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When a Friend Didn't Understand Why I Was 'Still Depressed' About Racism

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My White friend called me the other day. We talk several times a week since the pandemic. We have been friends for five years. I met her at an adoption support group.

I am a 47-year-old Black, lesbian who is disabled. She is a 71-year-old white, straight, woman born into and living with privilege. She had never had a Black close friend before me. (I must admit, I like being the person who introduces someone to being friends with a Black person. I am a great friend).

I have struggled with my mental health for most of my life at least since fifth grade when I was having panic attacks. Before the pandemic, my friend and I had lunch together every Tuesday after Weight Watchers and my therapy appointment. She was always interested in what had gone on in therapy. Over time, I really opened to her and shared some of the most intimate details of my trauma and symptoms. We are extraordinarily close friends.

So, I was incredibly surprised when she called the other day and we were talking about the protests and the Black Lives Matters movement. She asked how I was doing, and I said still depressed.

She pounced and said, “You are always depressed. You are choosing to be depressed.” She went on to state, “If you would just decide in the morning to be happy, you would have a better day.”

I was stunned. Where was this assault coming from? This was not my friend I knew. In a fog I muttered, “I hear you see my depression as a choice.” She back tracked and said, “I get that you could have chemical issues but you are so used to being depressed that you do not know any different, so depression is comfortable for you.”

I was so hurt. Her words cut deep to the bone. I am not safe even with my closest friends. Not only am I dealing with lifelong mental health issues, but here I am, going through a collective trauma with all Black people and my friend decides to help me by discounting my pain in the name of helping me. I know my White friends feel powerless right now and do not know what to do, but this is not it. I do not need White people to fix me.

White people are having a collective awakening. They watched for nearly nine minutes a man being murdered and for the first time put together that Black people are being put down like dogs in the streets by our own government. They have clutched their pearls in horror and are waking up and saying what can I do. But now the outrage is waning. As my friend demonstrated, we only have permission to grieve for so long. At some point (and make that soon), Black people need to move on because some White people are already on to the next thing. Do not get me wrong — we have converted some for the long haul. But most cannot see themselves outraged for a sustained period and so they move on.

I do not have the luxury of moving on. My mere is existence is a protest against the atrocities my community faces. There is no choice to not be depressed. I am amidst a community that has literally been beaten to its core. Depression is my haven. My grief consoles me. It teaches me that even in denial, I can be angry and still bargain for liberation.

I have not spoken to my friend since then. I am not sure what to say. Do I confront her? Do I try to explain how she hurt me? Do I let it go?  If I say nothing will she think she is justified in scolding me. Will she do this to someone else or to me again? Do I expend my limited emotional energy to educate her?

I value our friendship. I value the role she plays in my life. She really is a good woman. Does this make her a bad friend or a bad woman? I think not.

Still right now I am wounded. I do not see me sharing any more about how I am doing with her for now. I will answer the way I do with casual strangers that “I am fine.” I know deep in my heart that she meant well, but to what degree do I tolerate the betrayal? When is enough, enough?

I already miss my friend.


Photo by Leighann Blackwood on Unsplash

Originally published: June 15, 2020
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