Other People’s Perspectives
One of the cruellest tricks of depression is how it robs you of perspective. The world turns into a dystopia full of brash sights and sounds, populated by people who (despite their coldness and self-interest) are far superior to you. That’s how it seems anyway. Your feelings of worthlessness become so all-engrossing that it’s easy to forget that people aren’t all against you. In the course of a mental illness, it’s usual to come up against a lot of unhelpful attitudes: some of these are from strangers, employers, doctors, etc and are the result of ignorance; others are from people close to you and are likely to go on affecting you long after the memory of the rude doctor dries up.
It’s a horrible (and very common) moment when you realise a friend you’ve had for years suddenly won’t pick up the phone and will cross the street to avoid you. This is often a matter of prejudice on their part, which I want to talk about in another blog post later. But it can also be the extreme awkwardness that illness creates.
People may avoid you not because you make them sad, but because they’re worried they will have nothing to say.
I used to think that people didn’t ask me about my problems because they didn’t care about them, or were embarrassed by my pathetic mewling. One day I had a violent catatonic fit in front of two friends – when I tried to explain it, they waved away my explanations, and the next time we met, they didn’t ask how I was. I was hurt and confronted one of them, and what he told me has actually given me comfort since.
He said that people (particularly men) think they are easing a situation for you by pretending nothing’s wrong. That’s not to say that they don’t think about your situation or that they disbelieve it, but if they wouldn’t want to talk about their problems, they assume you feel safer not talking about yours.
For the most part, it is better not to make a confidante out of someone like this. They can be wonderful friends and they’ll most likely be the ones to have fun with when you need to take your mind off things, but don’t force them to talk about your issues if they aren’t immediately affected and if you have someone else to talk to. This isn’t a reflection on you, it’s just how some people are.
The most valuable phrase I’ve ever learned is “I don’t need to explain myself to you.” Or, if you’re feeling brave, “Your opinion doesn’t affect me.” Trust me, they work.