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Answers to FAQs, From Your Friend Stuck in Bed With Depression

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This is a letter I sent to those who wanted to see me come out of bed during the worst days of my depression:

I want to see you, but worry about the potential of another breakdown. That you may not understand what I’m going through, that I may need to defend myself and my emotions, or put on a front.

I’ve been choosing to avoid you for a while. I understand that my being isolated takes me away from you. My thoughts so deliciously spiral down into unknown depths when I’m alone, which I’ve been told is not good for me right now. I’m still figuring out how much time and space I need alone, but I want to work on figuring out what I’d like to ask of you for the next time we see each other because I know you care.

I want to be allowed to be myself right now which during this time is “moderately depressed.” Depression is too easy of a diagnosis for the complex transition I’m undergoing in being in the world. This experience is unique to me and my feelings are important to me.

I know it’s hard for you to understand it, and I know you’re wondering how you can be yourself around me right now. I’m sorry it’s introduced new tensions and arguments. I know this is because we both still care about each other at the least, and I need you here with me, especially right now.

I know you want to understand and it seems like many others do as well. It’s hard for me to explain over and over again and it takes a lot out of me to defend myself or counter your misconceptions of depression or my specific state. I’d like to ask that you read this before spending time with me so we can get over the introduction phase (i.e. talk only about my depression and trying to solve for it) and into coexistence.

What’s wrong?

Everything’s wrong — my duties to my family, work, diminishing time and space to be authentic, politics, economic/racial injustices of the world, ethics, random misfortunes with bureaucracy — and I’m sure I can find more things wrong. I want to point out distinctions in what I think is wrong right now, the things in my life that are literally making me sick and what you may find wrong. Regardless of the thing(s), there’s something within me that is very sick and weakened in my daily uphill battles. I feel numb, out of breath, like I’m under shallow water. I often don’t feel like breathing, eating or doing anything else. In some moments, I find my mind and heart stops caring and wants to just stop.

How are you doing?

I’m doing OK if I try to do one thing a day. My energy and motivation levels have improved but are still highly variable. I’m much more proactive about reading and trying out different methods of helping and expressing myself (including creating this FAQ).

What are you doing with your time off?

Right now, I’m reflecting, meditating, sleeping, cooking and writing. I hope to get out and find beauty in the world again, especially in nature with some camping maybe next month. I don’t have goals for this time off.

What do you want to do?

I really want to be by myself, although it would be lovely to see you sometimes. I want to explore radical ways of life, find my voice, be recklessly creative and be more myself.

Have you tried meditation, working out or antidepressants?

Yes, don’t feel like it most of the time but I am trying. I am fine with answering your questions about my stance on any of these things but would rather not get more advice. I don’t think there’s one thing that will help me and I’m trying out different combinations of things that may or may not work for me.

How can we remain friends during this time?

I’d really prefer if we didn’t have to dwell on solving my depression during this time. I’d like to be open about it but would like to treat it as something that may last a while like a broken ankle. I may still be in a state of malaise or sadness the times we see each other. It’s not something we need to fix.

Please be yourself and I’ll let you know what I need. You don’t need to be sympathetic or mopey. I’m still a human in other ways and still appreciate you for being you.

Sometimes I may not look differently on the outside at all. I’m likely still in a fragile mode. If I feel like I don’t have the energy for an activity or a topic, I will let you know. Please allow me to stop and do not ask why that makes me sad or why I can’t do it in that moment. (It’s exhausting to constantly defend myself.) For example, I may let you know if a topic gets too intense for me to explore at any given time, like sometimes I really don’t want to talk about politics because the elections bring me despair. Until I let you know, don’t worry about it so much.

It’s totally OK if you are not in a place where you can take care of me right now and don’t reach out for a while. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to pick things up later.

Is there anything I can do for you?

Yes, I would really appreciate you:

  • reaching out and visiting me near my house for a walk or a meal
  • reading me something inspiring, beautiful or wonderful
  • being open with me about my depression and how our relationship can persist through this
  • reminding me of some good times
  • sending me emails, mail, voicemail of anything (that I may not respond to right away)
  • helping me get creative in ways to coexist and be more vulnerable in my times of darkness
  • helping me think of career and life configurations
  • forgiving me if I’m slow to respond or don’t feel like doing anything
  • learning about and being open to depression through our journey

When will you want to do things again?

I don’t know.

Are you getting help?

Yes! I am blessed with a wonderful and caring therapist who I now have some history with. We’re trying different psychotherapist methods and she’s recommending a lot of other things I can try outside of therapy as well.

I am also financially OK for the next few months. This will fortunately help me afford some of the other things I want to try.

Thank you so much for reading, caring and trying. I’m sharing this with you first, for us, right now. I’m also publishing it publicly to get over the stigma of mental diseases and to make room for a fuller, more integrated life.

Follow this journey on Going Down Dark Tunnels.

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Getty image via bee32

Originally published: February 28, 2018
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