This is a big thing I’ve been thinking about recently. When talking to people about things that are bothering me, I’ve been saying that I don’t really have any friends near me. They come back and name a few people that I do hang out with and consider friends. I try to tell them it’s not the same. They’re my friends, but they’re not my friends.
Over the past four years, I’ve built up a great support system with people who have been with me from day one freshman year. Of those people, only my fiance is still in town. The others are scattered across the Midwest and with that distance comes their removal from my support system. It’s hard enough to maintain a strong support system when they are in the same zip code as me, let alone five to ten hours away. Other than my fiance, I have my best friend and my mom, both of whom live about an hour and a half away.
That’s not to say that I don’t have people I trust in the same town as me. I have several good friends whose company I greatly enjoy. I trust them, but not the level of trust that is needed in a support system. What makes my fiance, best friend, and mom different from others is that they have been there during my breakdowns. They can tell when I’m lying and putting on a front that I’m okay. They know what my stressors and triggers are. They know how I behave during a breakdown and react in such a way that they end up comforting me. Most importantly, they allow me to completely be myself and just focus on the emotions I have. When I’m around them, I don’t have to put on a happy face in order to make them more comfortable. I know that very few people want to hang out with the depressed person when they are trying to have a good time, but with the people in my support system, I don’t have to worry about that.
A lot of people ask me what one of those three people does to make me feel better when I’m having a breakdown. The honest answer is, I don’t know. I’m not thinking rationally enough when it’s happening in order to analyze their behavior and look for trends in what they are doing. I know they ask questions when they need to, but they don’t stress me out by asking a ton of things. They rarely ask me what’s wrong because the answer is normally that I don’t know. They don’t ask what they can do to make me feel better because I don’t know.
When I’m in the middle of a breakdown, I almost never want to be around people. I’m normally a fairly introverted person and being around people drains my energy. When I’m depressed, it’s like my energy drains exponentially based on the number of people around me. The more people, the faster my energy goes away. So, while I can tell a friend that I’m having a hard time or that I’m depressed, it gets a lot harder to explain why I don’t want to be around them when I know they’re only trying to help me. Because I don’t want people to be mad at me and I don’t want to alienate anyone further, I often end up hanging out with people who only make things worse. I feel ridiculously guilty afterwards. I question why I can’t just be normal. I try to laugh and smile along with the others surrounding me. By the time I get home, I feel like I’ve run an emotional marathon.
I’m extremely hesitant to count people among my support system. I’ve found that so few people truly get it. There have been times that I’ve thought people were in my support system and they end up not wanting to take on those responsibilities. I don’t blame them for that. It’s a hard thing to do. People want to fix things, but I’m not a problem to be fixed. I have friends who think things will be better if I just go out drinking with them, despite the number of times I tell them that drinking isn’t good for me because of my medications. I have plenty of friends who think I should just get over the things I cannot fix. It’s so much easier said than done. I can’t just wake up in the morning and decide to be happy. If it was that simple, I’d do it on a daily basis. I would never choose to be depressed. It’s fucking exhausting.
A lot of people like to give advice on things I should do to make me feel better. Meet new people. Exercise. Watch less TV. Spend less time online. Talk to more people. Call [insert name here] whenever I’m feeling down. The problem is that the coping strategies I’ve developed have worked over time for a reason. I isolate myself because people exhaust me. I watch TV and spend time online because it quiets the racing thoughts in my head and I can be anonymous. Most importantly, I feel the emotional ties to television characters that I have trouble developing with people in real life. I spend hours analyzing every conversation I have with people and beating myself up for things that went wrong. I don’t call people outside those three when I’m having a hard time because it’s uncharted territory. Until I know how they’re going to respond to something, I don’t have that level of trust to let them in to my deepest, darkest places in my mind.
I know people are going to come back and say that I can trust them or I can call them when I’m having problems. The issue is that I’ve heard that before. Then when I do call them, they’re too busy or disinterested to deal with my problems. They tell me they’re tired of me saying the same things over and over again. They’re sick of me being so self-destructive. They’re sick of my constant need for a pity party. It makes it so that I designate people as friends to call when I’m down and friends to call when I’m up. The problem is that I have far fewer friends to call when I’m down. And those that I do have either live in the same apartment as me or are on the other side of the state. I don’t really know how to change that.