cultivating friendship while depressed

The friends that tried to understand were frustrated – people just didn’t understand how, despite having everything going for me, they were confused as to why I hated my life and everything about it. I can’t remember what brought the good friends around to understanding my situation, but in 2010-2011, something changed. I actually openly acknowledged to my friends that I had depression. It started slowly, but more and more friends were accepting of it. They just said “i’m sorry to hear you’re going through that, and if you ever need to talk, I’m here.”

The open acknowledgement happened by accident, but it was honestly one of the best things to ever happen to me:

One day I was Skyping with someone who would eventually be my girlfriend (now ex). I had just smoked up (pot was a crutch, an escape, and, well, just something I did for fun from time to time) and realized “crap, I have to take my medication.” When I got back, she asked what I was doing. I answered that I was taking my medication. When she asked why, I told her. And then I told her about my darkest times – the suicidal thoughts, the cuts, the narrowly-avoided attempts, and the moment that changed my life. I thought “holy shit. If i can be this honest with her, why can’t I be honest with others?”

I slowly started realizing that the depressed version of me wasn’t me. So, one at a time and very slowly, I told my friends that I was suffering from depression, and that if I ever seemed off or detached or upset for no reason, that was why. I didn’t expect them to understand – I was just putting my cards on the table. By that point, I realized either my friends were going to accept it or they were going to deny it. So I figured “what’s the worst that’ll happen? That I’ll lose my friendship? If I do, I guess they weren’t friends to begin with”

It’s a boiled down version of a very powerful Dr. Seuss quote: “Be who you and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”



how to help

Don’t tiptoe around us like we’re going to either explode or fall apart at any moment. If you have someone in your life who has mental health problems, what they need you to do most is not treat them any differently to how you would usually when they confide in you how they feel.

And please please please… do not stop inviting your friends out when they decline invitations due to feeling awful. Cajole them from time to time, get them out of their isolation and remind them that there is good in the world, that there is light and love and that you are there for them.

One time not long after I got diagnosed, my best friend and her husband showed up out of the blue and decided they were taking me out for the day to cheer me up. It worked – it got me out of the house and I actually did something productive rather than sitting in my room with my thoughts.

It’s the small things like that that can really make a huge difference to someone who feels like there is no hope at all in the world for them.