Open Letter to a Depressed Friend

blue hair

Dear Blue,

You’ve been pretty down lately. Actually, down might be an understatement. You’re depressed. Clinically so. And I don’t know how to help.

It started after you took up this job. You started out with intense concentration and a drive to perform well. You asked questions, turned to others for help. But then the demands of the job got to you, and liaising with clients proved to be more stressful than you expected. You got emotional when they got emotional; you took it personally, feeling each client’s exasperation more keenly than you needed to.

It didn’t help that your superior took it upon herself to micromanage and required a daily update of your work, and issued you copious documents and Excel sheets to fill out to keep track of every transaction made and deal closed. And despite your best efforts, despite the extra hours you worked, things were still scattered all over the place.

Soon, everything started weighing down on you from every end, and things were slipping through your fingers like water no matter how hard you grasped and clenched your fists. Meanwhile, your superior continued to monitor your behaviour at work, running a tight leash and hawk-eyeing your activities on your computer and even cellphone.

“She’s a tyrant,” we all declared, shaking with indignation on your behalf. “You don’t have to let her bully you like this.”

“But it’s my fault,” you would say, staring morosely into space. “I’m not meeting targets.”

I used to call it a Capricorn trait. Capricorns are a broody bunch, and they tend to blame themselves for everything that goes wrong, whether or not they are at fault. “You’re such a typical Capricorn. Cheer up! Things will be okay.”

Sometimes, I wanted to tell you to snap out of it. And I might even have on one occasion when your pessimism got to be too much for me. “Get mad, don’t get sad,” I said. Sorrow and self-pity were useless emotions that put nothing in motion, only drive you deeper into the mud. Anger helped; anger catapulted you out of the mud, for better or for worse. But it isn’t like you to get mad; anger isn’t your default emotion.

Besides, I realised that depression isn’t something you can just “snap out of”. It consumes you whole and takes over your life, like a giant winged beast that blots out the light in the sky, a beast whose cries you can’t block out. A Fellbeast.

Too often, it’s easy to discount someone else’s emotions unless we experience them ourselves. We tend to attribute a person’s depressed state to his or her mental tenacity, and believe that once you force yourself to rise above it you’ll be fine. But depression isn’t just a state of being; it’s a condition that requires hours of therapy, antidepressants, and a listening ear.

So that’s what you did. You went for therapy sessions and took medication, and things did get better. You laughed more, and engaged in more social activities again. But still there are times when work eats away at you so you can’t even taste your food or focus on everyday tasks. All we can do as your friends is hold up your spirits, padding you with constant reassurances, remind you of everything else that’s good in your life, and actively seek for alternatives to improve your situation.

Reality is not always kind, and so you sometimes have to fill that role all on your own.

You have to allow yourself compassion and forgiveness. Shame is not useful. Feeling lazy or weak or as a failure won’t fix anything for you. Beating yourself up isn’t a very good way to become who you want to be.

~ Chuck Wendig

Dear Blue, you taught me to have more patience for someone who requires constant encouragement to keep afloat. You made me experience “sympathy depression”, and in turn understand what it’s like to be cloaked in the iron blanket of hopelessness and unrelenting self-doubt and criticism.

So I hope that while you develop a rhino heart and a bullet-proof armour against the slings and arrows of life, the sticks and stones that others may launch at you, you will also be far kinder to yourself than you are. You are more capable than you believe, funnier than you think, and stronger than you realise.

Whatever you choose to do from now on, know that we will always have your back and be here to offer a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, or supply you with as many images of derpy hot guys and cute fuzzy animals as you need to feel better again.



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