This past weekend my sisters and I hosted a girls retreat at our church. We taught lessons about all kinds of mental illnesses like eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. Having experienced depression, I decided to share my story within my lesson. It was a lot harder to write out and share this story than I thought it would be, but it has also helped me reflect and see how far I have truly come. Now, I want to share the story with you because even though sometimes I relapse and have depressive episodes, I have been able to heal a lot. I can actually talk about things that were happening months ago that I felt like I couldn’t have said in the moment. My hope is, if someone who is struggling with depression reads this, they will be able to see that it will get better eventually. And if you have never struggled with depression but know someone that does, maybe you will be able to understand just a little bit of what is happening to them.
Without further ado, today, I am going to share a story with you about one of my absolute best friends. And, before I go any further, I want you to know that I did get her permission to share all the nasty little details of our friendship as long as her name remained anonymous. So, for the sake of keeping her anonymous, I am only going to use the pronouns she and her to refer to her. Cool? Awesome. Let’s get into this story then.
We are taking a little trip down memory lane and rewinding the clock to September 2015. I was in my first month of college and everything was going pretty well. I was starting to fall into a rhythm of going to school, going to work, doing homework, and repeating that process when I met said friend. I didn’t think that she and I clicked well from the beginning. However, she thought we fit together perfectly and, since I hated to be rude and stand up for myself, I just let her believe it. I figured eventually either she would get tired of me ignoring her or something else would happen and she would just give up on being friends. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I was wrong.
She would try and come hang out with me during class, she would visit me at work, she and I always had homework dates, she even crashed my family Christmas in 2015. It didn’t matter how passive aggressive I was towards her, she never left.
Eventually, I got used to her being around and I didn’t mind as much. She was just there and I couldn’t do anything about that. Fast forward to May 2016 and she and I have both finished our first year of college. We hung out so much during the winter semester that my grades dropped a little and she always seemed to be a great distraction whenever I needed to be productive. I just planned on seeing her at work now and I assumed she would be at all the family gatherings. I still didn’t consider her to be my best friend, but she insisted that we were and I was tired of arguing that we weren’t, so I went along with it.
In June 2016, my mom finally said something about her. Until then, all of my friends and family didn’t mind her too much because she would do her best to stay out of the way and only speak when asked a direct question. But over the months of May and June she started getting a little more comfortable and didn’t mind speaking her mind as much. It got to the point that, when she came over, I would just lead her straight down to my room and we would hang out there until she was ready to leave.
During the summer, I would even come home to find her already there. She would be watching TV, making food, chilling in my room, using all of my stuff. She had no boundaries. She was just one of those friends who made herself feel at home. If she was any of my other best friends, I would be ok with her making herself feel at home. In fact, I would even encourage it. But she wasn’t my other best friends, and I was mad. I was tired of her always being there. She would never leave me alone. She even tried to come with me when I was hanging out with other friends. Sometimes, she would succeed.
One Saturday morning, in August 2016, I asked my mom to go to brunch with me so I could ask her to help me make this friend get the point and leave. Unfortunately, she came with us which made it impossible for me to ask my mom to get rid of her. So, I just let her stick around. I hated her but I couldn’t tell her that I was mad that she wouldn’t leave me alone.
Now we are starting our second year of college and she and I have all the same classes. I know what you are all thinking, THAT sounds like a FANTASTIC idea. Why not have the annoying, distracting friend sign up for all the same classes as you and then sit next to you during all of them and not let you pay attention in class? I know! I was thinking the same exact thing.
I didn’t let her get away with all the distractions for too long though. Like I just mentioned, I. Hated. Her. She was constantly putting me down for simple little mistakes I made. Everything I did wasn’t good enough for her. Yet, I thought if you were someone’s friend, you just had to endure this kind of stuff, no matter how bad it made you feel.
Thankfully, I ended up getting help from my aunt to start being able to distance myself from her. My aunt gave me resources that helped me find places that my friend could not follow me to. As soon as my friend saw what I was doing, she started pushing back with a vengeance. She was not willing to quit being my “friend” that easily.
She would try and make herself seem better by telling me that none of my family or friends cared about me. She was the only who cared. She would tell me that without her, I wouldn’t do well in school and I wouldn’t be successful. And I believed her.
All of a sudden, she was my best friend. Everything she said made sense. I wasn’t good at my job, I wasn’t smart, no one cared about me. I knew no one cared because no one had forced her to leave yet and no matter how hard I tried, she wouldn’t leave. She and I became inseparable. I still hated her, but I had given up trying to not be her friend. She was there for me when no one else was.
I honestly tried to start healing our friendship at that point. We would have long conversations where we would get to know each other more. I would learn a lot about why she always felt the need to put others down and she learned why I just let people walk all over me. I learned all of her history and she learned mine. Soon, we found we really weren’t that different from each other.
However, a couple months later, things got really bad for us again. She was going through a really tough time and it was starting to wear down on me. We both were constantly sad, had no hope, and thought that life was over. I realized that this was unhealthy for me and her so I decided at that point that I needed to end the friendship. And this next part may seem very drastic but, in one final attempt to get rid of her, I made a plan. One day, when she was in the car with me, I was just going to take my hands off the wheel and see what happened.
For anyone who knows anything about driving, where are you supposed to keep your hands? 10 and 2. You’re right. So, with the knowledge that I would just take my hands off the wheel and see what happens, can you start connecting the dots of what would happen? Not only would she most likely be dead, so would I.
Yeah, this is scary stuff.
