Having Friends and Depression

My social ineptitude can be attributed to a variety of factors–my persistent anxiety, the fact that because of said anxiety I wasn’t perfectly socialized when I was younger, my less-than-stellar qualities, and the reason I have a blog in the first place.

However, as of late, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain relationships.

With depression, there are two (almost three) varieties of friends one can have: people who have depression and people who don’t (there are also people who have had depression but no longer do, but in my experience they can be placed into the second category, although I recognize that of course there are exceptions, and I understand that arbitrary diametrics/antipodes can easily divide anything into “two types of people,” even though there is infinite applicability to this mindset and it becomes pretty meaningless, that’s why people shouldn’t be easily divided and labeled, because they can belong to any combination of groups–however, for this topic, I will be discussing the detriments of having friends with or without depression when you have it).

Having friends with depression can be a challenge because it’s not very productive (not that I am saying that having friends without it is particularly productive either). When both people in a relationship don’t feel motivated to do anything, or hate themselves, it’s hard. That should be clear.

If one friend begins to improve, there’s always the capacity for a grudge to form on the part of the friend who is still suffering. It’s also easy to lose the relationship, if neither party wants or has the energy to invest energy or effort into the relationship.

This is of course not to say that it is impossible to have a friendship between two depressed people. Pretty much everyone I get along with outside of my family has depression and I’d say we’re mostly pretty “high-functioning,” in that we are capable of getting out of bed in the morning. I can go to school, do my homework, pass my license test (which I did yesterday–not without dissolving into tears beforehand), not-fail the SAT, work out, and talk to people. This doesn’t prevent me from hating myself, not sleeping, being unwilling to do things I typically enjoy, hating other people for being able to be happy and have friends, and being constantly melancholic (as well as anxious and insecure).

Having friends without depression can be a challenge because they don’t understand.

Depression involves a low level of serotonin, and thus is a neurochemical problem. It isn’t that something specific is making a depressed person miserable, it’s that there’s a lot of internal strife and a lack of energy and motivation. But it’s hard for people who don’t have depression to understand how that feels.

It is natural to make suggestions when a friend is complaining of being tired or sad or angry. And when there is an exterior catalyst for feeling that way, it can be helpful to search for solutions. But when these feelings of exhaustion, rage, apathy, and melancholy come from within, and you can’t sleep because of nightmares and you’ve tried meditation and hypnosis and exercise and all those relaxation methods that have been suggested (except for the drastic and dreaded medication, and even then it isn’t always effective), advice stops being constructive. And explaining this brings a lot of guilt, because shooting down others’ ideas is a way to make them think you don’t want to get better. Which isn’t (or at least shouldn’t) be the case.

Someone who used to be my friend and also used to have depression never understood why I didn’t have the energy to talk to her; she frequently tried to “cheer me up” by teasing me and asking why I was so mad/sad/quiet all the time. I had already told her that I had depression, and I had already been drifting away from her for a long time even before I started feeling depressed, so I didn’t want to tell her again. I don’t want to sound sorry for myself, because I intentionally stopped being close to her and don’t really regret it, but she probably either didn’t care enough about me to remember that I told her, or she didn’t believe me, or she’d completely forgotten what it was like dealing with constant self-loathing, sadness, and apathy.

Alongside the consequences of the symptoms of depression, there are additional layers of complication on the meta-level involving relationships. I know I don’t have it very bad, and I should be grateful that I’m still capable of functioning. I am aware of this every day (one thing I persistently deal with is overwhelming guilt), but I still have difficulty with “basic” things like having friends.

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