I am just back from a lovely break up North, which was all the more wonderful as I’ve been hosting an American friend, and her grandmother, for the week. My friend S is one of those people who seem to have a tattoo across their forehead that says ‘world-changer’. We met working at an American summer camp for people with special needs, four years ago. She is awesome. Sorry for being off the radar, but we’ve not had internet since heading off on Wednesday. This is a little rambly – sorry!
They arrived last Sunday and after getting them settled in, S and I went for icecream (I like that this is the most American thing I have done in living memory) and talked. One of the things I love about her, is that unlike the vast majority of people I know, she has absolutely no fear of the word ‘depression’. She uses it where it should be used. She does not dress is up and make it tapdance so it seems less threatening. She does not brush it off. She does not refer to it as a habit I fell into, or a path I mistakenly went down, or a series of bad judgements. And, in doing this, she makes me feel more separate from depression than I have for so long; often, I think my close friends still mentally prefix me as ‘depressed-Char’, or see it as part of who I am, a part that is here to stay. In naming it so frankly, S called it out. She gave it parameters and borders and drew a line, where depression starts and I began. This is crucial, as for so long, depression made me think that it was indeed, here to stay, that the chapters without it in my life had ended, and that my future was just one bad, sad day after another. It’s taken so long to feel as though I’ve ‘come back’, and returned from wherever depression banished all of my drive and passions and sense of self.
She is also much more frank, and direct than any of my other friends, who know about this year. Not one of my close friends has ever asked me where I’m standing with alcohol when I pass over the wine bottle, or turn in early from yet another party. No one has ever had the courage, or gumption, or wherewithal, to ask where and how I am. In being direct, S made me feel a little less like a modern-day leper, turning away from societal norms. She made me feel like just another person with just another set of issues, rather than someone standing out from the crowd due to everyone else giving a wide berth and ignoring the elephant in the room. S was pretty much riding that elephant, metaphorically speaking. She made me feel less like a problem, and more like a person, with a problem. I am grateful for this. S has been reading this blog, and came halfway across the world to check in with me. If that’s not an expression of friendship, I don’t know what is. So often, depression (and recovery) leaves me feeling alone and bereft, and despised. Friendships like these, are the antidote to that. I’m not sure you can get through depression, or any mental health problem, without a cheer squad.
Depression causes so many problems as we all have our brand of misery, and people who have not met it personally, struggle so greatly to grasp that depression isn’t just a bad day, or even a bad week; it casts a false impression as, afterall, we have all been sad, have we not? We have all cried, and surely, depression isn’t too different from that? And yet, this feeling of false understanding is often the most damaging to people living with it, as we cannot explain how it hurts and scars and takes an age to heal. It’s not just a bad day or a bad week. It’s so much more. My flatmates and close friends are brilliant, but didn’t know how to approach my depression, and as a result, didn’t know how to approach me when I had it. Because of this, I was ashamed, and took to hiding. Having someone who understands that I am separate from it was invaluable. Having someone who understands what it means, helped me begin to heal.
As a firm lover of period dramas, I am still fairly convinced that I truly belong in the eighteenth century, dancing with men in regimentals and doing charitable works in whatever time isn’t spent making jam and embroidering cushions, but I also love that I am living in an age where I can have a friend on the other side of the world, and see them every now and then. I love that I live in a time where ‘goodbye’ rarely means forever, and au revoirs are entirely possible. In just under a year, I will (fingers crossed etc) finally be earning and out of student-dom forever. I’m looking forward to being able to bring home the bacon on some au-revoirs.