When I was depressed I lost friends. Not because they stopped liking me, but because they didn’t know what to do or say. I made them uncomfortable and people don’t like feeling uncomfortable. But why didn’t they know what to say? They knew what depression was and they were all very aware of what triggered it. I know some of them just didn’t want to deal with it, but others disappeared slowly. These were the friends who wanted to be there for me, but didn’t know how to be. There is a growing trend in our society to judge people for the words they use. It’s hard to express your opinion or even think out loud without being labeled something- fat shamer, anti-Semitic, heartless, or just plain bitch. Where did the discussion go? How can we learn and grow and be there for each other if we’re all afraid to open our mouths lest we accidentally insult someone?
Despite having relatively high self esteem, being involved in school activities, and having a decent group of friends, in my teens I went through a string of toxic relationships. I seemed to have a knack for picking out this type of friend or boyfriend; they did not make me a better person. When these relationships ended my self esteem would plummet, perhaps leading me to the next one. I can’t really explain why they started, why I kept the cycle going, or why they ended, but I have learned how to identify those who will bring me down instead of up, before I invest too much time and energy into the relationship. There was one relationship in particular where it took me a long time to figure out that their presence was bad for me, and an even longer time to remove them. Years later, I find myself in a position where I have to make the decision- let them back in or keep the door shut?
When I was taking psychology 101 in university I used to joke that they should use me as a guest subject. Perhaps it’s my experience with a variety of disorders that draws me to one of my guilty pleasures: TLC reality TV. I “enjoy” watching shows like Extreme Cheapskates, Extreme Couponing, My Strange Addiction, My Crazy Obsession and Hoarding: Buried Alive.
When I watch these shows I switch back and forth between being sympathetic and hopeful to being disgusted and sad. I understand why these shows gather a following- if they have enough shock value to surprise me, I can’t imagine what someone who doesn’t understand anxiety disorders or mental illness is thinking. From a business perspective these shows are gold. They don’t cost a lot of produce and they gain a following easily. But, this got me thinking about the moral side of it. Half of me thinks these shows are good for mental illness, while the other half thinks they are hitting the ethical rock bottom.
When you are young you think your parents are infallible. You look to them to tell you right from wrong and depend on them to lead you down the right path. Even as we age, and we start to realize that our parents are human, we still value their opinion over almost anyone else. It’s a hard notion to shake. But sometimes our parents are wrong.
When I was in university my father began to change. He gradually went from attentive, involved, and nurturing to distant, ambivalent, and mean. I can’t tell you exactly what happened, but I know it had something to do with the fact that my dad was having a hard time figuring out the whole “dating thing” after years of being alone. He began to act like a teenager: he didn’t tell us where he was going, he was always forgetting to get groceries, and he didn’t seem interested in his children.