When I think of the way my depression has affected the relationships in my life, I think of myself as a flower, wilting from my depression, but knowing there is water and sunlight somewhere that will replenish my droopy petals, my brown leaves, and my dehydrated soil.
I’m lucky to be surrounded by so many supportive people that love me despite the ways my depression leaks into our friendship. I’ve canceled more plans than I can count, hiding in bed under covers, canceling last-minute.
“I’m sorry I can’t do it today. I am crying and do not have the energy.”
“I’m sorry I have to cancel so last-minute. My depression is kicking my ass today, and I just need to sleep.”
Then the fear creeps in that maybe my friends will tire of my flakiness, preferring someone who can consistently keep their word. And yet they stand by my side, never wavering, inviting me to parties, girl’s nights, and dinners out.
Since college, my friends have propped me up when I could not do it myself. One group of friends were my roommates during my senior year. They cared for me like a gardener tending to flowers. When I was suicidal, they would take my pill bottles and hide them in their rooms, giving me my meds each morning.
They would wrap me in hugs, give me the space to cry, take naps, and encourage me to get my homework done. If a love language was mac and cheese, they would make it for me, comforting me when nothing else could.
They let me vent more than anyone should, through texts, tears, and movie nights wrapped in blankets on the couch. Even today, years after we lived together, they still check on me, and ask me, “How can I help?” They send me Venmos to treat myself to a coffee and give me gentle advice that helps me see things more rationally.
I have friends who reach out when things are dark, friends who send me funny depression and anxiety memes, and friends who know exactly what to say when I am rambling that the pain in the world is too much for me to bear. Friends who come to my doorstep when I am in crisis, bringing me a coffee and a hug. Friends who FaceTime me to let me know I am not alone. Friends who ask me if I’ve eaten today, if I’d like to come over, and if they can do anything to help. Friends who encourage me to be braver, to give myself grace, and to continue living.
When I started blogging about my depression in college, I built new friendships through the sharing of our experiences with depression.
“This is the first time I am telling someone about it.”
“Thank you for putting into words what I can’t say.”
“I feel the same way.”
It’s funny how we are scared to share our pain in fear of being judged and alone, but once we do, people breathe a sigh of relief. You have given them the space to share their own pain too. And you can sit together with the knowledge that none of us is actually alone.
My friendships are the stable ground under my feet when the world is shaking. They help me grow, help me see the glimmering parts of myself that my depression tries to dim. My friends give me the love and strength to keep going, to keep growing and blooming.
My hope is that everyone affected by mental illness has some form of support in their lives. Relationships are what keep us rooted in our humanness. We are all worthy of friendships that envelop us with grace and love.
How lucky and grateful I am to have so many sources of water, sunlight, soil. After all, flowers do not grow on their own.
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