An endless line, hundreds breed thousands more; they just never seem to stop. What am I talking about? Articles about 8,10,12, or 42 things you should “never”, “stop”, or “cease” doing/saying to your friends with depression/anxiety issues. Every single one of these articles give a profound passion and certainty that those (insert number) things are truth. And if you do them, then you’re an idiot.
I’m here to tell you that you’re not an idiot. But here’s 5 things you should prevent yourself from even coming close to doing with your friend with depression who will probably never speak to you again… maybe.
Number 1, you never should expect them to be a good friend, I mean c’mon… you think this is a two way street? Friendship with someone with depression is like a sponge, they can only suck things out of you. And you have to squeeze them to get anything meaningful out of them. It’s such a drag.
Sometimes depression pushes our heads into exaggerations. We wish and hope we were better at keeping in touch, making meaningful connections, remembering what your favorite color is. Most of that is just my mind and experience at times, but depression can make us feel like we’re not being a good friend.
Number 2, make sure you respond to messages sent at any hour of the day, right meow. Communication is vital to any relationship, romantic or friendship. For those of us with depression, we have higher standards for our friends and messaging. If you don’t respond to something we sent within 20 seconds, you’re either ignoring us or you just don’t care about us. I know stuff happens, life is crazy, trust me. So as long as you respond within 2 minutes, you should be fine. Past 2 minutes has a special ring of hell waiting for you.
Anxiety can drive our fingers to text at any point as often as we see fit. I can be guilty of messaging my friends, maybe too often. Honestly, I don’t expect immediate response. I’m able to continue a conversation that started 8 hours earlier. A small thing for me, is that I just want a response. I’ve never been very good with some social etiquette guidelines, but a response is usually good from a friend. With mutual understanding that life happens, if the response comes a day later, you still responded. One thing I will say about those articles is that the same theme pops up about reaching out. Even if it’s just to say hi, it carries so much meaning to show us that someone cares.
Number 3 is an actual no-no for me, and I hope others as well. Please, don’t ever invalidate emotions or experiences. Some say that Depression is just like cancer, a deadly disease. I would describe it more like smoke, a gaseous substance that seems to fill your entire existence with each breath. And it even pores out of you and can affect other people. It’s this thing that can lead to death. I want to separate cancer from depression, because they are not the same. One is not better or worse than the other, simply different experiences.
We all have our struggles in life. So I find it difficult to believe a friend understands when they say there are other people who have it worse. Or they try to relate saying they have a similar experience as well. In that case, validation needs to happen with both persons. Acknowledge the experience of the other, relate but don’t make the conversation about yourself, show compassion and support for the person, and just be a friend. If I am validated, I feel you understand and respect my struggle.
Number 4, you need to live up to the perfect expectations that I have built up in my head. There are several reasons I struggle with social relationships, but a story for another time. But if you don’t meet my 26-point criteria for being my friend, I don’t know if we can make it work. If you’re going to be that unreasonable, I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
We all expect things from each other. As long we are realistic and recognize when any one of us is being unreasonable, friendships can last a long time.
Number 5, Never stop being a friend. If there are legitimate reasons you don’t want to be my friend, I respect that. But don’t get up and leave. Depression and anxiety can play with our minds and seeps into every facet of our lives. Not always am I a good friend, but I am blessed with amazing friends that see my flaws, yet for some reason are still sticking around.
Friends are important to me. I might even be bold and say I treat friendship with more importance than most. Someone who is a new friend, I haven’t known them for very long, I care about them. Because maybe I just see them in a sonder light. I love the word sonder. It is the realization that each passerby has a life as vividly individual and complex as your own. Maybe I desire to be a part of that beauty I see all the time. It can’t always happen, but the idealist impulsive side of me wants it to. Beauty is far beyond romantic.
To my friends, you are more than just one thing to me.
To all, we are more than just one thing.
Thanks for reading,