…28 Years Later.
This week, I ended a life long friendship.
Sometimes, we have to end things for self preservation. Sometimes, it takes time to realize a relationship is toxic.
I have been going through a rough time lately and I have not been silent about it. Since I lost my cat, I haven’t been silent about my pain. I WILL tell you when I am “not ok” – as I have said before, I will not just say I am ok for the sake of an other person’s harmony when they post the obligatory are you ok? question. So, if I am not, I will say so. And recently, I have not been.
I have never been mealy-mouthed.
I recall in my life people have often commented in admiration of how outspoken I am. Oh, I am not rude, but I will approach a situation with wit and honesty. I have never been afraid to speak my truth, or vocalize my needs. Incidentally, I have also been told I am a very open person, in general.
It is worth noting, I consider myself a communicator. I have a specialized communication degree, I worked in the communication field (and, I AM good at it).
So, back to my original tale:
I had been telling this friend of my sadness, my not being ok, my depression for a period of time. I have been, directly, reaching out.
When I got mad about not being heard, he turned the tables on me. He accused me of being cryptic, demanded to know why I am sad (and said if I can’t give a reason, I must not be), said I was crazy, that I was not reaching out, that I had never been open/not really knowing me. He said my sadness why my own fault and my own design…
and THAT is why I am writing this.
If someone comes to you, at any point, and says they are sad, you *really* shouldn’t question why – or demand a root cause. Depression isn’t the most rational emotion. IF I knew why I was sad, I could fix it. However, since I do not, I can not.
Also, being sad, being depressed, is NOT crazy – so you shouldn’t tell someone they are, or undermine their emotions or invalidate them by saying they are to blame for their mood. These are the sort of responses that cause the seriously depressed to NOT reach out and cause them to end up jumping off buildings.
If you’ve known someone a long time and you feel you don’t know them… perhaps the problem is YOU. Maybe it isn’t just them being closed, because perhaps they are not. Maybe the fault is that you are too self-absorbed to have noticed who they are. I can’t speak for others, but I take an active interest in people I know, and if I don’t understand something, I ask.
People may not reach out the way you expect, or even at all beforehand, maybe they will just awkwardly blurt out “I need help NOW“, but if that’s the case, it doesn’t mean they should be faulted for it. And by the way, screaming “I need help” IS reaching out! Just because someone doesn’t communicate to you the way YOU would to them, it doesn’t make it wrong. Just because you don’t understand the way they are expressing themselves, it doesn’t mean they are obligated to learn a way you are more comfortable with (especially if you have known them a very long time and claim to love them. If that’s the case, you should KNOW how they communicate). Friendship is embracing our differences, not conforming to our sameness. It can’t always be on one person to always change, even if that one person has always been the more malleable. Sometimes, the other person has to bend as well, (less something should break…).
The saddest part of this is, I know the backlash at me was his embarrassment at being wrong. His blaming me and shifting the blame was a manipulative technique that has worked in the past so I would end up apologizing and feeling bad, rather than he having to admit he was in the wrong. However, this time, it didn’t work, and me standing up for myself to him over this angered him; It was out of our established personal norm and that’s when he said I was crazy.
He did, at one point, attempt to apologize by inviting me out that evening. However, that only served to anger me. He left the invite as a message. Previously, that day, I had said I wouldn’t be around because I was leaving town that morning for a week. The apology angered me because it showed he, again, didn’t listen to me when I spoke. I am not sorry for this. I have a right to be angry if you are repeatedly just not listening to my words nor showing me value as a human, and I do not have to put up with it in the name of ‘friendship’. I am not that desperate. I am worth more than that.
This relationship has been one-sided for a LONG time and, recently, it became toxic.
I am not what I would consider suffering from “depression”, I was just having a rough patch. Ironically, he DID help me. He took sadness and changed it to anger, so that actually IS a help. Changing the emotion and not letting it ‘take hold’ is actually a good thing, and I, at least, know where the anger came from and can work on repairing that.
However, truly depressed people aren’t that fortunate. This experience helped me understand a little bit of what they may face. This entire interaction with my “friend” was unnecessary and extremely hurtful.
My “friend’s” actions were actually so very isolating and I can see how damaging that can be to someone who really needs help and seeks it. You can’t going to keep reaching out if your hand keeps getting smacked away.
It shouldn’t be that difficult. It’s not that difficult… just be a friend, don’t be a selfish jerk.
If someone says they are sad, don’t demand a reason, for maybe they honestly do not know why they are sad… just accept they are, and let them be sad, but be there for them.
If they are irrational in their emotion, don’t call them crazy… understand that maybe they don’t know how to explain it to their self, let alone you. Maybe they feel caught in an undertow with a wave crashing down and don’t need someone to hold them under the water.
And NO, it is NOT their fault or their own design… because, as I said, I don’t believe I was truly in “depression” as some people get, but I definitely was in a period of sadness, and I am fairly confident NO ONE *wants* to feel that way.
Maybe reaching out is a scream that is silent, and maybe all it needs is a friend who is just willing to sit in silence.
You don’t need to have all the answers or know what to say even, but if someone comes up to you and says they are sad, says they are depressed, maybe they just need YOU.
Not anger. Not arrogance. Not interrogation. Not demands. Not ultimatums. Not blame. Not rules on how to communicate. NONE of that.
They just need to be heard, they just need someone there.
They just need you to be a friend.
So DO that, just BE that. You might really make all the difference, literally, in someone’s life.
It really IS just that simple.