I’ve realized that I need to properly explain what happened to me and what I am experiencing in order for me to get the help that I need.
To use big words that really don’t mean anything, I’ve just emerged from a depression that started in September 2017 when I was raped. It peaked from the end of October until mid January 2019 when I had a three month mental breakdown. My depression caused me to make myself unemployed, homeless, and almost friendless. I cut myself off from all help because I felt guilty to ask for it, I felt I didn’t deserve it.
Since January, I have had three trigger episodes that caused me to not return to Greece as planned, to leave my job as a summer camp counselor, and to move home to seek help and family support. I am still in a depression, I am at the end of it – I can see the light though some days it doesn’t feel like it.
It’s hard to explain why I am acting this way, but I know that I have to. I have felt this way three times before in my life, but those times I never felt brave enough to communicate what was happening to me, and ask for what I needed. I believe this is why it has happened again.
Everyone wants to help, but no one knows what I need. I don’t know exactly what I need, but I do know exactly what I don’t need.
Here’s what I don’t need:
1. I don’t need you to say, “If you need to talk, you can always talk to me.”
That makes me anxious. A lot of people have kindly told me that if I need to talk I can talk to them. It’s nice, but also overwhelming because just the act of deciding who to talk to and choosing to call that person and share my negative feeling is an internal battle. Well, aren’t they at work right now? The time difference is 8 hours, so they’re sleeping? They’re happy in a relationship so probably not good to talk to them about that feeling? Do you think they’ll think that I’m needy? Did they really mean that they want me to talk to them?
Before picking up the phone to call, I’ll start to hear this voice that says, “give up, this is too hard, just go back to your bed and cry, you’ll feel so much better.” And that’s what I usually do. And it usually does make me feel better.
I do need you to talk to me. I need you to tell me about your negative emotions and experiences so that I feel safe enough to share my own, so I don’t feel like I’m burdening with you with my thoughts. If I need someone to just listen to me, I’ll call a hotline. I’ve done it. Peter just calmly “ahuhhh” me all the way through, but when I asked how he was, he tried to divert the attention and get back to me ‘letting it out’. That’s when I realized I didn’t need someone to listen to me, I needed a friend. I needed someone to not make me feel like a crazy person rattling on about things that no one can relate to. I am relatable.
2. I don’t need you to tell me what you would do in my situation.
You don’t know my situation. What I have told you about my situation is only part of the truth. I have most likely not told you the worst things about my situation because they are much too painful to talk about and I am embarrassed, ashamed, or feel guilty about them.
I do need you to tell me what you have done in similar situations in your life, what you learned from those experiences, and what you would have done differently upon reflection.
3. I don’t need you to tell me that you are sorry for me and that you can’t imagine what I’m going through.
I don’t need your apologies. It is not your fault that I am experiencing the true reality of life. I don’t need your pity – to look down on me because things have gotten difficult. In life, things get difficult. Everyone has tough times, everyone gets sad, or gets hurt, or gets scared, or gets angry. Everyone responds in different ways.
I do need you to imagine what is happening to me, to tell me how strong I am, and that I will get through this. I need you to be proud of me, to see me trying to stand up in my waterfall of feelings, and to appreciate that I have chosen you to share with and see this as an opportunity to build trust within our relationship. If I don’t choose to share with you, we have probably not established that kind of trust within our relationship, and that’s okay. It only takes one good friend to make you feel better.
4. I don’t need you to rush me, “Why haven’t you moved on yet? That was months ago.”
It makes me feel like you think I am weak, overreacting, and selfish. I wish that I could have moved on, trust me, way more than you do, but I haven’t. I wish that I didn’t still cry about something they said nine months ago, but I do. It still hurts. Most of the time, I don’t let you be around me when I’m crying. I can’t explain why I’m still crying, I just know that I haven’t made peace yet, but when that happens, I will be sure to move forward. Trust me, I’ll probably take four steps forward when I’m ready to. But right now, I need to take one step back.
I do need you to be patient. I need you to understand that mental health doesn’t work on a deadline. I need you to realize that I am doing my best, but also I need you to hold me accountable. I need you to make sure that I am still treating you right, that you are still getting what you. I need you to not make exceptions, just because I’m “depressed,” or “having a rough time.” I need you to be sympathetic, but I also need you to be honest with me.
5. I don’t need you to question me.
I question myself. I question myself thirty times before I choose to share something out loud. By the time, I’ve decided to say something, I need you to trust that’s what I think. And if I change my mind, I need you to trust that that is now what I think. And I don’t need you to make me feel dumb or reckless for changing my mind. If you do that, I will just stop telling you what I think, and I will stop trusting you, and I will stop talking to you, and eventually I will stop letting you be in the same space as me. One day, when I am brave enough, I will tell you that I decided to stop being your friend, and apologize for not being honest with you. If you recognize that I am cutting you out and you want to be my friend still, then do something about it, then try to talk to me.
I do need you to trust me. I need you to trust that I am doing my best, that I am sharing my truth, that I am trying to take care of myself. And I will trust that you are doing the same.
And when I ask for help, I need you to try to help me.
And I will try to do the same.