Depression stole my friends

Depression comes in a myriad of types with varying symptoms. One symptom that isn’t noted by physicians, but is highly prominent among people who suffer from the disease, is friend loss.

Over the past two, nearly three years, I have lost valuable people in my life while battling depression. When I just couldn’t force a phone call or text to my friends, or just couldn’t bring myself to leave the house to attend a friends’ event — I’m sure I came off as ‘flaky’, ‘unfriendly’, or like I plainly didn’t care about my friends.

Those notions can’t be further from the truth. When you’re suffering from depression, you tend to be completely inside yourself. For me, those moments were about reflecting on why I felt so badly. I focused a lot on my circumstances and how I created them, berating myself for all the negatives in and around my life. I even battled with physical illness, stress induced stomach aches which could be directly connected to the depression.

There were times when I wanted nothing more than to stay in my bed, zoning out to something — anything, that would make me stop freaking thinking! I would see a phone call coming in from a friend and think to myself, “I have absolutely nothing to offer them, not even my full attention,” and I would let that call go to voicemail.

When it comes to our friends, we have expectations. We expect for them to be there when we need to talk. Travel with us on our adventures. Have fun with us when we’re in the mood to party. The one thing we don’t expect from our friends, is for them to suddenly stop doing these things without explanation.

We aren’t prepared to think about our friends’ mental health. When we do, we often mismanage how we can help them. Sometimes, we just want them to ‘pull themselves together’ and ‘be strong’. It’s awkward to deal with a person who cries without prompting, one who is so self-involved in their thoughts that they didn’t even ‘here what that dude said’ to them — even after the story was repeated twice. Partners find it difficult to want to stay with someone with a low sexual libido, someone who is often anxious and who sleeps more often than not.

We need to have a deeper understanding of what depression looks like. Not everyone who is depressed cries all the time, has a therapist, or takes prescription medications. Depression has at least six types ranging from seasonal, when different times of the year induces depression — to atypical, where symptoms aren’t what most people associate with depression.

Because people aren’t equipped with insider knowledge about the disease, its easy to miss the signs. Not everyone who is depressed is suicidal – I personally thought a lot about how much easier it would be to end it, but what stayed my hand was the thought of how a selfish act like that would affect my family.

My war against depression is daily and it takes a lot of energy to win the battles. It’s very difficult to see that many of the folks that I considered to be friends could be pushed away by something like this. At the same time, looking at the results of those lost friendships now that I have resurfaced a bit, is very enlightening.

So, remember, if your friend is suffering from depression — and they are TRULY your friend, try to be there for them in whatever way you can. Even if that means just visiting them and sitting there while they wallow. Understand that they love you, but they’re just having some internal struggles at the time. Make a valiant effort to not belittle their struggle by telling them how much stronger they need to be, or that ‘depression is only for white women’ (yes, I actually had someone say that to me). That only makes them feel more inadequate than they already feel.

Be there for your friend in the ways that are expected, and if you can’t do that — be there for when they come out of the storm. That way, they know what a true friend you really are.

This is one face of depression, can you tell?
This is one face of depression, can you tell?

CWHC Moves to Uptown

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– By Janean L. Watkins

FOR WINDY CITY TIMES MEDIA GROUP

Amidst an audience of clients, community supporters, board members and members of the collective, Chicago Women’s Health Center ( CWHC ) celebrated its recent move to the Uptown neighborhood.

The organization was housed in Wrigleyville’s Links Hall prior to moving to their new location at 1025 W. Sunnyside Ave. in Uptown. Director Jess Kane expressed her joy at being able to move to a community from where many of CWHC’s clients hail.

“We found that many of the people we serve come from Uptown, so it’s great that we can be in this community,” Kane said. “We’re only a mile and a half from where we were before and still near the Red Line which was important to us. We wanted to remain accessible for all of our clients.”

The new area houses three counseling rooms, one room for the Integrative Health Program and four gynecological exam spaces. The new facility is fully accessible, with a room equipped with an exam table specifically made for providing care to people with physical disabilities.

Chicago Women’s Health Center opened its doors in 1975 with a mission born from the radical ideals of the underground Jane Collective; a core belief that health care should be accessible for all.

“Everyone should have access to the same quality of health care,” said Kane.

Moving to Uptown was just one aspect of the organization’s efforts to expand services. They have also established a number of relationships with other organizations in Uptown, allowing them to offer clients a variety of resources.

In addition to earned income, about 30 percent of CWHC’s funding is derived from grants. One such donation is being put to use to provide greater access to clients. With the help of the Crown family, the center is hiring nurse practitioners to join the provider team.

They will also be able to bill insurance companies beginning this summer, something they haven’t done in recent history.

CWHC has been able to deliver care to many uninsured or underinsured clients because of their commitment to sustaining their sliding-scale fees for services. Through partnerships with outside entities like and Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, the center offers clients a holistic approach to health care with acupuncture and therapeutic bodywork.

“In relation to the Affordable Care Act, this will enable us to not only ensure [that] we continue to be financially accessible to those who do not have insurance, but also ensure we are financially accessible to the growing number who do have insurance,” said Kane.

This summer is slated to bring about many new initiatives. One of these will be newly offered primary care options at the center itself.

“We see clients as not only body parts,” said Kane. “We’ve always approached [providing health care] by seeing the whole person, now we’ll be able to offer care for more aspects of the entire individual.”

In 2007, CWHC changed its mission to include transgender people after conducting assessments to understand the needs of their clients. Since then, it has offered masculinizing hormone therapy, counseling acupunctureand massage services to trans individuals. Now, because of support given by the Chicago Foundation for Women’s LBTQ Giving Council, it will begin to offer feminizing hormone therapy in May of this year.

“CWHC is a place where everyone is respected and they can receive compassionate care that addresses their needs. They can also be an active participant in their care,” said current board member and former intern Courtney Chambers. “You are the expert in your own care.”

Under the direction of collective member Scout Bratt, CWHC also offers education and outreach for a sliding-scale fee. They’ve established a partnership with Communities in Schools of Chicago and offer fourth through twelfth grade students with access to resources, self-esteem building exercises and positive body image classes.

“We’ve provided these services for about 3,227 youth and adults who have engaged in our program,” said Megan Selby, Collective member. “The program also offers tips and resources to parents about communicating with their children about health care.”

CWHC prides itself on its ability to offer services to its clients while still maintaining its niche for empowering the individual.

“We’re really doing the work and want our clients to inform how we do that work,” said Kane. “We are providing health care the way we think it should be provided, health care that is dignified and empowering.”

Disclaimer: The author of this article is partnered with a CWHC health educator.