I am not depressed. I have my funks, my sad moments, my hysterical anger at nothing in the present day universe, and all sorts of other broad-spectrum emotions. These rarely linger and I do not see them as an ongoing issue. M going through periods of depression, probably more than I experience myself, but it is not to the point of impairing anything we do or aspire to do. We have more excessive procrastination periods.
But I do have a very old friend who suffers from the clinical variety of depression. It is sad for me, because the man is a genius. Bright, interesting, intuitive, and an artist … really way out of my league in the intelligence sphere, but kind and giving as well. Most of my old friends have migrated and become friends of ours, as a couple, yet this friend has been sort of a bubble friend for the last 25 years. He and M get along fine, but my friend is a bit aloof around M, and M shrugs it off and chalks it up having less in common. Majority of the time it’s not an issue; we do not socialize much and speak sporadically with the ebb and flow of friendship, communication, and life progresses.
A couple of weeks ago he reached out to say hi, catch up on things since the holidays and whatnot. Usually I hear from him when he is entering a downward spiral or already immersed within one. Most of the time it is not a big deal; he is just reaching out to connect with someone who will reply with a friendly voice. The last few days have been a bit different of flavor, though, and it concerns me. When I was home sick on Monday he reached out via chat several time, despite being in the office. I was enjoying my ability to nap extensively without guilt and not really replying much, as is my habit when I am sick. Tuesday I felt well enough to return to work, and he reached out from home to see how I was feeling and to let me know he was at home. When I asked why he was home, he said “probably because I am sad and unwanted.” I replied that I was sorry … and because I was at work I did not have much else to text because of work and distractions there.
He came back wanting to know what I was sorry for? That he was sad and unwanted, or that I was making him sad and feeling more unwanted? It is his depression speaking, I know, but it is not a good feeling to be barked at in text that way. I replied that I was at work and sad that I could not talk or listen more constructively at that time. He signed off in an angry huff and I have not heard from him since.
Discussing this with M, it feels like another distance myself situation is forming. In truth this friend misses a lot of work, and me, in my small business mindset and various part-time jobs tend to take work pretty seriously. To be fair we are in completely different industries – he does IT developer stuff for the state and I work for small business consultant (i.e., time is money) employers in the private sector – and the work environments and cultures are polar opposites. One would have to be amazingly talented and productively billable to get away with taking personal time off to the degree he does routinely in my firm, any of them, and since we have discussed the differences in work culture he should understand how hard it is for me to break away to chat with him during the week because he’s is in a bad way.
While that in itself would not be insurmountable, the depressive episodes seem to get progressively worse. He refuses medication, because he hates the way it makes him feel. I am not his only support system; he has a few other friends, plus a father, brother, and sister in Florida. At one time or another we have all suffered from overwhelming exhaustion in supporting and dealing with these dark periods, yet I feel twinges of guilt when I have to enforce the boundaries I have set. M, my marriage, my relationships with my children are most precious to me and protected above all other things, and it is difficult for him to accept that I am unwilling to drop everything and rush over to listen to him lament his life for hours on end. I am also not single or interested in any sort of relationship that I do not share openly with M. And it is not like he wants to have an affair with me, more that he wants my complete and undivided sympathy and attention. Not going to happen.
M and I … we are not without sympathy or compassion. If he wants or needs company, come to our home and join us for dinner. If he does not wish to be alone, our guest room is available for a night or a few nights. While M does not feel especially close to him, he is a good listener and understands the craziness our minds and psyches generate. All that said, though, we have limits, and this includes people who want or need help being willing to accept the limitations of our assistance. We are not doctors. We know next to nothing about clinical depression, it’s causes, symptoms, or treatments. However, we do know that medical help is mandatory if it begins to interfere with your ability to get through life on a day-to-day basis. Refusing to consult a physician or to follow medical advice tends to be a much bigger problem for me than for M, but even he concedes that diet and exercise alone are not going to make depression symptoms manageable.
I guess I am at the end of my rope tonight with this particular friend and this ongoing, repeat offender problem. I sympathize that he suffers, truly, but I also suffer from a chronic health condition and hate that I presently have to take so much medicine to maintain good control, but I do it because I do not want to feel bad. The comparison is imprecise, I know, but it shows my frustration with someone I care for who refuses to take care of himself to the point where I have to step back and step away for my own sanity.
My dad was a functional alcoholic most of my life, and I admit I am very quick to see a problem within others who seem to like to drink a lot. I rarely voice it, unless asked directly or their behaviors impact me. I know a codependent is alive and well within me and must be kept in check, hence my gut-checks with M when I start feeling stretched or burdened by the demands of friendship. Sometimes he tells me I’m a selfish ass and to get over it, but mostly he agrees that my instincts are leading me in the right direction.
Ugh. I am feeling a bit like a fair weather friend tonight. I know I am not, but what I think and feel do not always match reality.