Retracting An Invitation

by admin on March 27, 2017

We have family friends living about 200 miles away, and with small children in the mix, we don’t see them often. We missed them at Christmas, so we all agreed in January that they’d visit us for the Easter break.

My mental health has deteriorated since then. I am prone to bouts of depression, but it’s not something I talk about. Our friends certainly don’t know about it, and I don’t want to share.

Upshot is, I don’t think I can cope with this family visiting us at Easter. My DH thinks I should press on, it would do me good to see friends. I’m not sure and its making me worse. I just don’t know how to take back an invitation – any advice on that?  0324-17

Life doesn’t always go according to plan and things pop up that can change the calendar.   If you were to get the flu days prior to the friends’ visit or your husband was diagnosed with cancer, all plans for hosting visiting guests would change by necessity.

You can retract the offer of hospitality by saying,  “I’m so sorry but an unforeseen health issue will make it difficult for us to host you at this time.  We really want to see you, maybe Memorial Day instead?”   I will caution you to retract invitations with careful consideration because you cannot do this twice in a row without arousing suspicions that you and your husband may be manufacturing reasons why you back out of getting together with old friends.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Marie March 27, 2017 at 4:09 am

While I partly agree with Admin, I also know that people with depression are prone to isolating themselves and cancelling their social activities because they don’t feel they’re up to it. This, in turn, can worsen the depression because of the isolation.

Please carefully consider if your husband may be right. I cannot guarantee the weekend will be a succes, but it is really important to carefully consider it. Please also speak to your therapist about it. He/she will have much better advise than strangers on the internet.

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Kirsten March 27, 2017 at 4:18 pm

On the other hand, if you’re at the stage where it can take you an hour to muster the energ to get off the sofa to get a glass of water, hosting people for a few days could be enough to set someone back for a month.

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tessa March 27, 2017 at 5:26 am

Or….why not ask and see if you can meet them halfways the distance, just to catch up for an afternoon? No hosting obligations.

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Cicero March 27, 2017 at 7:04 am

I agree with admin’s advice but I would leave it open ended. Iow, don’t add the part about memorial day. I truly understand where you are coming from having dealt with a now ex who was prone to depression and last minute changes. I wasn’t aware of the issues and it caused me a lot of frustration and anger because I didn’t understand what was going on.

You are absolutely OK with changing plans. However, on the flip side, since these are good friends, is there a way to make this work? If you are able to share with them the reason for the issue, maybe you can find a compromise that will work:
*have them stay for one day instead of three.
*have them stay at a hotel or with friends instead of in your home.
*make it clear that your bedroom is off limits and you will be hiding out there as necessary.
*have them take your kids in outings and leave you home alone/with your dh.

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ketchup March 27, 2017 at 7:08 am

Admin is spot on. We often forget that mental illnesses are still illnesses and no less valid than indeed for instance the flu.
You don’t have to tell everyone how you’re feeling either. Only if you want to.

I had a burnout a few years ago, worsened by ptsd, and then I also learnt that my burnout was just as much a valid reason to not see people for a while, and to take time for myself, recuperate on my own terms.

I hope you feel better soon, really better. Hugs.

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Lerah99 March 27, 2017 at 9:29 am

I am 100% with the admin on this.
Mental health IS health.
You have a health concern which is preventing you from hosting as previously planned.

Just as if you’d broken a bone or come down with the flu.
There is no shame in saying “I’m so sorry. We’ve had a health issue crop up and we won’t be able to do Easter as planned. Once this is all sorted, we’d really like to reschedule.”

And if your friends respond with “That’s terrible, what’s going on?” It’s time to bean dip.

“Oh, it’s just one of those things. How are things going for you? Last I heard little Jimmy was trying out for soccer. Did he make the team?”

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Colleen halbert March 27, 2017 at 11:05 am

Except that it’s not the same. You wouldn’t keep using a vague excuse like “health issue” for the flu or a broken arm or even cancer. So if this depression is kept on the down low and is the cause for repeated cancellations then the OP risks hurting her friends.

