I’m still disturbed about what happened that night. That night revealed who my friends were and who were not friends. It was a somber discovery. I was under no illusion how people in my daily life, who I had known for a few years, truly felt about me and how they felt about themselves. For people, reveal a lot about themselves by how they behave in confronting situations.
I didn’t want to go. You see the thing with my depression is I don’t want to go to parties. This will be shocking to many people as I used to be a party animal. But they didn’t know me. I was drinking and partying to mask my inner pain. The truth is, I just wanted to curl up in the safety of my families arms, put on my PJ’s and chill out. Today, I have a safe haven with my husband and three kids. I’m blessed. They don’t judge, they only love and see the good in me. The feelings are mutual. Do you blame me for only wanting to be with them? Three boys and one man – they are my savior many times over in this life.
But I thought I best make the effort and catch up with some women who I knew through the school run. These were women whom I had shared many a coffee with, they had held my new born baby. They were busy and active members of the community so it did sometimes feel like I was fighting for their attention. Maybe in time, we could become closer friends. I was ever hopeful. But often disheartened as I was never their first choice.
So what happened that night?
They talked of nights out and ladies weekends away that I was not invited to and people I didn’t know. I’m fighting every urge to just leave but politely I smile and try to catch their eyes, ask them how they are. They aren’t really interested and brush me off. One woman briskly says, ‘Yeah, I’m fine’ to my question before quickly averting her eyes as if looking at me is too tedious, too irksome. She cuts me short and talks about her own life, never looking my way. There’s no connection. I am frozen on that stool, unable to move now. I want to get up and walk away. They wouldn’t notice surely. Instead, I sit there like a vacant life-less doll. What’s wrong with me? Why does no one want to hold a conversation with me? When did I lose my spark, my ability to charm and chat with ease? Why is this so emotionally challenging?
Later, a lady comes in. She’s been running late. She has a lot of compassion and she wants to reach out to people. I am aware she is looking at me and she is interested in talking to me directly. I feel relieved. After some time she gently turns to me and whispers,
‘What’s wrong Alana? Is everything okay?’
Her words shoot through my being and cause me to jot a little, like an electrical flicker uniting inside me. Someone does care, someone can see me. Maybe I am not invisible. But. wait. why are these other women ignoring my unmistakable torment? How could this one women notice my despair instantly? The tears fall. I’m sitting there in full view of the other women. But I turn away, shamefully hiding my tears. Trying not to shake, trying to catch the heavy wayward sobs. Silent crying is quite the skill – ever tried it?
Just the simple gesture of this one lady asking if I was okay was enough to reduce to me to a quivering wreck.
Meanwhile, the other women are still laughing and chatting a few feet away. I’m trying to compose myself. It’s went quieter. I know some are now looking over. The woman who earlier evaded my attempts at conversation is doing everything she can to turn a blind eye.
What could she be crying about?
This is a dark hour and right before them I am breaking down. And yet they can’t bring themselves to ask why I am crying. Are they being polite and keeping out of it? Or do they feel uncomfortable? Or worse – do they just not care? What on earth could possibly be wrong with me. I just need to pull my socks up and stop being so weak and pathetic, right?
I return to the stool. Blotchy and shaky. I listen and smile politely as they talk and laugh about their life. I feel saddened but at least now I know the truth about these relationships. I didn’t want pity, I only hoped for compassion. It was too much for these women to look me in the eyes and say, ‘Are you alright there?’
Depression is hard enough and having ‘friends’ who can’t see you or ‘friends’ who don’t care makes the depression a hundred times more painful. All we want is someone to reach out and say, ‘Hey, I’m here. I see you. I care about you.’
This happened some years ago. My depression at this stage in my life has lifted, although sometimes it reappears.
I think it is important to state that I didn’t allow this experience to turn me into a bitter person, if anything I used my experience of social indifference to push me forward.
For starters, I moved on from most of these friendships. I established relationships with new people and re-connected with the old friends who were people who had shown kindness towards me or others.
I’ll be completely honest, it wasn’t easy. I was frozen for the longest time. Unable and unwilling to make friends, keeping people at an arms length. I’d lost all my confidence.
But then I realised that I had deserved more (we all do) and sometimes we get it wrong, unbelievably wrong. We chase the wrong dreams, we befriend the wrong people for us. We are out of sync and we can’t see clearly.
Depression can cloud our judgements. Make us react in out of character ways. Depression can suspend us from reality. We can lose ourselves and forget who we are as people. It’s hard to function and harder to establish healthy relationships with people. How can we know what is healthy and right for us when we are depressed? It’s almost impossible.
It’s a complicated illness. It disrupts our relationships, our careers, our daily life. If you suffer from depression take my advice, find friends with compassion and the ability to see you clearly. We all need people who truly care about us, even if we make them uncomfortable.
*Click on the link below to read an interesting article about the link between creativity and depression: