Creative Non-Fiction / Personal / Writing

When You’re a Self-Proclaimed “Flake”

The thing about depression is you’ve really got to be ready to lose friends. Not even, like, “the ones who weren’t really your friends” or “the ones who weren’t worth your time anyway.” I’m talking about the ones who might have been For-Lifers had mental illness not had its fingers all up in your pie. The friends you’re bound to lose will span anywhere from one to, honestly, all of them. I’m about halfway there myself now.

But here’s the thing – if you’re reading this, and you’ve never been depressed or anxious to this level, let me tell you three things about being friends with us, about how plan-making and hanging out will go:

1) Around Friday at 3pm, we may make plans with you for Sunday dinner at 8pm. However, Sunday at 2pm we may start to get anxious. What if we run out of things to talk about? What if you want to talk about things we don’t want to? Or what if you ask questions we can’t answer? Sunday at 4pm, we may get back into bed after painting our nails or watching the latest episode of Jane the Virgin or after eating half a banana creme pie with a disposable plastic fork. Sunday at 5pm we may remember we didn’t wash those jeans we wanted to wear, and so that will be “reason enough” to not go out at all. Sunday at 6pm is when we will have meant to leave the house to pick you up. Sunday at 6:10, we are crying, because it’s too late now. Sunday at 7:05, we hate ourselves. This happens every time, every time, every time. Why do we do this every time. Sunday at 8:20, you’re calling. Somewhere around 8:30, we lose track of time, we shut off our phone, we take a sleeping pill. We are one thousand percent less anxious but one million percent more depressed.

2) We don’t want to be coddled. We get it, you hate that mental health is sometimes the only “excuse” we have. We hate it too. We understand that all the “How To Handle Your Introvert/Anxious Friend” think-pieces have started to piss you off, as an extrovert. That’s fair. But we aren’t asking to be treated differently; the anxiety will make sure, though, that we believe you hate us if your reply is anything short of saccharine. Please, by all means, don’t coddle us. But maybe tell us you understand. Tell us you get it. Tell us, it’s okay. Next time, maybe you’ll reach out. But please don’t be upset if we decline or if we agree and then bail. Because some of us may not want to go out, but getting the invitation never stops being that balm on the wound.

3) Cancelations are one hundred-Emoji not about you personally. They’re about us personally. We don’t cancel because we don’t value you or your company or your friendship. We’re in self-preservation mode, that’s all.

Somewhere along the way, after we’ve been dealing with mental health for so long, things become mostly about the “I.”

I don’t want to feel this way anymore. Like a whisper. Like a brittle fingernail. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I don’t want to know that I have things to do but can’t get out of bed to do them. Laundry piling up, friends whose plans I’ve promised not to break this time. Things like showering, and I haven’t shaved my legs in 8 weeks, and I could probably stand to drink at least a little water today.

I don’t want to feel this way anymore. Trapped in my circumstance. Feeling like I’ll never have a job that pays me enough or makes me happy or let’s me travel or move outside of this deadened part of Los Angeles. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. Like I’ll never find a therapist who can help me, put me on a solid med regimen, work with me and not try to drown me in debt or play into my long-standing history with problematic older men.

I don’t want to feel this way anymore. Like everything is rusted and concentration is a myth you just happen to read about along with mermaids and selkies on a too-warm summer night.

I wonder if depression ever leaves the body. Like the flu or a cold sore. Or if it just sits dormant and chooses times to leak out like an egg with a hole in it, anticipating that chink in your armor, that missed pill, that party invite that you don’t know how to want to be at.

I wonder if anxiety ever cashes in its PTO. If it ever really clocks out or if it just leaves the office but continues to operate from home, making you second guess that money you spent on yourself or that extra cake pop you had, making you think too hard about how loudly you laughed at that cute stranger’s joke.

Anxiety and depression will really make you second-guess everything about your life, from your friendships, down to whether or not you twisted the lock on the door of the public restroom, but wouldn’t it be so nice if “Will I ever be a whole person again” wasn’t one of them, too?

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