The OP can keep her depression secret but she needs to understand the potential consequences of repeated vague cancellations.

And I’m really not sure why if mental health is the same as physical health we would be advocating keeping it a secret. That just validates the idea that depression is shameful.

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Dee March 27, 2017 at 11:31 am

I agree, Colleen. If the excuse is vague it will be obvious OP is hiding something and that will lead to suspicion, which will definitely affect the relationship; if OP wants to avoid that, she needs to give a bit of info.

“… it’s not something I talk about. Our friends certainly don’t know about it, and I don’t want to share.” It sounds as if OP is holding back at least some of her healing by being secretive. Hubby’s intent to open things up a little may be necessary for this situation.

It’s unclear if these friends would be staying with OP and hubby or elsewhere and just visiting; if it’s the latter then I see hubby’s point of view that it would be good for OP. If, however, the family would be staying at OP’s home then it might be detrimental to OP’s recovery to be inundated with guests. In that case, is hubby prepared to take on all hosting duties? He shouldn’t be offering for OP to take on the work.

And what about hubby’s right to have guests? If OP’s depression leads to his isolation then the treatment (whatever it is) isn’t working. He gets to choose, too, whether he visits with these friends over Easter.

If the friends were given a heads-up then the decision could be made by all. These friends may prefer to wait until OP is better, or hubby and friends may decide they can visit outside of the home, with OP’s attendance optional. But this doesn’t seem to be an issue where OP has the right to make the sole decision.

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Lerah99 March 27, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Because while mental health is still just health, it is also still incredibly stigmatized by our society.
So the letter writer may have reasons that she doesn’t feel comfortable telling her friends.

It really doesn’t help that people often decide that mental health issues are a moral failing. Something that people just need to put a little effort into “getting over”. Like depression is being lazy and you just have to make yourself get up and be a “productive member of society”.

It gets trivialized as “We all get a little down sometimes. Have you tried yoga, going gluten free, meditation, hiking, exercising first thing in the morning, going dairy free, reading your bible, homeopathy, cross fit, going vegan, etc….”

Or “I also have social anxiety. But once I get to a party, I have a great time. You just have to buck up and make yourself do it.”

It’s insult added to injury. And I can completely understand why the letter writer may not want to navigate that additional minefield with her friends. People don’t mean to be trivializing or insensitive. But their “helpful” suggestions can be incredibly painful for someone who is already struggling.

When I’m on day 4 of just being completely unable to force myself to take a shower or do a load of laundry so I have clean clothes.
When it is taking every ounce of strength and will I have just to get to work and back home to collapse in bed.
When I’m losing weight because the idea of nuking some soup at the end of the day seems like a Sisyphean task.
The last thing I want to do is also try to make polite conversations with friends suggesting that if I just watched a sunrise, did some yoga, and took a hike in nature everything would go back to being beautiful and awesome.

And yes, that means I expect my friends to suck it up when I make a vague “health” excuse to cancel plans.

Just look at what @Dee wrote.

If the letter writer had been diagnosed with cancer, but wasn’t ready to tell people, would Dee be advocating all about the poor husband’s right to still socialize without her? Probably not. Because that would come across as pretty unfeeling.

But since the letter writer is depressed, well now her illness is oppressing and isolating her poor husband. Suddenly instead of the struggling person deserving our compassion and consideration – well she’s just a burden getting in the way of her husband’s and her friend’s fun times.

