The Strong Friend

I’m an upbeat guy by most accounts–the strong friend.  I’m a go-to person for friends who want to talk through things or vent or ask for advice.  Like I said, I’m a strong friend, but I also have my struggles.

I have friends that pause during their busy lives to ask me how I’m doing.  And as most of us do, I try to keep it simple:  “I’m okay, you?”  And they reply, “I’m good.”  I was taught that no one really cares how you’re doing, and even if they do, they certainly don’t want to set off a monologue of your woes.  But thank God for those friends who dig deeper, who ask, “Are you sure you’re okay?  Let’s talk.”

And truthfully, 99% of the time I am okay or maybe even fabulous.  The other 1% of the time when I’m not “Okay”, when I’m sideways, when life seems more jungle than joy, when I forget how to float–it’s in those rough waters of my job, my finances, my health, my proximity to the inevitable effects of aging that I seek help from friends, therapists, self-help books, and my angel man.

Since these 1% times are obviously mathematically rare, it appears like unnatural behavior to the people closest to me.  It’s not unnatural or unusual for me to be down–just uncommon.

When is does occur, I always get asked, “Do you think you’re depressed?”  That’s a tough question because when you’re in the middle of a dung heap, it’s difficult to smell anything but shit.

For me, the way I know I’m depressed is a simple mental test.  If nothing matters and all I want to do is stop and lie down in the shit, then I’m depressed.  This standard is different for everyone, but for me, this is how I try to grasp the reality I’m going through.

But if everything matters and all I can think about is each milligram of shit I have to deal with, and worry about how I’m going to get out of this mess, and become overwhelmed and exhausted by my desire to want to fix everything, then that leads to immense stress and sadness.

So for me–and I’m only speaking for me–depression is when nothing matters.  When I have neither the energy nor desire to ask for help.  Luckily, this is rare for me;  my 1%.  But for many people it’s their 99%–even some of your “strong” friends.

Now on the other hand, when everything matters and I just need a respite from the dung heap, and I’m in the down lows, then I know I’m most likely not depressed.  Just very sad.

I don’t enjoy sadness or depression.  I want my friends to keep asking if I’m okay.  I want those closest to me to ask me if I think I’m depressed because sometimes even with a clear head the line between sadness and depression is blurred.  I can be standing in the heap of dung and I don’t know whether to lie down or keep walking. It ain’t all shit or sugar, you know.

This is when that honest, loving friend says, “Let me help you find someone that you can share your beautiful, ugly, normal, extraordinary story with.”  These are friends who don’t just bring light to my darkness, but help me bring my darkness to the light.

Thank you!  I love each and every one of you.