I’ve had two year-long periods when I was so depressed, so much of the time that life became really hard. The most immediate unhappiness that I felt during those times was loneliness and isolation, because depression puts my barriers up and locks me in behind them.
I was ashamed of being depressed, of not being able to cope with my job / relationship, and of not appreciating everything life has given me – during the first *really bad year* I had a great job with an international NGO in Africa, during the second I lived on a stunningly beautiful beach.
I disliked myself so much that I felt undeserving of anyone else’s attention or empathy, never mind love or understanding.
The most difficult thing was reaching out
The most difficult thing was reaching out. Actually, I found it impossible, so I just got lonelier and more depressed.
The moments that made me cry with gratitude later were the handful of times when people just talked to me like normal people talk to each other, when friends or strangers spent time hanging out with me like normal people hang out. Chatting and laughing about anything at all made me feel liked for little while.
It gave me a break from beating myself up for being isolated and unhappy and the buzz of functioning the way happy people do. I had no interest in talking to any of these people about depression, partly because I have problems opening up, but mainly because being unhappy was the absolute last thing I wanted to talk about when I had a rare chance to escape it.
Just reach out to them
My advice if you have a friend or associate who seems depressed would be, just reach out to them. Don’t feel as though you have to start an awkward or deep conversation, it's enough to be nice. You could show that you’re open to talking if they want to, and that you won’t judge them. What helped me, though, was receiving positive energy and being able to give it in return, simply having the experience of another human being enjoying my company.
I’m in a good place and time in my life at the moment. The guidance I found helped me to accept the energies I was born with (including the tendency to emotional instability that I’ve always despised), think about my positive and negative potential, and understand that we are all on different journeys.
A good friend is at a tough stage
A good friend is at a tough stage of his journey now, and he blames himself mercilessly for not coping. I can’t solve the immediate difficulties in his life, or the deeper issues he has with himself. I can't be his therapist or his life coach, just his friend. I seek him out almost every day, not because I'm worried about him, but because I like being around him.
Positive energy, reassurance that he’s a great person, acknowledgement of his material problems, compliments on everything he does so well, and the chance to vent whatever’s on his mind without being judged all make a visible difference if I find him in a bad way. He also knows that I’ve struggled with depression, and that I feel blessed to have him as my friend, even though he isn’t up all the time.