Welcome to “Shit depressed people have to hear!” On this episode, we take a look at the well-meaning but possibly highly damaging sentiment of ‘I want to be there for you.’
I hold no great expectations on people. At home there is a saying ‘you don’t have to ask in order to receive nothing.’ Basically it means ‘don’t hold your breath.’
I’m a self-admitted hermit who hates meeting new people, but I’m fully aware that sometimes you have to because even my dearest, oldest friends were strangers to me once. I don’t expect much. I honestly don’t. Just be nice. Unfortunately that seems to be too much to ask at times.
On a rational level people seem to be able to show empathy, to a point. I run into this a lot. Once they find out about my situation, they seem sympathetic at first but there is a limit to it. Who doesn’t want to see themselves as a good person, who supports others?
I think this glow of being a good person sometimes blinds them. I know that there are genuine, well-meaning people in the world. Still oftentimes people rush to the opportunity to be the good Samaritan head first without a clue what supporting someone actually means.
It’s easy to say the words ‘I want to be there for you’ or ‘I want to support you’ but it’s a lot of work to actually follow these words through. I have a few confidantes who have had to deal with a lot: crying on the phone, needy messages, not remembering if they have told me something about their lives for a change, me talking about either doctors, medications or how shit I feel because that’s the holy trinity that forms my life, my anxiety or energy levels ruining an outing.
Christ, I sound like a dream. Who doesn’t want a piece of that?
Still, some people seem to. Or at least they claim to. Especially guys. I have been single for years, and haven’t even tried to date. Partially because I hate dates. (I hate a lot of things.) Meeting a new person on a date to discuss whether we are romantically compatible is like a fucking trifecta of cringe.
This happened the other day when I went for a coffee with a boy. He was aware that I have a hard time trusting men due to stuff. He also knew I’ve got depression. He was sympathetic but while we discussed a news story where an elderly woman had been a victim of a romance scam, he immediately said: “She should’ve known he was a scam artist.”
And there it is.
I’m one of those funny people who doesn’t find victim-blaming endearing. I honestly think that a person’s character is tested in how they treat others in a weaker position: children, animals, someone having a hard time.
It’s so fucking easy to climb on your high horse and make a snide comment starting with the words ‘could’ve, should’ve or would’ve.’ I wish my life was that simple, that things could be written off so easily. A vulnerable person fell victim of systematic emotional manipulation. Well, she should’ve known better. ~The end~
If this self-described empathetic person can’t spare some mercy to an elderly woman who has lost her life savings, they sure as shit won’t do that to me.
That’s what I love about people like this though. You don’t actually have to do anything. Just keep them talking. They will reveal themselves sooner or later. Usually sooner.
Also, nothing and I repeat, nothing, is a better cleanse throughout your circle of friends than getting unwell. Unfortunately I’ve had to come to the cold, hard realisation that some people think that an ill person is just too much for them to deal with, as it takes attention away from them and may prevent the person from attending to normal friend duties. This has included some of my closest friends. At least I don’t have to send out so many Christmas cards this year.
In fairness, if someone can’t be there for you when you have a hard time, what sort of friend were they to begin with?
I appreciate honesty beyond everything else. I would much rather have someone raise their hands and say ‘sorry, I don’t think I can handle that.’ That would save a lot of time for both parties, as well as save the person in distress from possible hurt because opening up about these things is oftentimes a tad challenging.
Being honest is scary because it makes you vulnerable. If you do that to a person who turns out not to be worth it, it can make a person who was already in a bad place to feel more shit than they did in the beginning.
And just to be sure I come across clear: I don’t expect people to be on my beck and call 24/7. Depression doesn’t excuse bad behaviour. I have done things I’m not proud of, such as cut people out of my life without a word. Still I’d like to think that when I have promised something, I have followed it through.
I know I’m not asking for a lot here. Before you utter the words towards the effect of ‘being there’ for someone, have a quick think about what it might involve. Don’t just say it to make yourself seem like a caring person or feel better about yourself. I’m sure nobody thinks any less of you if you opt out for another well-meaning sentiment, which doesn’t involve a promise of any kind, such as ‘I hope you feel better soon.’
People who are having a hard time need support. I know it’s hard to find things to say to them but don’t make promises you can’t keep. That’s already a sign of a genuine person.