Let me hasten to add that I know that a serious hit of depression cannot be moved by willpower and a commitment to a 10:00 meeting across the city, no matter how sunny the day. But I was able to get out and about and I had to be civil, and being civil looked like being friendly, and faking a smile gradually meant an endorphin or two. Then I did way better than just fake a lunch I'd arranged with siblings, and although the mood growled under the table once or twice, and although it pounced back onto my shoulders on the ride back home, I knew I'd almost vanquished it. At home, I lined up a few episodes of a show that makes me laugh (Life in Pieces). He brought home some of my favourite junk food to augment a very good steak salad that we ate while watching episodes of Stranger Things. Tricks that tend to work.
I know that I skirt the edges of depression regularly, fall in once or twice. I know that I'm lucky enough in life that I really "shouldn't," that I have nothing to be depressed about, seriously, all things considered. I also know that such a judgement is foolish and against any credible understanding of mental health. And speaking of credible understandings of mental health, I also know that there are professional therapies available to me, in case you were going to make that suggestion. Thank you. So far, I think I manage really well, most of the time, and I think I have a fairly good range of resources, including a big dose of self-knowledge and a range of activities and responses that have worked so far.
But what I can't bring myself to use as a resource -- and this is what I wanted to chat about this morning, this is what I'm connecting to the ongoing discussion I want to host about friendship (especially friendship at a certain age, an age marked by lifestyle changes of moving and retirement and, well, ageing physically) -- what I can't easily draw upon as a resource in the crisis of acute sadness is calling a friend.
I can talk, in general, about having felt low or even about feeling low at the moment, when I'm out and about and belying the claim, when I'm managing, looking "normal." But I was at a wonderful birthday lunch recently hosted by a brilliant woman who wanted to honour the women who'd supported her through her life, and she spoke of the ones she could "call if she needed to at 3 in the morning." And I know she truly meant it, and I believe she could have done that -- hell, if she called me at 3 in the morning, I'd be waiting for the day's first ferry three hours later, doing my best to get to her -- but it's really hard for me to imagine any circumstances that would have me calling a friend in the wee hours.
Or calling a friend at 9 in the morning or 1 in the afternoon or just after dinner or . . . well, you get the idea. I can't imagine calling any of my friends -- and I have some very good ones who I know would respond generously and kindly and patiently and empathetically -- I can't imagine calling them when I know I can manage to get through on my own. Nor, for that matter, would I call my kids nor my siblings, no matter how good I know any of those people would be in a crisis. Is it that I pride myself on being able to cope? Or is it -- and I suspect this is more the case -- that I fear that, no matter how supportively those friends or family members would respond in the moment, they would forever after see me as weaker, as a potential burden?
Ugh, even writing this post feels as if I'm risking that response. The self whose face I want the world to see, the self I manage to be most of the time, might analyse too much (as some of you kindly note from time to time), she might linger or focus too much on the whys and the whatevers of life, but overall, she keeps it going, she moves forward, she manages, she is wryly self-deprecating about her earnestness, she does her best not to be self-indulgent and not to bog you down.
But in doing so, of course, she adds her secret shame about the occasional day or night lost to sadness to the social stigma that mental health professionals work to eradicate.
I can't help myself. Even as I round to a close here, I'm going to reassure you that I'm feeling much better this morning -- otherwise I wouldn't be able to write, right? I want you to know that I'm handling my moods, with my partner's support, behind closed doors, and that overall, I'm very content. I don't want this post to be about me and a limited, periodical depression -- I've got this! -- but rather about a more general question: If and when you're feeling really low (e.g. you can't stop crying, with or without a specific cause for tears), would you -- and more specifically have you ever -- call(ed) a friend? And if not, why not? And if so, how did that work out?
And then a secondary question, minor perhaps, but this has been on my mind lately, in these days where fewer and fewer of us have landlines and wisely turn our cellphones to Do Not Disturb at bedtime, do you have friends you could call at 3 a.m. and would anyone hear and answer?
I know. Way too heavy for a Monday morning, but it was either all or nothing today. Rest assured, I'm good, momentum's being gained, and now I'm just waiting to hear from you.