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CW March 27, 2017 at 7:48 pm

I don’t think it’s about making the OP feel like a burden. It’s about how dealing with any illness can lead to resentment in a family/relationship/friendship. If the OP has a turnaround by Easter time, and plans have already been cancelled, how will she feel about that? Guilty because she could have probably been ok to socialize and now the opportunity has passed? Relieved because she had a chance to heal quietly and at her own pace? How will he husband feel? Will he start to feel cheated out of his own time and choices because of OP? Will he grow distant because he doesn’t know how to handle the situation? Will he resent her because he feels his life only revolves around her illness? It can happen with cancer, heart disease, stroke, losing a limb, depression, PTSD… you name it. He may want to care for her and help her and maybe has noticed similar patterns in the past. She cancels plans because she’s not up to it and then regrets it later. We only have a small snippet of the situation so it leaves a lot of questions to be answered.

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Dee March 27, 2017 at 8:14 pm

If OP’s husband is supportive of his wife then she has the obligation to support his mental health, too, and if he has been looking forward to that visit with friends then that does factor into the decision. Being ill does not give anyone the right to ignore others’ needs.

OP is ill. It doesn’t matter what the illness is. There is nothing to suggest that these friends would be critical of her. If they are, then it is the insensitivity of these friends, not their visit, that is the issue, and it is highly debatable whether they would be good company when OP is well, never mind when she is ill.

I don’t discriminate between illnesses; if someone says they’re not well then I leave it to them to decide how to take care of themselves. However, if they are vague about canceling plans without any hint as to why then I can assume that they are disinterested in those plans and/or me, and thus I may not make plans with them again. So, if OP does wish to continue with the friendship then she needs to treat these people as trusted friends and give them at least a bit of a heads-up, lest she let the relationship fizzle out due to lack of attention.

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Ajay March 27, 2017 at 9:37 pm

Thank you Lerah99 – when I first read @dees response, I was actually shocked at her insensitive remarks, which basically amount to ‘suck it up butter-cup’.

Having depression is like having a broken leg and yet people are still asking insistingly for you to come hiking up the biggest mountain in the area…

*feeling fortunate that in my country we have major sporting and acting stars bothering to talk about mental illness publicly*

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Dee March 28, 2017 at 10:54 am

Sensitivity goes both ways – OP needs help but she also has to recognize that others need to be considered, too. As CW said, it’s not about the illness, it’s about the potential burn-out of the caregiver. If OP is too ill to care for her husband at this time then she needs to consider ways in which others can fill his needs, as may/may not be the case with this visit. I was incorrect with one thing, though, in that caring for someone with a mental illness can be significantly more challenging than for “physical” illnesses. So hubby needs to be given a lot of latitude in how he cares for OP and himself, since he is being charged with helping a patient who may be adverse to helping herself, which is often the case with mental illness and may be the case here. It’s such a thankless job.

La Russe March 31, 2017 at 8:44 am

Dee,
You keep stressing the point that OP needs to consider her husband’s well-being. But the whole point of depression is that you can’t bring yourself to care about your own well-being, much less someone else’s… it’s sort of a lose-lose situation for the depressed person.

And overall this sounds a lot like victim-blaming, or shaming, or whatever the term is nowadays, something that contributes to the whole stigmatization of depression that still exists today. The OP probably doesn’t want to tell her friends for fear of them reacting as you did – conceding in name that she is sick but not really connecting on an emotional level.

It’s very true that it is very hard and thankless to stick by your friend/significant other when they are in the midst of depression. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. A typical depression episode can last up to 6 months, so of course it’s important to try and give the depressed person all the help they need without exhausting yourself.

But I should think that the husband in this situation is his own person and can do social activities and gatherings without the OP, and if he resents the OP for not wanting to see their mutual friends (this is pure speculation in the comment section, btw), then maybe depression isn’t the OP’s only problem. But I’d like to believe that there’s lots of backstory that we don’t know and that some other commenters have brought up, and I posit that the admin’s advice is a very good practical rule that the OP can base her decision on, and if her friends are good ones, this won’t get all blown out of proportion 🙂

INeedANap March 27, 2017 at 9:43 am

If they are family friends, consider giving a little more detail. You’ve known them for years and they know to give you a bit more patience and consideration in terms of visits and reschedules. I know I give more leeway to my friends with mental health issues. You may be surprised at the love and support you receive. 🙂

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PJ March 27, 2017 at 9:47 am

I agree with admin. Mental illness is just as much an illness as something affecting your heart or lungs or legs. It is unfortunate that so many people don’t *see* that yet.

