like a broken thing so that she doesn't fall apart. You know? Just don't let the seriousness of the situation to get to you. Things tend to work out. It is a slow process, and she will consider things at her own speed. If it seems like it's getting nowhere it isn't necessarily so.

    Besides, INFJs are pretty good with this stuff. At least they've been good for me. I bet it will be fine.

  10. #10
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    There is one method that works. Put them in charge of others. INFP's are remarkable at helping and solving others problems since they're always trying to solve their own, but to be on the safe side, take it slow. Maybe a kid or two, or some area where she takes care of someone else. Then they are so concerned for them, they can't worry about themselves. One thing about type is that inside each person is their opposite expression.

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