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How Can We Help?

Man. What a conversation we’re having.

Over the last week, I’ve been reading a lot of encouragement from compassionate people across all social media spheres: If you need help, reach out. Here’s a number. Tell your family. Tell your friends. We’re here for you.

And then there have been the responses, from people who have gone through or continue to live in the hell of depression: When you’re depressed, it’s too hard to reach out. Please notice. Please take the initiative and reach out to us.

It’s a good point. For those who haven’t experienced depression – and based on the waves of Tweets and statuses, it must be far fewer than we think – it is a crippling condition. You know when you have a bad day, and you come home and your wife/boyfriend/roommate/robot butler asks, “How was your day?” and sometimes you have hella rant ready but sometimes you’re just…lost? Like, “I don’t even know where to begin. It was – what happened –” and you realize there’s too much, and that it feels too big, and even if you started to describe it you wouldn’t have the right words, and never mind you’re too tired and just want to go to bed and forget about it? That’s how depression is, every day, mixed with the kind of vague fog that occurs when you’ve just woken up from a bad dream you can’t remember, but leaves you unsettled and disoriented and not quite of the world. Depression is like when you get the urge to have breakfast in bed, except in this case it’s also lunch and dinner and hey can I outsource peeing while I’m at it because I don’t want to get up for that either.

Depression is when it feels the whole rest of the world has found some glowing, treasured secret to life – The Reason for Living – that you don’t, and will never, have access to.

Depression is like being forced to go to a party where you know no one, and you have no idea what they’re talking about, and no one will loop you into their conversation but you’re also never allowed to leave. (Also there’s no alcohol and/or good snacks.)

Depression is living in a cold, quiet space in your mind that is so barren and forbidding (picture any room from a Stieg Larsson novel), you begin to lose all sense of corporeal existence. Who needs a body when it’s just going to sit there, and do nothing but stare at the wall?

So yes, I remember from my worst times how hard it is to find the initiative to do anything, never mind something as difficult and vulnerable as reaching out and asking for help. And being in a better place now, I will do my very best to watch my loved ones. But unfortunately, I do sometimes get caught up in my own shit (I know, amazing when most of the drama in my life derives form realizing I forgot peanut butter at the grocery store and half my food pyramid has just gone out the window) and forget. I might get disproportionately distracted by my own stressful day at work, or guilt over a really dumb thing I said two weeks ago, or by the half-formed dreams I have of choreographing a really cool flash mob.

So what I’m asking is: can we make a deal? Have a shorthand? Can we agree that, when it seems like to much effort for you to even text “I need help” – to open up the can of worms that is an honest conversation, or invite someone to ask questions you don’t have the energy to answer – you can just text or message something simple, like the letter “Z.” And I will do the work. I will ask you how you are, and if you need me to come over so we can have that hard, real conversation, I will. I will ask you how you are, and if you need to be distracted from your demons, you can say “In the mood to see a movie” and we’ll make it happen. We can talk about the darkness, or not. If you want light, I’ll bring it. (I have an encyclopedic knowledge of TV one-liners that I’m sure will be hilarious out of context, especially if you haven’t seen the show.) If you want to sit there and cry while I hug you and say nothing at all, I’ll do that too. I just might need the simplest nudge. I think a lot of us might, in spite of our best efforts to keep an eye on our loved ones.

Because we may forget to remind you frequently enough how important you are, how loved, and (most importantly) that hope will return. Optimism and possibility will slowly – painfully slowly – trickle back in. Mere drops, at first, that appear at excruciatingly long intervals and immediately get sucked up by the parched, dry soil, disappearing so fast you’re not even sure they were there in the first place. But eventually life will come back. (I could go into an extended metaphor here about new growth or regaining “fertile spirit” or spring returning but I’m terrible at both gardening and poetry, so just, you know, catch my drift.) I speak from experience, so please:

Let us provide the faith for you, as long as you need it.

Let us tell you it’s not okay now, and it may not be for a long time, but it will be, and it’s worth waiting for that.

Let us tell you about your worth and potential, even if you can’t feel it in your heart at this moment.

Let us help you find the resources, even if they're hard to come by. Even when the effort involved to seek them seems impossible.

We will do that for you, if you just give us a reminder. Just a simple “Z.” Do that for us flawed, distractible, occasionally frazzled friends and family, and we will do the rest.

Because we want you to stick around.

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