If there is any chance that your friends will understand your situation, consider telling them. I totally get that it may not be an option, though, because of the common mindset that it is not a legitimate medical issue, like one can ‘shake it off’ and only suffer because they haven’t tried hard enough.

In any case, I do hope you’re getting the medical help that you need.

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wolfie March 27, 2017 at 10:44 am

I also suffer from depression and one of my instincts is to wall up and not see people, but if I push myself and actually go out it does make me feel better. So I would think about what your husband suggested – do you think there is a way to make it work, do you think that when you see them you might feel better? If not then cancel, but consider telling your friends at least a little about what you are feeling. You will be surprised at how sympathetic people can be once they know.

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Serryce March 27, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Echoing this response.

There seem to be two parts to this – the mental health part, and the hosting/cancelling/excuses part.

Yes, mental health is still a health issue; and with the awareness that sometimes the messages our brain sends us are wrong, we can reasonably decide on a course of action. Depression makes us retract into ourselves, not want to see anyone, not want to trust anyone. And while the desire for isolation may be accurate, it may not be good for the depressed individual.

Hiding the reason for the cancellation can work the first time, but after that – and if the friends are as close as the OP implies – then it may backfire, because nobody likes to feel that they’re being fobbed off on vague excuses. Tell the truth. There’s a lot more leeway in people for mental illness, and yes, there’s the stigma, but part of removing the stigma is being honest about ones abilities and inabilities, and neither hyping the illness nor playing it down. It is what it is, and it enable/disables differently in every individual.

A lot of it depends on the degree of hospitality that’s being offered. As others have said, if OP is hosting them, then that’s a lot of work and probably not a good idea while OP is struggling with mental health issues. A meet-up/catch-up outside the home takes the pressure of home hospitality off, and doesn’t require the husband to take on hospitality roles (which OP would just feel guilty about ignoring in any case).

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Crochet Addict March 29, 2017 at 2:05 pm

I agree, wolfie. I have anxiety and depression. My medication keeps them mostly at tolerable levels. I take charge of my conditions, and if either one hits intolerable for more than a month, it’s time to call the doctor. I also have med checks every three months. My instinct is to isolate myself, but I ALWAYS end up regretting cancelling plans due to an episode (unless it’s a situation that’s triggered me in the past). It makes me feel like my issues have more control over my life than I do. If I were the OP, I’d go ahead and have the guests over. If I felt overwhelmed, I’d take a nap or feign not feeling well and do something that makes me feel better and rejoin when I felt better. Depression is far more common than people realize, too. OP’s friends may have had issues themselves. I do have a group of friends who also have similar mental illnesses as mine and we have a standing agreement- any plans we make, we can back out of if our illness acts up and we will support each other. So if A can’t make it because she’s really anxious that day, C and I will chat with her on Facebook later and make sure she’s okay/offer encouragement/whatever’s appropriate. I’m all about being open about my mental illness, because I want to fight the stigma.

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JD March 27, 2017 at 1:17 pm

I think this is a question for a doctor or a therapist. And I agree with the commenter who said that the husband is affected by this as well, so his input is important, up to a certain point, of course. It depends on how much OP is being asked to do. OP’s health is the prime consideration here.
My husband has short bouts of depression on very rare occasions, but the year in which the last member of his birth family died, leaving him the sole survivor; his beloved old dog died; his job ended; and he was diagnosed with cancer, was a doozy. I can tell you it also made my life a living hell at times, especially since he refused to see a doctor of any kind and would only lie in bed for days on end. Holing himself up in the bedroom was the worst thing he could do for himself, and being forced to get out and around people (going for cancer treatments, for example, at a clinic where he saw the same patients on a repeated basis and got to know them) actually helped him come out of it. That worked for HIM — I don’t begin to suggest it works for everyone. But definitely, before cancelling plans, talk to a doctor if you haven’t, and consider telling the friends why, if you have to cancel. It might be a good thing to do.

