Like many people, I have a friend who has depression and I have found supporting her very challenging and stressful. Other people do not always understand what it is like and the different pressures we face. I have often searched for how to cope, what to do, and other peoples’ experiences, yet I have found very little useful, real or relevant information.
I started my blog to share my experiences and provide a very honest perspective on what it is like having a friend with depression. My blogs track my journey from discovering my friend was suicidal, coping with her challenging emotions/behaviours, ethical dilemmas I have faced, and much more. I hope that my story is relatable and helps if you are going through similar experiences.
When I was 14 I met my best friend at school. We became inseparable and I was closer to her than anyone else. She moved away in her early 20’s and our friendship remained as strong as ever. As we did not live close to each other we would text all the time. We used to having a running joke that we would moan about things, it started off little things but gradually I noticed the moans got more frequent and less jokey. At one point I read over our messages from the previous few days and noticed that she only said negative things. I was concerned and brought it up with her, she was not aware she was being so negative and insisted she was fine.
A few months later I got a distressed phone call saying she could not get out of bed. I was confused and could not understand how she could not do it. She was not able to express herself clearly and I did not know what to do from a distance. A couple of days later she managed to get to the doctors and she was diagnosed with depression.
Since she was diagnosed over three years ago, she has become progressively worse and her situation is now very extreme. She has become suicidal, been sectioned a number of times, has regular dissociative periods and has lost pretty much everything positive in her life. Although she has sought help, she has been consistently let down by all the services she has encountered and her condition continues to deteriorate.
As her best friend, I have been supporting her throughout everything. It has been one of the hardest things I have ever done and had no idea how stressful it would be, yet I know I will never stop loving her and supporting her.
Her depression has thrown major obstacles at our friendship, including her pushing me away, revealing a double life of lies and risky behaviour, losing all aspects of a normal friendship, relentless hopelessness, resentment and anger directed at me, as well as all the stress and worry related to suicidal plans and failed suicide attempts.
At times when faced with these issues I have felt lost and had no idea what I should do or why I am putting up with it when it seems like I try my best but only get shot down. I have wanted to walk away many times when the situation has become unbearable or I can’t face the guilt of not being able to make her better. I have felt reluctant to voice the pressure I have been under as I am not the one with depression and therefore have felt that my feelings are always going to come second. I have also felt guilt over some of the thoughts I have had, I know her emotions and behaviours are due to her illness but it does not stop the hurt and the need to sometimes be selfish in order to protect yourself. Normally when faced with negative and sometimes aggressive situations, you would leave and distance yourself from that person, however with depression it’s the opposite and I have had to learn how to handle this and still be able to stick around and support her.
I have often searched for what to do but get frustrated at the basic information on the internet for how to help a depressed friend. I have found many websites/blogs relating to the person with depression but very little for the people who are supporting them. I feel that if I had read other peoples’ experiences and knew that it was ok to feel some of the things I have felt, then it would show that it’s a natural and normal part of dealing with supporting a friend with depression.
I hope that my honest version of events helps others that are in equally difficult situations. I hope to raise awareness that it is ok to admit you are struggling too and that you are not alone in this very challenging situation.
I have enormous respect for anyone who is supporting someone who has depression. Although it does not always feel like it, we are making a huge difference so keep doing your best and hopefully one day our loved ones will win their battle against depression.