Ok. At this point I feel like I owe you all a little bit of an explanation. I’m tired of just saying “her”. I think you guys need to know who this is because I am absolutely certain you guys won’t know who she is anyway, so it really shouldn’t bother her. Let me just double check and make sure she is ok with it first. Take out phone and pretend to call her. Hi you, I’ve got a quick question. I’m here at the girls’ retreat telling these girls the story of our friendship. Before I ask you my question, I want to just promise you that I have, so far, kept you anonymous. But, I was wondering if I could just tell them who you are? I think they really should know. Especially because we are best friends now, you know? Listen to response. I mean, I guess that’s true. Yeah, I’m fine with it. Listens to response again. Ok, thanks girl! Bye!
Ok, so she said I could tell you. My best friend, is…
me. Well, sort of. Another name for her is depression or the depressive side of me. And yes, I have been depressed for almost 2 years now.
You’re probably thinking, how in the world is this girl best friends with depression? Isn’t depression sad? And I know, it is a little strange. I get that. But, let me make an argument for it.
Last September, I posted a blog post called The Masked Ball. In it, I discussed how I was depressed, how I felt numb, and how I just wanted to give up. Reading that back now, I cry. I didn’t even realize how sad I was at the time. I just thought it was normal and that I would stay that sad forever.
Thankfully, so many people reached out to me after that post and offered to help. That is when my aunt helped me find a therapist that I could go to and start talking about and working on overcoming depression.
Within a few weeks of posting the Masked Ball, I then posted The Masked Ball: A Conversation. I put a disclaimer before it saying that I only tied in some real life experiences, but in reality, they were all me. I was ready to kill myself. I hated the depression, but I couldn’t get it to shut up and keep putting me down. So, I started giving in. That is, until I talked more to my therapist. My therapist helped me figure out ways to help myself when I got into those states of mind. And now, that’s what I use all the time. Whenever I start feeling like the “she” is coming back, I try and help myself by bringing in the other parts of my personality that can help chase her away.
How does that make an argument that I’m best friends with my depression? That doesn’t. But this next part does. Through many different resources, I have learned to embrace every feeling I have. If I’m sad, I acknowledge that and feel it, but then I don’t stay there. I used to have an unhealthy relationship with depression because I would let her come in and overtake my entire life. Now, I welcome her in but also kick her out before she can get too comfy. I give myself credit where credit is due. For example, I posted Baby Steps a month or two after I posted The Masked Ball. In there I talked about how I was still struggling a lot but I had made super tiny, shaky baby steps in the direction of getting better. I was proud of myself that day for doing the work I needed to do. That was something I wouldn’t have done even a week prior to posting that blog post.
Probably about a month to a month and a half ago now, I went through a very small relapse of depression. The relapse didn’t even remotely touch what I was feeling last fall, but it was still not my favorite few weeks. When I published “Hello, Old Friend” I was coming out of the couple week funk. Since then, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on what my mental state has been for the past few months. Not only was it in preparation for teaching at girls’ retreat, but I’ve hit a point where I’m ready to move on from just focusing on healing to focusing on something different. I’m not sure if that something different is traveling, writing more, or just being there for others who need me now that I can be; however, I know I can do this because I have gotten to a point where I actually love myself.
I love the fact that I’ve been depressed, I love that I’ve grown because of it, and I love that I’ve lived to see the other side of depression. I don’t look in a mirror and hate everything I see. I am comfortable in my own skin. I know who I want to be and I know who I am currently. I am one of my best friends. It doesn’t matter if all of a sudden I feel like I have lost who I am. I can figure that out and add it to my schema’s of who I KNOW I am. If I relapse into depression again, I have all the tools necessary to make sure I make it out alive. I know I’m not alone in this journey, like I once thought I was.
For those who are currently struggling with depression, please know that it gets better. You will have to work extremely hard to find your happiness and love yourself, but it is worth it. It took me months to start applying what I was learning in therapy. My friends would give me advice and I would ignore them for weeks until I got desperate and just needed to try anything. Maybe you are in the same boat. Please take their advice.
If you need more help than just a support system, don’t hesitate to reach out and find a therapist/counselor that can help you. I was scared out of my mind to call and set up my first appointment, but it is one of the best things I have ever done. Don’t feel ashamed that you can’t get through this on your own. There is a reason you want people to see you and understand what you are going through. You weren’t created to get through life alone.
If you need someone to talk to, my DM’s are always open on Twitter (@RosemaAlyson if you really do want to talk). You don’t have to talk to me though. Find a friend, a family member, or someone on the street who looks like they are willing to listen. Write it out in a journal and then rip it out and shred it. Record a video talking about how you’re feeling and then delete it. Do something to get it off your chest. Don’t let it fester inside.
If you are thinking about committing suicide and can’t reach out to family or friends, call the national suicide prevention lifeline:
They are available 24 hours a day and have an online chat if you are too scared to actually call. I have this number saved as a contact in my phone just in case if I need it, or if someone else does. I can send it easily, and this can save lives. Don’t be afraid to send it to others either. If someone is struggling and you don’t know how to help, the people who answer the phone do. Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they are thinking about committing suicide. Be blunt. That’s what a couple of my friends did for me and it caught me off guard so much that I stopped, thought about it, and waited. Even if you can just get someone to go to bed so they stop thinking about it for the night, that helps buy time to get them help.
To those who have read this to the end, thank you. Please stay safe and don’t be afraid to have the tough conversations.
Until next time,