I used to often ask Skip "what's wrong?" I'd know she was in a gloomy state, but wasn't sure of the root cause, so I'd ask. I thought this was a good way to start a dialogue to see if we could work together to battle the problem.
Skip wouldn't want to talk about whatever the problem was, though. Nine times out of ten, the cause of the problem would be one of a small set of things, such as her increasing disability, her mobility issues, her prognosis. You know, all the kinds of things someone with a chronic debilitating disease would worry about.
She just didn't want to talk about this stuff. But, I continued to ask. (I am just a pest, I guess.) Because she didn't want to talk about the MS stuff that was bringing her down, we ended up getting into small tiffs when all I was trying to do was help out. Eventually, we came up with a shorthand way for Skip to say what was bothering her to short-circuit this bad pattern, "circle of shit." If I'd ask what was bothering her, and she said it was circle of shit, I knew what the root cause of her bad mood was and I could be supportive without being invasive.
It's amazing how just having this exspression we were able to defuse any issues created by my trying to poke at Skip's grumpiness/sadness. Often as not, we'd end up laughing about the circle of shit saying and Skip's mood would lighten.
I realize we haven't used the "circle of shit" saying in quite some time. Over the years, Skip's overall attitude and outlook on life improved to the point that she doesn't get as gloomy as she once did. In fact, my mother frequently comments on how positive her attitude is.