When we suffer, we distance ourselves from friends and family; sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. But in either and both situations, we find ourselves cursed by the same afflictions; feeling alone. Unloved. Forgotten. And the more we reflect on that abandonment, the easier it is to begin the slip-away negotiation. The easier it becomes, not only to consider suicide but to justify it.
This current depressive episode I find myself in is almost 7 months old, showing no signs of getting better, and I can’t remember the last time I felt so unloved. Forgotten. Abandoned. And yet, as I just spoke about, it is an unintentional by-product of my own making. A mix of self-preservation, lack of energy and self-editing, creating the perfect storm of circumstances that leads me to drowning with no rescue boat in sight. There’s no, one specific factor or person that leads me (you) to feel this way when you’re suffering; it just ‘is’.
It starts when people ask how you are and you don’t want to be honest, so you tell them that you’re fine whilst making a mental note that you can’t be honest because ‘they can’t cope with the truth’. This, in turn, means that you then spend so much energy keeping up appearances, that when your loved ones invite you to a get together, you have no more energy to lie about how you’re really feeling. So you decline the invite, or cancel altogether at the last minute, all the while admonishing yourself for being ‘too weak and pathetic’ to do something fun with your friends and family whilst simultaneously justifying your absence by falsely believing that they ‘wouldn’t want to look at your miserable face anyway’. So you start to self-edit. You deflect questions about yourself, instead repeating them to the person that asked you and if you do answer, you keep your responses as quick and regimented as you’ve practiced. But you hate to lie, so slowly and subtly you begin to take a little longer to reply to their texts and emails. An hour turns into 24. A day turns into a week and before you know it, everyone has stopped trying to keep in touch. They’re tired of inviting you when you always decline and you’re tired of lying and pretending that everything is ‘fine’ when it most certainly isn’t. You’re drifting apart but neither of you know what to say about it.
Except we, the sufferers, know exactly what we want to say even if we can’t admit it:
Please don’t leave.
When you leave, you allow our mental illness to become the only person left. We win mental health wars because when we have no fight left to give, our armies (you) pick us up and help us continue the fight until the bitter end. Without you we can win neither the battle or the war.
You may see the smiles on our faces and the positive status updates we share but you can’t hear that silent, yet deafening, roar inside of us begging you not to leave. Begging you to see through the petty ‘…but I always make the effort’ argument and keep texting or calling us first because we’re too busy believing that you don’t want the ‘miserable people’ in your life. Begging you not to fall back on the ‘I don’t know what to say’ excuse and tell us that no, you don’t know what to say other than you’re sorry we’re suffering and that you love us.
We are not easy to be loved or even liked when we’re suffering. There are days when everything you say and do can help and others where all you say and do hurts us. Bruises our hearts. But as Stephen Fry says, “If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do”.
When we’re suffering, we need you. We need you to be the one who prioritises us. That reassures us that you won’t leave. That tells us that you love us in spite of our issues. To make us feel noticed. Included. Loved.
Because when you don’t? When you don’t, you allow us to confirm everything our mental illness whispers to us in the dead of night. That we’re useless. A burden. That nobody cares. Because the moment we begin to believe those thoughts is the moment we can begin to believe we’re better off dead.
And though it sounds like a monumental weight on your shoulders when we say we need you, the effort required is minimal. It’s a text or message just to tell us that ‘life is shit but you still love us’. Or sharing a video that made you laugh. Or offering to watch movies in our PJs instead of a ‘fancy dinner out’. It’s admitting to us that you have no idea what to say or do to make us feel any better but that you love us regardless. I’ve had friends promise that they’d ‘be there more’ for me when I came back from Australia and instead, I hear from them less and their false promises hurt me more than if they had made none to begin with. They have failed to follow through on their intentions and I feel abandoned because of it.
We all want to feel noticed in life. Loved. Important. The problem, when you have mental health issues, is that there is always that quiet, yet consistent, voice that plays into and eventually feeds our insecurities that we don’t deserve to be loved and when friends and family begin to distance themselves, we are only left with that voice.
So I beg of you. Please don’t leave.
Without you, we cannot hope to win the battles that will lead us to victory in the war against our minds.