What Goes Around

I had lunch with a couple of friends about 6 months ago. I hadn’t seen them for almost a year. Back in the day we used to meet at least once a week for coffee. I don’t know why the relationship we had wound down. Sometimes it just happens, doesn’t it?

We get busy, locked in our own little worlds, we mean to call but we don’t. With each day that passes it becomes harder to make contact and we convince ourselves that it’s too much of an effort for people who have so many other friends anyway.

These two friends in question were part of the alpha clique at my son’s primary school. Even though they claimed to not be interested in the machinations of that clique I could see them working actively to become a part of it from day one of Kindergarten.

They tried to get me involved in the clique but well, that’s just not me. Despite my disinterest in their exhaustive networking strategies we became friends. Good friends.

We talked about everything – births, deaths and everything in-between. Yet I held back on the one subject I feel is taboo for most people. The one subject that will make people run away from you inwardly. The one subject most people don’t want to know about.

I wanted to tell them. I really did. But I couldn’t say it even though the words were tugging at the corners of my mouth. I wanted to say: I am really depressed. Sometimes I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the night. But I couldn’t.

I have been friends with these people for nearly ten years and they have no idea I have ever been depressed. It is my fault. I chose not to tell them because like Tom Cruise I knew they couldn’t handle the truth.

Anyway, it’s about time I got to the point of this post which is that at that ill-fated lunch 6 months ago I finally told them about my depression.

They cried. They commiserated. They were cross with me for not telling them sooner. Yet as soon as the words fell out of my mouth I wished I could take them back. I saw their eyes – saying to themselves Here we go; looking for a way to retreat.

It surprises me that people can’t talk about depression openly. It surprises me that so many people view it as a form of failure or weakness.

Misconceptions abound. Padded cells. Straitjackets. Foaming at the mouth. Talking to Jesus. I can’t tick the box for any of those.

My friend, Jules, suffers from depression. It makes her angry that people have such jaundiced views of it because as she says : Most of us will experience some form of depression or anxiety in our lifetime so why not talk about it?

Why not, indeed.

My two alpha clique friends disappeared into the ether after that fateful day. Until today, that is. Megan, the most alpha member of the alpha clique rang me to apologise for not getting in touch sooner and also to let me know she had just returned from a visit to the doctor’s and had been diagnosed with – you guessed it – depression.

It has opened my eyes, she said.

I had no idea how debilitating it was.

I feel bad for doubting you.

Megan and I are meeting for coffee tomorrow and any other day that she needs to. I firmly believe that no one should judge anyone because that tends to activate the what-goes-around-comes-around effect and when that happens some of us need a little help. And to be able to speak to someone who can handle the truth.

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20 thoughts on “What Goes Around

  1. I’m lucky, I guess. I’ve been able to talk freely with my closest friends about my depression. They’ve all remained stalwart in their support. It helps immensely. Somedays, it’s all that I can cling to for salvation.

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  2. A friend calls her bouts of depression “riding the dark horse.” I think it’s a perfect description and it helps me to remind myself that I’m not alone whenever I go through my own bouts of depression or anxiety.

    I hope your friend gets through this–it’s wonderful of you to help her. And again, thanks for sharing the things that lift your spirit because you are lifting so many other peoples’ spirits with you!

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  3. It is weird how people don’t understand depression until they are diagnosed with it! Even my closest friend doesn’t get it – I don’t tell her I’m depressed because I get a response of snap out of it – go out more – do stuff to change ideas etc… I put on a happy face and pretend nothing is wrong so that I don’t get such stupid advice!

    Lately I have had anxiety attacks and she blames it on the pills I have to take – probably by never having had one she doesn’t get it how scary it can be!

    I totally agree with you and your friend Jules – people need to open their eyes more and not judge!

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  4. Thank you for this post Selma.

    Depression is so difficult to deal with. I often find myself telling myself to get over it, so many people have things so much worse… which of course just makes me feel guilty for being depressed. Blah.

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  5. I wish I could be open about my depression on my blog, but I can’t. There is a woman who reads it who will panic, call my mother, then start calling me. If I don’t answer my phone (I could be in the shower, outside in the yard, not at home (and I don’t always hear the cell phone ring)) she will call the police.

    Then, she’ll send me emails or leave phone messages telling me how I “scared everyone half to death.”

    The dark horse is back…and I can’t even write about it.

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  6. Amen to this post, Selma! My daughter suffers from bouts of severe depression and only one member of my family is aware of it. The others definitely are in the “couldn’t handle it” category. At times it can feel so lonely as a parent, or friend, when there is no one you can reach out to just to talk about it. It is of course so much harder for the person experiencing the depression. It hits me mildly now and then, and that is scary enough. There have been many times that my daughter’s survival has been nothing short of miraculous, and even in a big city finding good support groups is hard. My heart goes out to you and to everyone who struggles in fearful silence. You have a big heart to respond to your friend’s call after she abandoned you. I’m not sure I could be that generous, but I hope so. It’s long since time for this illness to come out of the closet, keep preaching the message!

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  7. Having you to talk to, who understands the depth and breadth of depression, is going to help megan a huge amount. I hope eventually realises just how privileged she has been to have had your honesty 6 months ago and to be able now to benefit from it. I think what we have to remember is depression is terrifying to those who have never suffered from it and they often feel its contagious. Weirdly enough it is, when you have spent time with someone with acute depression you dont feel great yourself afterwards, but the benefit the depressed person has had by having positive and physical mental contact is immense, and especially from someone like you who is kind and considered.

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  8. JONAS:
    You are fortunate. Don’t get me wrong, I have a few close friends I can talk to about it, but there are others who get panicked if you even so much as mention the ‘D’ word. I think we still have a long way to go in reducing the stigma of depression.