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Devin March 27, 2017 at 1:25 pm

I think the admin is spot on. I would add that unlike the flu which gives very little warning, you are already feeling the depression setting in and you need to tell them ASAP your need to reschedule. Since this was their plans for the holiday, it is considerate of their time to insure they have time to adjust their plans especially with small children.

I hope you are seeking all the support and care you need, and that you will soon feel ready for socializing with friends again.

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NostalgicGal March 27, 2017 at 3:44 pm

I’ve replied to this twice and it seems not to be taking submissions

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NostalgicGal March 27, 2017 at 3:44 pm

But this one came through?

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Lanes March 27, 2017 at 6:09 pm

Ah, my husband could’ve written this, although his approach is rather more brash due to his personality.

As others have suggested, consider reducing the overall size of the visit. Suggesting you meet up halfway at a neutral place is something that works well for my husband – he doesn’t like to get into social situations that he can’t easily extract himself from, but if he feels he can leave at any time, he’s more likely to enjoy himself, and usually ends up staying much later than planned!

DO consider telling your friends a little more about your health, maybe not “depression” but you could mention general stress and anxiety to start with. We’ve had responses from friends in both directions, we’ve lost some, but we’ve also grown closer to others, so I know how hard it can be to take that step and open up. The way I chalk it up is that friends who aren’t prepared to allow for time & space to heal aren’t really friends to begin with.

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AnaMaria March 27, 2017 at 6:52 pm

Agreed with the admin that canceling because of depression is no different than canceling because of a physical illness; you can’t plan for it and you need to know your limits. I also agree that you should try to reset the date and stick with it- going long bouts without socializing can exacerbate depression. If you reach Memorial Day or early summer and find that you still cannot handle having friends over, may I gently suggest that you be open with your friend about the truth? As awareness of depression increases, more and more people are willing to listen without passing judgement, and it would help your friend understand where you are coming from. It’s your call, but myself and many of my loved ones who have battled depression and/or anxiety have found it helpful to know others understand.

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Rebecca March 28, 2017 at 2:10 am

Things can seem like a great idea when you plan them months ahead, but as the time grows closer it seems more and more stressful and exhausting. If you’re struggling to get through the basics of living, I see nothing wrong with saying, “Hey, I’m so sorry, I really wanted to see you but this Easter is just not going to work after all. We’ve had some issues come up. Can we postpone for now?” I wouldn’t suggest Memorial Day or anything else specific at this time, because then Memorial Day will become this looming prospect. I get that you do want to see them, but it’s a battle right now getting your own life in order first before entertaining guests.

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Bea March 28, 2017 at 8:33 pm

As someone who also suffers from depression, I gently urge you to think about going through with the visit if you can muster the strength.

When we’re at our darkest point, we need to be forced into the light sometimes, so this visit may be a blessing in disguise. I often want to cancel right up until I’m inside the social obligation, at that point it raises the curtains.

However we are all different and if you don’t want to and you don’t think it’ll help you, then you have to do what you feel best doing. Since you have a husband, I would talk to him about how hosting is exhausting and see if he’s willing to step up as well. I have the feeling he’ll take over many of the tasks to lessen your troubles if you will go ahead with the visit.

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Cat March 29, 2017 at 3:09 pm

One of my pet peeves is people who want to tell me what I should do and how it will be better for me if I do as they say. “Oh, it will do you good to press on” would be the red flag in front of the bull’s nose.
The only person who truly knows that you can and cannot handle is you. If you honestly don’t feel like having company, say so. Tell your friends you are sorry, but their visit will need to be delayed- and you don’t need to explain your personal problems to them.

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