Explaining depression to a friend can be scary and difficult. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about talking to somebody about depression. Telling family and close friends about your depression has its challenges, but telling friends and acquaintances can have its challenges too – especially when they are people you know from work.
Why would you even bother telling an acquaintance about your depression? What business is it of theirs? Good questions.
Disclosing Depression to a Friend
Recently, I saw an ex-work friend I hadn’t seen in over a year. We bumped into each other at a local second-hand clothing store. An odd place to see a work friend, we laughed at having bumped into one another and asked the typical “what are you doing here?” and “do you come here often?” questions. I asked her where she was working now and asked after her kids and her health. She told me where she was working, her kids were doing well and her health was good.
Then, she asked me… “So, how have you been?”
After quickly weighing the options, I decided to perform an experiment in honesty.
I had never come out and just talked about my depression casually, as though it were the flu or a broken bone. Why not? Well, it’s obvious to anybody who suffers mental illness – you just don’t. In the name of ending the stigma (self-stigma in particular), I decided to just say it out loud.
“Well, I just got over a bit of a bad time. You see, I suffer from depression.”
She furrowed her bow, tilted her head and said, “Oh my, I’m sorry.”
“Thanks,” I responded, then just kept talking, deciding that I would be doing a disservice to my friend if I left it up to her to fill the inevitable silence that would have followed that “I’m sorry”.
I told her about how I suffer from chronic depression and how about six times a year, it rears its ugly head and I get very sad and fatigued and I have no energy… my motivation sucks and I can’t concentrate and I’m generally distant. Several times during my short diatribe, she furrowed her brow again and tilted her head and apologized. I did wonder what she was thinking while I talked but to her credit, I never felt judged or like less of a person.
The experiment was successful… this time.
Telling A Friend I Have Depression Gets Easier With Time
Each time I say the words out loud – “I have depression” – it’s a little easier. It helps (I hope) to educate the people I tell. Mostly, it helps diffuse my own self-stigma and makes me stronger.
Note: You might also want to read: I Told My Boss About My Depression