    SAGACIOUS WOMAN:
    I have ridden that dark horse. It is a great way to describe it. I’m sure Megan will be fine. I am encouraging her to get all the help she needs and to not be ashamed of what she is feeling. It’s odd, but sometimes in helping others I seem to help myself!

    TBALL:
    I’m not surprised you’re having anxiety attacks considering all you’ve been through, lately. It’s true that people don’t understand until they’ve experienced it themselves. As we know you just can’t snap out of it and you’re not putting it on or being a ‘drama queen.’ Anytime you need to talk you know I am here XXX

    LAURA:
    I do that too. The whole people are starving in this world, dying of preventable illnesses, victims of war and genocide routine. It doesn’t really help. Of course I am distressed for those people and I would change it for them if I could but acknowledging what they are facing doesn’t diminish what I am facing. It’s all relative. However, I do find that staring at the black dog face on does help. And barking back…..

    PUNATIK:
    Email me any time, hon. I mean it. We might even be in the same time zone. Is it lunchtime in Hawaii?

    KAREN:
    You can do a guest post here about it if you want to. If you think it’d help. Or what about on the writing blog? Many writers suffer from depression. It often impedes their progress. I know many people would relate.

    Your situation is why a lot of people fail to come clean about how they are feeling. There is actually a lot of misinformation out there re. depression. I have had all sorts of over the top responses too. But so far I haven’t felt the need to turn up at someone’s house at 4AM wielding an axe, asking them if they feel lucky. You never know, though. Email me anytime. I want to help.

    SOPHIE:
    I feel the need to preach the message. If I can help one person it is worth it. I know how much you have worried about your daughter in the past and I fully appreciate how hard it is to find the support. I have found that writing has helped me enormously. Even if the story is the worst thing I have ever written at least it gets everything out. I really appreciate your comment, Soph, because I know what you’ve been through.

    KATE:
    I know exactly what you mean. An old neighbour of mine suffers from acute depression but has also adopted what I call the negative mindset. It’s almost like her depression is a self-fulfilling state and she has convinced herself the sun will never shine again. She is extremely negative and sucks the energy out of you. After ten minutes with her I feel like going home and crying. I think her negativity comes from not being prepared to tackle her depression. It is how she has come to define herself.

    I think it’s important to remember that depression needn’t make you unaware of happy moments or the beauty that arises in every single day. Unfortunately, she can’t see that. I have been in the park with her in raptures about a flower and she has been so dismissive I have felt like slapping her. So yeah, I agree, that kind of depression is terrifying and extremely tiring. There’s a good old Aussie description of her state and that is – she’s a bloody whinger!

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  9. I’m so sorry that your friends were too “scared” to be there for you when you finally got the courage to reach out to them. I have never really had the courage to do that and so I suffered in silence for a long long time.

    I don’t suffer so badly with it these days or let’s just say that along with everything else, it’s being controlled. However, every once in a great while I wish I could open up about it. Maybe then when the darkness descends it wouldn’t seem so complete. I’m glad you can be there for your friend. We all deserve at least that much.

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  10. Since I grew up with my manic depressive mother I sort of shy away from the people who don’t have a psychological disorder- I wonder what’s wrong.
    I’m glad your friend has you. I think I’m a very stingy friend. If I can’t feel comfortable telling you everything then I’d rather walk away. Casual friends I have little time for. So in a way speaking the truth to these friends has sorted things out for you.

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  11. KAYDEE:
    I know all about not feeling courageous enough to open up. It is a very hard thing to do. It is true that if we could discuss it more openly we would feel less despairing when it strikes. I think the sense of being alone is one of the things that makes it hard to cope with. We definitely all deserve to have someone there for us. At the very least!

    LAURI:
    A lot of the time I’d rather walk away too because it hurts when so-called friends are only interested in the good stuff. I call them the fair-weather friends. Once the sky gets dark they’re gone. You’re right – being truthful with Megan in particular has changed our friendship for the better. There is more substance to it now. We can be open with each other at long last!

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  12. I think it’s sad and rather “hollow” that these friends couldn’t take what you said and accept it, right then. Even if it did make them uncomfortable etc…aren’t real friends suppose to be able to handle whatever comes out of our mouths? Maybe my expectations are too high, probably are. I hope you don’t get hurt again Sel. They are both lucky to have a friend like you.

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  13. GERALDINE:
    It is a shame. These two ladies come from very wealthy families and I don’t mean to generalise here but in my experience a lot of wealthy people have trouble dealing with the darker aspects of life. There is a lot of ‘keeping up appearances’ going on. When you never have to worry about where your next dollar is coming from it changes your perspective of how most people live. However, both of those girls have been good to me and I have seen something in them of substance and depth – that’s why we have remained friends. It is a case of two very different worlds colliding and coming out the better for it.

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  14. Good for you Selma. It’s good you are able to be honest and open about it. Depression is tough and you’re right, some people can’t handle it, at least not yet. Hang in there.
    xo

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  15. Depression is hard to understand and accept. That is until you experience it yourself. I sure learned from mine. Take care, my friend.

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  16. And here I am, thinking the only taboo thing is money. I mean, you hardly hear people say, “I’m broke and need money” to a good friend, or in a church. Everyone puts on a happy face. As if the world is a freaking wonderful place.

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  17. JOANNA:
    Thanks so much for your support. I do think if people were able to talk about it they would suffer less. I hope that one day it will be discussed without any of the stigma attached.

    CHRIS:
    It’s true. You really don’t get it until it happens to you. In some ways it has increased my levels of empathy and compassion for others, so I think that’s a good thing. But it would be nice to be more open about it!

    MOTHER HEN:
    It’s true. Money is quite a taboo subject too. There are lots of people out there with happy masks on. It would be good if they felt comfortable enough to take them off once in a while!

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