Maybe Your Friend Never Left? Maybe She's Depressed.

To the friend of someone battling depression/anxiety. {To my friends?}

It's something that needs to be talked about. I don't think many have a healthy understanding or a good grasp on reality when it comes to depression/anxiety. Still, even as I begin to type, I can feel my fingers trembling and my heart beat a bit faster.

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See, I've survived with depression/anxiety for years. Most of it was well carved into my character in my late adolescence as I went through an extremely difficult time in my life. I was victim to an unhealthy and abusive relationship - one where I was treated so poorly that I began treating myself poorly, too.  Believe me, if you've never been there it doesn't make sense to stay, let alone believe the hateful words heard to the degree of abusing yourself, I know. But I didn't just wake up one day and choose it. Abuse will slowly chisel away at you over time.

During that relationship, I attempted to take my own life. Honestly, I'm glad to have survived that moment but it's something that kind of stays on the heart like a scar. I can't forget it and sometimes depression tries to drag me back to that place.

That's just my story - and there's more to it than that. But still, there are countless other stories of how depression/anxiety crept up in a life and changed a person, for better or worse. I want to shed a little light on the day-to-day struggles a person surviving depression/anxiety may have - especially when it comes to friendship.

Picture a large park; any park that comes to mind. Now picture you're there and you see your friend off in the distance. You meet eyes and exchange waves "hello" while you begin taking steps toward your friend. As you make your way to their side of the park, you notice they haven't taken one step toward you. You're confused but you move forward still. As you get closer, you see they still haven't taken one step. You're beginning to get offended. Finally, you're just a couple yards from your friend and suggest you walk together. Your friend smiles at you but still doesn't move from their spot. They may not have even spoken a word to you yet. You're irritated. What's the problem? You take it personally and demand "If you want to walk with me, I'm going this way."

As you walk away upset, the friend is crushed and begins to cry. What you couldn't see, is a cage around your friend. It's invisible to eyes that don't want to see it for what it is. But your friend is literally stuck. And whether he/she wants to walk with you or not, they can't.

The hard truth is this. If you had chosen to see the cage, you would have seen that they may not be able to get out but you can get in and go to them. If you have a friend with depression/anxiety, they may be begging for you to come to them (even if they aren't moving toward you or even actually saying it).

Depression lies.

Depression says a body is too tired to leave a bed. It says a mind is too riddled with guilt, stress, anxiety, sadness to even feel. Depression reminds you of failures or even makes them up on the spot. Depression turns the phone off, clears the calendar, and instead entertains you with lies that you're not even wanted or missed. Depression haunts the mind with way too many things to process at once while demanding it all be processed at once.

Depression is not the excuse to isolate yourself from friendship, it's the reason isolation happens.

What irritates me more than anything are the little attempts to do something about depression. I see so many of my own friends posting things on Facebook like "share this hotline" with a number depressed people are supposed to call if they're feeling suicidal. It's a nice thought, but I can tell you from experience, when I fought with that demon I wasn't "with it" enough to call someone. I could barely put 2 words together and my dad thought I was on drugs...I was 100% sober.

I don't want to completely discourage the Facebook efforts because I think it gives non-depressed people awareness. However, I get a burning lump in my throat when I hear about a suicide and people are all surprised. "I wish he/she would have said something." "Why didn't he/she call me? I would have been there." Even now, I'm having a hard time holding back the tears.

Please. Do Not Ignore The Words From Your Friends. People who struggle with depression/anxiety may let those words slip from their lips a time or 2. They have to say it to their doctor if they need medical help. They have to say it to their counselor if they're getting emotional and mental support. They have to say it to their group if they're going through a 12 step program. It's not a secret, even if they choose to isolate and pull back from your friendship.

People who are fighting depression/anxiety are not selfish and they don't owe you any sort of explanation if they make plans and cancel them or don't return a text/phone call. They're trying to stay alive. If you're a friend of someone like me, YOU ARE SO NEEDED.

See, I said before how depression lies. But even I have days when I know exactly what the truth is. I know who my friends are and I actually do make it out of the house. I have days you would think I'm totally fine...because in that moment, I'm winning the battle enough to enjoy some of the spoils of victory. These good days don't mean I'm "cured" and shouldn't be taken for granted. {I know I sure don't take the good days for granted.}

I know. It takes a strong person with a big heart to befriend someone who has depression/anxiety. It can feel like all you do is give and you get very little back. But. What if I turned that on its head for you? What if I told you that you are one of the reasons that friend fights to stay alive? Would that be enough "get" for you? If you knew your friend loved you so deeply that they didn't want to leave you or hurt you with a forever goodbye, would that fulfill you enough? {I'm not writing that with a sarcastic tone. I'm writing it sincerely. Is their staying alive enough for you?}

Depression can completely change a person while it leaves other parts of them intact. I'm forever and ever changed by what I've survived, but I'm still the sarcastic goofball I was in my teens. I still resemble who I used to be.  I'll bet your friend is still "in there", too.

It's a horrible shame if you choose to walk away because you don't understand. There is a haunting feeling of loneliness in depression and every time someone gives up on a friendship, it makes depression's lie look more like truth.

I dare you to fight alongside that friend who's battling some of hell's darkest demons. I dare you to show up while understanding a conversation may not happen but maybe a hug and a good, healing cry will. I dare you to not.give.up. on that person and understand he/she hasn't necessarily chosen to leave you behind and never intends to hurt you. I dare you to care and not be the victim.

I can't explain to you the pain of literally watching a friend leave you behind. It's even worse to read words of how badly I've hurt them when my heart for them never changed and my actions {or lack there of} were never intending the pain they've caused. It's a horrible and hopeless and lonely feeling. Meanwhile, I cry at depression "LOOK AT WHAT YOU DID!" and depression tries to comfort me with more isolation.

An ended friendship? Maybe we're both the victims of depression, then? Its voice is so loud in my head but I have fought to love you - I still love you. I'm sorry my heart couldn't hold you.

~Amy

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