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The Power of Someone Else's Presence When You're Depressed

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As someone with social anxiety, being around other people (especially when I’m at my most vulnerable), is hard. As you could probably speculate, it tends to bring me a lot of anxiety. However, as someone with severe depression, when I am at my worst, being around other people is typically exactly what I need most.

When my depression hits hardest and the suicidal thoughts swarm my mind and I don’t feel safe in my own skin, there is nothing more powerful or meaningful to me than someone just sitting with me. Knowing that someone else is there makes me feel safe, loved and just breaks so many of the chains my depression is binding me to. The mere presence of someone else defies depression in and of itself. It forces isolation out of the room. It forces the lies to move over and make room for the truth, that there are people that care and that you are not alone to consume space instead. It forces a feeling of safety when all depression wants you to feel is insecure. Someone showing up is a bright ray of light in a place that is so dark and desolate. It forces hope into the conversation.

Now don’t get me wrong, bringing this up is hard. Asking someone to do this is hard. And it’s especially hard when you’re already in a headspace where you are convinced that no one cares, you are a burden and you don’t matter. But I’m telling you that sending that text or asking that person is worth it. When I ask someone this I preface it and tell them that I don’t need them to say anything, that I probably won’t even be able to look at them. I just tell them that I really cannot be alone right now, and just need someone to be with me if they’re able and willing. Nine times out of 10 they show up with no judgement and nothing but love. And even though they probably don’t know what to do and feel uncomfortable, them showing up is a lifesaver.

They often come in to me with my hands over my face in embarrassment. Or me with my face buried down in my knees. They sit with me, hold me or put their arms around me. And then I shake and cry even more because realizing in real time just how not alone I am and how loved I am, is overwhelming in the best possible way.

The first time I ever really experienced something like this was when I was in high school. Not only was my depression so severe, but living at home was just icing on the cake. I felt trapped and even more alone than I thought possible. By some miraculous coincidence, my mentor/youth leader ended up moving to my neighborhood my sophomore year. Her house became the first place I ever truly felt safe. She would let me come over and just sit on her couch or floor and just be. Knowing she was there, knowing I wasn’t alone and just feeling safe saved my life so many times over.

I thank her from the bottom of my heart, along with so many others who have done this for me. My roommates who I’ve texted in the dead of night who come into my room and just lay with me until I’m OK. Friends that come into my apartment to just hold me as I shake in the corner of my room. People that crawl into my car with me when I don’t feel safe enough to drive, but can’t seem to get out. People that let me get in their car as we just drive around until I feel okay again. People that stay on the phone with me while I’m having a panic attack.

The fact of the matter is, you are not alone. The truth is that we need you here. The reality is that when you reach out, people will show up. Despite what your mind may be telling you, you are so loved and you belong here. I am just so thankful that so many good people exist in this world to show up for us when we need it most, and that in turn, we are able to do the same for others. The presence of another human is powerful. It’s so, so powerful.

Photo credit: DragonImages/Getty Images

Originally published: August 15, 2019
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