I have a very regular misunderstanding with a friend. She snaps at me. Or even less— maybe she’s only just the tiniest bit abrupt. Maybe it’s a poorly worded text, or a sudden change of plans.
I begin to analyze,
Was she actually abrupt? Did I imagine that? Did I not handle that right? What should I have done differently?
My chest tightens. Analysis becomes rumination:
I thought we got along well. Is this friendship one-sided?
Sadness. Thoughts spiral.
Life is too hard. I should withdraw more. Put myself in these situations (work, collaboration, socializing) less. Have I been unkind to her?
I’m not made for this world . . .
My body slows down. My head hurts. I can’t focus. I don’t accomplish what I had planned for the day. I watch too much t.v. Or go to bed too early.
My friend calls the next day and apologizes. My heart slowly unclenches. My breathing relaxes. A physical transformation, like the scent of creosote in the rain. I dismiss her apology, minimize the event, make a joke, change the subject.
So it wasn’t me. I didn’t interpret that wrong. Wow….
To help advocate against stigma, I’m honest about depression. I say outright to friends at dinner, “I can’t drink, it lowers my mood.” When people raise their eyebrows at my tennis addiction, I lay it out, “I fight depression with exercise.” On a trip, or late in the evening, “Sorry, I’ve got to sleep 8 hours,” and I’m gone.
If someone says they have depression, believe them, even if you don’t see it. You see depression rarely, if ever, because depression is a private affair, one based on shame, humiliation, self-doubt and self-defeating thoughts.
Before you shout, “Get some therapy, woman!” Yeah, I’m going on two decades of that. And spiritual direction, daily prayer, and, for those of you about to recommend it, a relationship with Jesus. Yes, he knows, but despite the athiests’ accusation, religion is not an opiate. Tennis, maybe, but not religion.
If you’re a survivor of childhood emotional abuse, or an adult still enduring verbal abuse from your toxic parent, please seek out counseling today. And consider reading Emotional Maltreatment, a report on childhood emotional abuse and its lifelong effects.
Pray well, be well, sleep well.