You know those scenes in movies, where one character turns to his or her friend and pleads, “No matter what happens, no matter how I beg you, promise me, you won’t let me <call her, run away, scratch this itch, drink>?” This is that scene.
I have been independent and stubborn about doing things myself for as long as I can remember. I still find it hard to ask for and accept help. It implies I’m weak and can’t do it myself. That I’m a burden. And then I worry about paying back the favor. It’s a personality trait I very much have a love-hate relationship with. It’s brought me success and knowledge, but it also holds me back from connecting with people around me and being part of the tribe. Even though I don’t think I’ve ever had a thought close to, “God, she’s such a burden, I can’t believe she needs help with this, she’d better thank me,” in response to someone else needing or asking for help, for some reason I can’t easily see that for myself.
Every time there is a celebrity suicide, there is an onslaught of posts and stories displaying the national suicide hotline number and nice memes about reaching out to someone and you are loved. This is a better reaction than not talking about it, to be sure. But it’s like telling someone without a leg to walk to the doctor. The illness (depression) that leads to the fatal condition (suicide) makes it impossible for many people to reach out, to connect, to ask for and accept help.
This freaks me the fuck out.
There is no other way to say it.
The episodes of depression I experience are minor and transient, and I’ve never had a suicidal thought in my life. But recent suicides in the news have somehow hit me, and I go into “what if” mode.
What if, in thirty years or in thirty days, my depression isn’t minor? What if, right now, I’m not doing everything I can to manage and take care of myself? What if I can’t ask for help when I really need it? It’s hard for me to ask for help carrying things to the car, how would I ever be able to ask for help dealing with an illness that is still misunderstood and stigmatized? When asking for help comes across as being needy and co-dependent? “Please don’t leave me, please tell me you love me.” There’s no way that doesn’t sound in my head like a whiny girl who can’t function on her own.
I’m not whiny. But maybe depression makes it hard, maybe impossible, to function on my own. Maybe I’m at the next phase: I’ve named the demons as depression, and now I have to deal with the fact that I can’t manage it all on my own.
So, at this moment, I, Erin Bank, being of sound mind and body, do officially ask of you, my friends, that no matter if I protest or refuse, promise me that you won’t leave me, that you’ll tell me you love me. I’m not talking about now, when I’m functioning and operating and feeling balanced (although I suppose I should never turn down an “I love you”). I’m talking about if you haven’t heard from me in a while, if I’ve stopped reaching out, if you notice my interests have changed drastically (especially if I stop doing things), if you have even a fleeting thought of being worried about me. Don’t ask me, “What do you need, what can I do for you?” because I will say, “Nothing, everything’s fine.” Don’t believe me. Be sneaky, tell me we’re going for a walk or a run or even just to sit on the beach without giving me a choice. Send me a card or a text message. Say the word “depression” and don’t tiptoe around it because that makes me feel guilty. Hold my hand, give me a hug, don’t let me be mean to you but understand that I might not make it easy. I might not say thank you.
But I am now. Thank you.