Posted in about me, mental health, thoughtfulness

About your friend who’s depressed

I have, at times, been a difficult person to love.

I struggle with depression and have been suicidal a handful of times over my decades.

I’ve done that dance enough times that I know that getting enough sleep, staying connected to people, eating well, and exercising every day in a way that raises my heart rate substantially (looking at you, running and bleachers) will prevent or reverse a downward spiral.

I also know that sometimes things just hit out of nowhere, or there are enough things that hit simultaneously that without warning, I’m in the pit.

When I’m depressed, I am unpleasant and frustrating to deal with. And I know it, but I also desperately need people. But people really don’t want to be around me (and truthfully, I don’t blame them). As people disengage, I become more frantically needy. It’s a horrible cycle that I’ve experienced more times than I care to recall.

I’m on the other side of that friendship right now. A friend’s wife left him without warning and he’s devastated, to say the least. He’s also unemployed, which adds a stressful layer of financial complication. He’s definitely depressed, having trouble functioning, having trouble seeing out of the hole he’s in. It’s totally understandable.

We were texting the other night, and he said, “Don’t get frustrated with me please. I am trying. Even when it seems like I’m not.”

I told him I’m totally frustrated, but it’s not a bad thing, because I understand where he is. It’s the kind of situation where getting out of bed and taking a shower is a major accomplishment—not in a joking meme sort of way, but a serious burn on energy and focus.

I get it.

I also get that if you’ve never experienced that, you might think they’re (we’re) exaggerating or “just wanting attention” (that phrase makes my skin crawl) or wanting other people to do their work for them.

Certainly there are people who exaggerate or are lazy, but in a depression situation, that’s not what’s going on.

Your friend needs you. Even if they’re ridiculously uncomfortable to talk with. Even if their reason and rationalizations are mind-boggling to you. Talk about other stuff if you need to. Tell them explicitly that you want to help them stay connected to people, but you need to talk about lighter and/or different things.

Create boundaries and stick to them, but be loving and assume positive intent. (If you say that you need to talk about lighter things and they continue not to, remind them—explicitly, not hinting—that this is what you need to be able to talk to them right now, and if they can’t respect the boundary, then cut off the conversation. If they need to talk about their stuff, they’ll need to talk to someone else right this moment.)

Depression is insidious. Be a good friend. Take care of yourself, but be a good friend.

Posted in differences, ebb & flow, meandering

Right now…

From my Facebook memories:

“Lots of sirens in the distance. I am snuggled in my bed. Every now and then, I am struck by just how different everyone’s experiences are right in this moment.”

I wrote something similar at some other point as well, while a few close friends were going through drastically different things simultaneously: one had a baby the same morning another closed on a house while another had a parent die while another was packing to move out of her house and marriage.

Sometimes I think with a long view about people’s life paths.

But in this case, I’m thinking just about this moment in time.

In the time that I’ve spent writing, people have died, people have been born, people have been taken to and released from prison. Kids have started and ended school. Job shifts have started, ended, and dragged on. People have been intimidated and liberated. Loves found and lost. Ignorance perpetuated and eradicated. All of these interactions have involved at least two people, sometimes many more. Ripples begin to move.

It’s amazing anything works at all.

Posted in differences, meandering, mental health, vulnerability

Hurt people hurt people

My biggest question is: how do we fix it?

People’s past experiences predict how they’ll treat people currently.

People who treat others badly have a history that leaves them with wounds that prevent them from behaving in pro-social ways.

All of these anti-social people (ASPs for ease in the rest of this post)—from sexual predators to KKK members to your verbally abusive aunt to the bully on the playground—have a history of trauma. Their experiences aren’t all the same, and, in some cases, their experiences administered to a different personality wouldn’t even be traumatic.

Doesn’t matter.

Given that bad behavior is a result of trauma, we should, as decent human beings, have sympathy or empathy for what has brought ASPs to this point.

But as adults, we’re responsible for taking care of our own baggage, so ASPs are responsible for working out whatever it is that makes them like that; they don’t just get a pass because bad things happened to them.

But as humans, if we’re so triggered by our pasts that we can’t give benefit of the doubt to people or we can’t be open to learning about other people’s experiences, then we’re certainly not in a place to own our own shit and subsequently work to clean it up. So ASPs aren’t in a place to be able to take ownership of their behaviors.

But also as humans, it’s our responsibility to stand up for people who can’t do it for themselves—which means standing up to ASPs on behalf of those who they’re trying to cut down.

This goes back and forth forever.

So how do we give enough love to ASPs for them to feel secure enough to look at themselves, realize they’re behaving badly, and get a damn therapist while not at the same time condoning or enabling their behavior?

I have no answers. But I’d love to have a conversation. What do you think?