Depression lies. Most people who have experienced depression (either directly or indirectly) can tell you this. Those of us working on recovery, on coping and learning to live our lives again, can really attest to that fact. I sometimes like to say that my brain is being an ass-hole; by my brain I am, of course, referring to the weird chemical imbalance junk that contributes to my recurring, severe, depression.
Depression tells me that there’s no reason why anyone would want to be, or stay, my friend.
Depression tells me that I’m a nuisance, an emotional burden.
Depression tells me that I’m just tolerated by those around me.
Depression tells me I’m unimportant.
Depression tells me I have nothing to offer.
Depression is a lying, manipulative ass-hole, except unlike in real life, when you can walk away or cut that person out of your life, there is no running away and leaving your depression behind. Depression is an enemy lurking in our own minds, behind our eyes. So much of the war we fight is invisible to those around us. How messed up is that?! We need to fight our depression with whatever healthy coping skills we have. And if we don’t have healthy coping skills we need to reach out to others and ask for help. We need to learn them and put them into place. Because no one can fight this battle for us. No one can step into our minds and use ninja skills to kick some ass.
So how do I fight back?
Talking back to my depression
What works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else. We are all different with our own battles. One lie my depression whispers to me lately is that I’m unimportant. That my friends don’t care. That I can’t offer them anything. That they don’t want to be my friends. Part of that stems from an old insecurity of not knowing or believing in my own self-worth. Part of it stems from a friend seemingly cutting me out of her life 6 months ago. My depression has latched onto those things. Now, if I don’t hear from a friend for a couple weeks, I assume that they are not interested in our friendship anymore. I’ve had to work really hard to talk back to those thoughts.
“I don’t have a job, but most of my friends do. They might be really busy with their own lives.”
“I don’t have to talk to someone every day or week to maintain a friendship.”
“Maybe something is going on in their lives that is keeping them distracted.”
Every time I call a friend and reach their voicemail I have to go over this self-talk again and again. Every time I leave a voicemail and don’t hear back in a couple days I have to go over this self-talk again and again. It can be exhausting, but I have to remember that their lives don’t revolve around talking to me. It sounds so simple and obvious as I write that out, but remember when I said that depression lies to us? It often tells me or tricks me into a vicious thought cycle where things revolve around me. It’s insidious that way.
A week or so ago I found out that my friend, let’s call her Jill for the purpose of this post, was going through a rough time. Her mom was dying, put on hospice, and she felt alone. In that moment I realized a few things:
My self-talk was right: She had other, more pressing things, to deal with.
I do have something to offer: Comfort.
Everyone gives support and comfort in different ways. Although I have never lost a parent, I have experienced loss. My grandpa went through hospice four years ago and passed away on that Thanksgiving. My brother-in-law, who was in some ways a parental figure in my life, passed away suddenly 5 1/2 years ago. I realized that, while I don’t know exactly what she’s going through, I could be there for her to the best of my ability. I value honestly almost more than anything else, and so my approach to comfort would be different than someone else’s. I know what it feels like to not want to talk about loss, so I know how to be patient and not push. I took a breath, pushed my insecurities aside, and reached out. I offered to be a listening ear if she wanted to talk, but said it was okay if she didn’t. I sent her periodic text messages of love and support.
I never said, “I hope your mom gets better” because I knew she wouldn’t.
I never said, “I hope she hangs on and you get more time with her” because I knew her mom was in pain and it was hard on both of them.
I never said, “She’s going to a better place” because I think that never helps and also, I’m not religious.
I did say, “I hope you are able to get the most out of the time she has left with you” because I know how cherished time spent will be.
I did say, “I hope she doesn’t linger if she is in pain and passes soon” because it’s hard to see those you love suffer.
I did say, “Please make sure to take care of yourself as best as you are able” because self-care is so utterly important.
I did say, “Please let me know if there is anything I can do and I will do everything in my abilities to make it happen” because I knew she needed support but not empty promises.
I approached the situation in a different way than others may have, perhaps. At first I worried about saying the wrong thing. But I realized that I needed to set those worries aside. Yes, there is such a things as tact and whatnot, but there is also such a thing as sincerity and compassion. I realized that if I kept dancing around and trying to figure out what the “right thing” to say was, I would end up saying nothing. Or nothing helpful. She didn’t need empty platitudes. There really is no “right thing” to say when someone is losing a person that they love deeply. So I set aside those lies my depression told me. I set aside those insecurities. I spoke from my heart and tried to access that empathy that sometimes feels just out of reach. Right then I needed to be honest, genuine, compassionate, and myself. In turn, I realized some things:
I do have value.
I have something to offer.
I have my own voice.
I’m going to use it.