To My Best Friend With Depression, on the Days I Can't Make It Better
It’s a little darker today, isn’t it? There are a few more clouds today, I can feel them. The weight of the air sitting above us is a little bit heavier. These days are becoming more frequent and the pressure is building, not able to find a way out. I have come to know these days too well — knowing they will turn into weeks, which may turn into months, building and pushing down on you until one day, the sky opens up and the air is clear again. Sitting here, I will watch these days and weeks and months pull the light from your eyes and take the laughter from you. I hate it, and I know you do too, but I will be here through it. The air will clear again. I will be right here, ready to spring into action for you. I will handle everything that I can for you, I will be outside waiting. I just need you to keep breathing.
I didn’t know what depression was. I thought being depressed just meant you were sad. I thought it meant you didn’t know what you meant to the world, or that you didn’t know how many people loved you. I thought if I said I love you until I was blue in the face and screamed from the rooftops how you changed my life for the better — that you would get out of bed. I didn’t understand. You always tell me that people need people — and I thought I was failing as your person. Can you just please get out of bed?
I didn’t understand. I don’t think I ever will, but I am learning. As the best friend of someone who struggles with depression, there is no way to know what is going on in their head, especially during the darker times. You just want them to get out of bed. Can I crack a joke? I’ll send her that picture from that time. I have to call her mom. I love you, you know that right? Stay. You have to stay, I need you. Of course she knows that, don’t guilt her. I’m sorry. Can I help?
From you I’ve learned that depression doesn’t mean you’ll miss my birthday every year, but it does mean that some years you won’t call — you can’t call. It doesn’t mean you don’t know how much we all love you, it just means that is the only thing you’re holding onto right now. It doesn’t mean I should text you every day and expect a response, it means I’ll do it just so you know that I’m with you. Most importantly, I know you want to be OK. Your depression doesn’t necessarily mean you want to die, it means the weight is just so heavy. It means I can keep telling you that I love you, but that doesn’t make it lighter. I can ask you to stay for me, but that will just make you feel guilty that you’re “putting me through this.” The guilt will join the sadness and they will sit together on the cloud that follows you, pushing down on your chest and dimming your light.
But why can’t you get out of bed?
You have taught me my role in your depression. I can feel those clouds coming, like I have many times before. But now, as I feel them approach, and I watch the light and life in you slowly go duller, I know I can’t push them away. I can’t guard you, or put a fence around you and keep them out. I want to so badly, I want to protect you and take them for you and keep you safe from all of it. But they are going to come, and although they may stay for awhile, it will not be forever. They will make you feel heavier, and I can’t stop that. Still, you taught me what I can do — I can hold you up. I can be your fail-safe, your reserve battery, your pilot light. I can keep your camp fire burning while you stay in the tent, and I can take first-watch. I know you can’t get out of bed.
Keep breathing. Take life in five-minute intervals. You are not OK, and that — that is OK. I will be here, just ask for what you need when you can. You woke up today and that is brave. You chose to face your demons and your clouds and you chose to hold the weight another day, and that is a feat. It is a feat to breathe and exist and live and stay. That is enough, it will always be enough. Do what you need to do, see your doctor, take your medication, breathe. I am here to breathe with you, because people need people, just like you always say. I can’t protect you, I know that now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a role. The air is going to clear again, you will laugh again, life will be lighter again. Thank you for choosing to wake up today. If that’s all you can do, that’s enough for me. I will be there, beside you, waiting to do whatever it is you need. I will stay alert for both of us, I will take care of things for now. I’ll man the fort, you just keep breathing. You can stay in bed, I’ll take the first watch.
Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash