I met with a former coworker yesterday to tidy up some loose ends surrounding the job that I recently lost. She brought me a beautiful Gerbera daisy plant (I confess, I only know what it is because I read the label), and we had a good discussion about how work is going for her and about how life is going for me. In addition to being a coworker, she has also always been a friend to me, and while she has been supportive of me throughout my difficulties, I haven’t always been able to recognize it or accept it. She is one of the people I summarily pushed away in my self-imposed route to isolation.
Maybe we don’t intend to push friends away when we are depressed, but we find ourselves doing so anyway. And at some point when we may be ready to reach out to others, we aren’t sure how to go about reconnecting. Here are some points to consider:
Our friends may not be as removed as we think they are. They may just be totally stymied as to what they can do for us. It doesn’t mean they have given up on us. We can’t expect our friends to understand what we have been going through. After all, chances are that we don’t fully understand it ourselves. And we have likely been sending them mixed messages.
They aren’t mind readers, and they may just be complying with our requests/demands to be left alone. It may help to ask ourselves what it is that we truly need from our friends. What can they do for us that would help us cope with what we are going through? And then ask for what we need. It doesn’t mean they can or will comply with our request, but at least we have given them the opportunity to understand us better, and to help if they can.
Our friends probably don’t expect us to have it all together. While we may think that we have to protect our persona of being in control, of having our act together, it is quite likely that we haven’t been fooling anyone on that score. Our friends most likely realize that we are not okay, despite our repeated denials, and they are probably worried about us. If we are honest with them about what is going on in our lives, we open the door for meaningful communication.
One way to think about it is to look at it from our friend’s perspective. Do we expect them to always be in their best form? Do we judge them if they aren’t? Maybe we need to give ourselves a break, and stop setting unrealistic standards. We aren’t perfect and neither is anyone else.
Our friends may not be ready to handle the drama. Some people just don’t want to have to deal with our issues. We can respect that, and we may need to lower our expectations for that particular relationship. We don’t have to tell everyone everything that is going on in our lives. That’s what therapists are for. Maybe we can just test the waters, allow them to see that things aren’t going so well with us. They will likely let us know if they want to go there.
Our friends may have their own issues. We don’t have the corner on the market for facing challenges in our lives. Maybe our friend just doesn’t have the emotional resources right now to give us what we want from them. We don’t have to take it personally and feel rejected. And we don’t have to try to take on their issues, either. We can accept it for what it is, not judging them or us. When conditions are better, we may be able to reestablish rapport with that person.
The most important thing to remember is that when we are depressed, we aren’t in the best shape to judge what is going on in our relationships or what might happen if we try to reach out to someone. Depression tends to make things seem worse than they really are, and if we accept those impressions unquestioningly, we set ourselves up for more isolation. We need other people in our lives. Sometimes we just have to take a chance on others and see what happens. It can be scary, but it also can be very rewarding.
Here’s to friendships. May they blossom in our lives.