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.