Saturday, October 5, 2013

Trying to be a good friend

Warning: this post is a little sad, but it's something that's been kicking around in my head for a while and I had to get it out.

Let me start off by saying that I'm really glad that people are starting to talk more about depression, that the stigma is slowly being removed and people are opening up dialogue.  Dialogue is always incredibly important.

Depression is something that has affected my life greatly.  I don't personally suffer from it, I almost have the inverse problem where I can turn into a juggernaut-tank and don't know when to stop.  Even if tank-mode isn't particularly healthy I'd pick it over depression every time.  However, a LOT of my friends suffer from it.

My best friend in highschool had it and I still vividly remember the end of our senior year when she was going through a particularly bad spell and I was too young, too stupid, too naive, too inexperienced to ask her what the hell was going on.  I sat by in silence as the person I loved more than anything continued to isolate herself and demonstrate some incredibly strange (to me) behavior.  I felt like I was losing her and I was too scared to lose her more so I said nothing, asked nothing.

A man I loved was diagnosed with depression.  Without the depression we'd likely be married with kids by now.  Instead I haven't talked to him in years.  I had to end that relationship, I felt like I was being pulled down by an anchor.  I kept waking up next to this stranger I hated where a man I had loved since I was a teenager used to be.  Ending that relationship was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but I felt I had no other choice.  It was either ending it or lose myself.  End it or be dragged down as well.  I feel that I made the right choice but still feel guilty of not being stronger, more supportive, more unconditionally loving.

It's hard to watch friends you love struggle with daily life, struggle with what seem to be minor things that happen to everyone.  Not suffering from it myself, I attempt to intellectually understand it.  They're depressed,  that's why they're acting this way.  But I don't, in my heart, honestly understand it.  I have compassion but not comprehension.

There have been a lot (or seemed to me a lot) of articles coming out lately about depression.  Maybe my friends just have a sampling bias on what they post on Facebook, but it seems to be a theme.  This is a good theme.  Like I said above, dialogue is a good thing, understanding the disease is a good thing, removing the stigma and helping people function and cope are really good things.

Examples of these articles are:
The 10 Stupidest things you can say to a depressed person
Comics that capture the frustration of depression

Most of these are focused on the stupid/unhelpful/ridiculous things people say to those who have depression.  Having been that person SO MANY times, my reaction is "ok, I get it, I'm stupid and unhelpful".  I know depression isn't simple, I know there's not just a "be happy" switch you can throw and fix it all.

I'm sorry for saying stupid shit that doesn't help at all.

But if I'm sitting on a couch watching someone I love struggle to get through day after day, it breaks my heart and I want nothing else in the world but to be able to fix it for them.  Logically, I know I can't, I know it's the disease, but I want so badly to help, to cheer them up, to get them back to the amazing person I know they are.  In that scenario, stupid crap will come out of my mouth.  Not because I honestly think that going outside more will really help, but because my feeble brain completely cannot come up with anything better.

I'm sorry my lame attempts to help actually make things worse and more frustrating.  Making things worse is the last thing I ever wanted to do.  I also don't want to get up and leave and avoid my depressed friends because I have no idea what to do.  I want to keep trying, keep maintaining relationships with them.

What would be really nice would be a link after these articles to "10 super helpful things you can do".  I'd really love some suggestions.

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