Yesterday, my depression really got to me. I woke up. I saw rain outside my window. I knew that it was cold because this is Boston and this is March. How could it not be cold? But cold rain is a trigger for me, and just knowing that it was cold and rainy sent me into a tailspin. I really needed to do some grocery shopping, but I couldn’t even bring myself to do that. I could barely get out of bed, let alone get up and face the weather that was triggering me.
Sometime during the day (I don’t even remember when), I got text from one of my good friends, who is also part of my “tribe.” He, too, has depression. He asked how I was doing, but I was so down at the time that I didn’t even respond. Instead, I slept, which was not good for me because I tend to oversleep when my depression gets to me. It’s nice while I’m in dreamland, but when I wake up, I feel even worse than I did before.
When I finally did wake up, I at least got the nerve to text my friend back. I told him that I wasn’t having a good day. Immediately, he texted me back: “I’m still up if you want to talk. Just call me if you’re up to it.”
That’s not what I did. Instead, I went on Netflix in search of a movie–any movie–just to get me out of what I was feeling. For a reason that only my therapist could probably decipher, I picked Orson Wells’ film version of Franz Kafka’s The Trial. It’s the story of a man who wakes up one morning to find out that he’s been arrested, but he’s never told why he’s being arrested. The book is one of my favorites, because Kafka was a master at writing about loneliness, isolation and all-around unfairness in the world. So instead of reaching out to a real person, I thought it would be better to watch Anthony Perkins as “Mr. K”, Kafka’s hapless protagonist. Maybe I thought to myself, “This will help me, because this guy’s more fucked up than I am.”
It didn’t help. I couldn’t even get through a half hour of the film before I started feeling even more hopeless. I turned the film off and went back to sleep–again, not good for me, because in total, I probably slept around 20 hours yesterday.
When I got up this morning, I felt better. It was gray and gloomy outside, but at least it wasn’t raining. Then, I got a call from the same friend who texted me yesterday. This time, I answered. He asked how I was. I told him I felt better. He said he was relieved to hear that.
This is a guy who’s been going through a lot lately. Two weeks ago, his apartment roof collapsed, due to all the snow and ice we’ve had this year. Luckily, he wasn’t there at the time. He’s grateful about that, but he’s also been frustrated, because he still hasn’t been allowed back to his building to collect whatever possessions he may still have. He already has a new apartment, but he’s had to shell out hundreds of dollars just for life’s necessities, and he’s not wealthy to begin with. That’s a lot for anyone to deal with, but for someone with a mental illness? It’s hard for me to even imagine.
With all that, he sounded cheerful when I talked to him today. I asked him why, and he said he wanted to share an experience he had during the last week. He shared his story with another friend–and that friend responded with financial assistance to help him get back on his feet. My friend didn’t want to take it, but his friend wouldn’t take no for an answer.
I started crying when I heard this. I told my friend, “this is proof that there are people who care, and that there is human kindness in the world.” My friend agreed, but he also felt guilty about taking the money. He doesn’t know how or when he’ll be able to pay this money back. The only reason he was telling me this story was because he was acting on his friend’s one condition–to share the story with others and let them know that there is always hope, and it often comes very unexpectedly.
This made me cry even more, but my friend still feels guilty about taking the money. I couldn’t convince him to feel otherwise. But I know where he’s coming from. It’s not easy for me to reach out to people when I need to, let alone accept their concern and kindness. If it was, I would have called my friend last night, instead of going to Kafkaland. And it’s not easy for him either–even when he gets help that he wasn’t even expecting.
The cruel paradox, though, is that it’s especially important for those of us with mental illness to reach out and ask for help when we need it. Our illness is invisible to many, and we’re often good at making it look invisible if we have to. And yet, it’s so damn hard to do that. At least it is for me.
It’s something that I still need to work on, and I said that to my friend. Maybe it’s something we can work on together. In the immortal words of the Beatles, it’s a good thing to tell someone, “help me if you can, I’m feeling down. And I do appreciate ya being around.” If only I could say that as effortlessly as they could.