Saturday 7 January 2012

"Jon Bon Jovi, Pie, & Friendship"

"You can't always get what you want. But sometimes, you get what you need."

Mick, Keith and the boys had it right. There are days, sometimes entire weekends, when all I want is to stay at home by myself. I think that nothing would make me happier than to remain in my pyjamas, watch TV or read, and close out the world. This is what I think I want. But one of the things that I have learnt about depression is that sometimes you need to do the opposite of what you think you need.

Today was a good example of this. It's the first week of January and the blahs are starting to set in - it's rainy & grey, I have no energy, and I'm feeling a bit, well, blah. I woke up and was sorely tempted to curl up with a blanket in my favourite chair and watch some mindless TV.

When I first began my struggles with depression I wasn't so good at maintaining social connections. I retreated to a place that some of my friends really didn't understand. And I didn't understand that maintaining social connectedness is an essential part of treating depression. I remember a particular time that I was suffering badly and I ran into one of my very best friends on the street. I almost couldn't look at him - I felt that if he looked me in the eyes he would see into my soul, see the pain. He didn't get why I was pulling away and the friendship ended fairly soon after that. Ironic, really. What I wanted was to retreat and be alone. What I really needed was the support, love and understanding of my friends. And to get that, I needed to ask for help.

Since then I have gotten better about asking for help and reaching out to my friends and family. But it's still not easy, even for me. In the fall of 2010 I began to enter a severe major depressive episode which would last until late summer of 2011. In the early days my mom encouraged me (OK, she "told me"!) to reach out to my best friends. So I did. Some were amazing - my best friend seemed to know instinctively what to do and what to say. She knew when to give me space and when to invite me for family dinner. She was a godsend. But that's probably why she has best friend status.

I received a lot of love and support. But I have to be honest - not everyone was there for me in a way that I needed, if at all. That was a tough pill to swallow. The reality is that many (most?) people are very uncomfortable with mental illness. And I understand this. They are afraid that they will say the wrong thing and maybe they have some misconceptions, too. If you are one of these people who know someone suffering and don't know what to say, why don't you start there? It's OK to say, I don't know what you are going through but I know you are hurting and I am here for you. I don't know what it feels like to be diagnosed with cancer but I do know that a friend who is fighting it probably wants to know that I care.

So back to today. No, I didn't stay in my PJ's all day - I chose not to. I chose to get out of my safe, little home and venture out into the world. I met two long time girlfriends for dinner. We shared stories about life, shared some laughs, and shared some pie. Then we went to a see New Year's Eve, a movie about connections and what is really important to each of us in life. Oh, and my friend, Lisa, and I were able to share our love of Jon Bon Jovi by watching him together on the big screen.

Today I got what I needed. Turns out it was what I wanted, too.

KB xo

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