(Art by Zoe Shier)
When going over forums and Facebook groups dedicated for depression and anxiety, it becomes sadly apparent that a lot of people are going through their hardship at least seemingly alone. As an illness depression is a master manipulator which can make you feel isolated and alone even when you’re not.
Despite an occasional wobble I’m glad that depression hasn’t managed to convince me that I’m alone. I’m lucky to have such wonderful friends.
Ever since I broke up with my abusive boyfriend, who had a very specific image of what romance should be like, I’ve been afraid of social situations that are too set up, such as parties and outings. Because I was constantly criticised for my reaction and how I’d ruined a lovely thing, the pressure to act and react right is at times too much to handle.
It doesn’t matter how much time I’ve spent prepping myself and said over and over again how it’s OK to react the way I was reacting, I’d still detest going and feel uncomfortable throughout. Whenever I get invited somewhere, I think long and hard before saying yes and still might end up cancelling if the pressure gets too much. I never imagined that nice things could cause so many unpleasant emotions.
If they’re my friends, they understand.
One of the easiest ways to weed out people from your social media and life is to get ill. Some people have zero patience with unwell people because it requires an increased amount of attentiveness from them while their limelight dies out. It doesn’t matter that you’ve known each other since you were kids. Not everyone can handle that.
Also, depressed people can be incredibly infuriating. I should know, I’m one. Their lack of energy and enthusiasm, combined with forgetting things mid-sentence and walking around with metaphorical blinkers on that make them forget that other people exist, make them at times exhausting people to be around. It doesn’t matter it’s not their fault. It still needs to be recognised.
I have always found friendship an especially precious thing. As a gesture, taking on a person who has nothing to do with you family-wise while being ready to accept them as they are for the sole purpose of having them in their lives is beautiful.
I discovered this in high school. I was a bit of an odd one out as a kid and didn’t have many friends in school. Once I changed into a school which placed special emphasis on literature, I met people with similar interests. At the end I was a part of a group of eight girls. For the first semester I spent every night thinking that tomorrow will be the day when they’d announce they don’t want to hang out with me anymore.
It never came.
I took on a complete personality change. I became the loudmouth with constant jokes. Making my new friends laugh was almost like a drug. But this was years before I got ill.
At the moment no matter how nice and welcomed the person’s company is, any kind of social interaction exhausts me. My friends know that I don’t like parties, group outings or carefully planned out activities, so mostly what we do is veg around chatting and watching TV. Doesn’t sound exciting but I absolutely love it.
My bestie was visiting me this weekend. On Saturday night we were watching a documentary on a woman who married the Eiffel tower. We always watch strange things together. We talk about something, and for whatever reason I get teary. She doesn’t ask, just gives me a cuddle.
One of my worst fears is not being able to control a person who’s touching me. If the person is not someone I know really well, I can’t be completely sure that their hugs don’t turn into something else. But I trust her unconditionally and it’s so nice to be held. Just to be, just like this. You know that nothing bad is going to happen and it’s such a indescribable relief.
I know that at times I forget to tell them how much I appreciate them. But it’s better late than never.
A few days ago I messaged a friend who several years ago deleted my then-boyfriend on Facebook due to how he treated me. Despite only meeting her a few times, he was extremely upset by this and talked me into begging her to add him again. I still don’t know why it was so important to him but at that point of our relationship I was so defeated that I just did what he wanted.
With time and counselling I’ve been able to peek past the blinkers and understand what she did, so I said the following:
‘I’ve only now understood that you acted like a real friend, and I was unable to understand it at the time. I wanted to thank you for doing it and sorry for not appreciating it then. I do now.’
The point of this story was not to be too hard on yourself if you’ve been blinded by an illness. It’s not your fault. But once the fog clears a bit, do say thank you for waiting and helping you to find your way out.