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June 3, 2019 | by  | in Features Homepage Splash | [ssba]

Please tell me you are doing really well and are fantastically happy.

CW: Depression, Suicidality

 

“Please tell me you are doing really well and are fantastically happy.”

 

The message popped up on my phone with all the gravitas of an emoticon, but the content had my heart sinking. It had been a few days since I last heard from him, and I’d hoped in the interim that he’d been doing okay. But this message confirmed what I’d been trying to pretend I didn’t know: William’s depression was back, and I didn’t have a clue what to do about it.

 

Ignoring the elephant in the room and replying as if this was a normal message wasn’t an option. That would betray a friendship that had survived years apart, distance, family crises, and the latter years of a private school education which was the equivalent of hell, if the devil ranked souls on how physically attractive they are. Crucially, William and I had been here before: We’d both once been suicidal. But we’d faced the big black dog of depression together, and we’d won.

 

Now, I’d been depression-free for three years, and he was facing it alone.

 

Good mental health is something I’ll never take for granted. After years of feeling like I was suffocating my way through life, like I was numb to everything, like there was no longer any point in going on—I managed to break free. My mum took me to Malaysia to see an energy kinesiologist. I was incredibly skeptical at first, but they managed to voodoo the depression out of me, essentially. It’s a long story. My point is: recovering from depression was one of the biggest turning points of my life. It was like feeling the sun on my skin after a suffocatingly long time underwater. It was a life in black and white suddenly turning back to colour. It was waking up Tigger when I’d fallen asleep Eeyore. It. was. glorious.

 

The best part about suddenly realising I was depression-free was the hope. Hope came flooding back into my bones, pushing me to do something, to be someone. I can’t even explain to you the sheer joy of waking up in the morning and feeling nothing but sheer joy.

 

I wanted that for William so badly, but I didn’t know how to get him there. Short of sending him to Malaysia to see the Dragon Lady (energy kinesiologist), I couldn’t help him escape the way I had. Plus, we were currently living in two different cities, leading very different lifestyles. I felt powerless.

 

What can we do as friends, to help each other out of the depression hole? What can we do for a friend with anxiety? In an attempt to figure out the answers to these all-important questions, I invited my closest friends with mental illnesses to a roundtable talk (read: a night out on Courtenay Place). My plan was for all of us to get to grips with our issues (read: get tipsy), and open up with each other (read: go to karaoke) before coming to a collaborative conclusion about my problem: How can we all do better? Our epic night of depression and anxiety would kill two birds with one stone, I reasoned; it would bring about answers, but it would also get my friends out of the house. Isn’t that part of what you’re supposed to do, get depressed people up and moving?

 

It was a brilliant plan, but we fell at the first hurdle: no one actually showed up. The night rolled around, but no one rolled out. Instead, they all sent me their apologies and stayed home. And I couldn’t blame them. That’s exactly what I would have done, back when my depression was so bad I didn’t have the energy to leave the house.

 

So in the absence of anyone else to talk to, I went back to the darkest period of my life in search for answers. What had helped me when I was depressed? What made me feel like life was worth living?

 

These are difficult questions to answer, when you are no longer in that headspace. Depressed Preya is now a foreign entity to me, a stranger I hope to never meet again. She’d been hampered in part by a family that ignored the problem, hoping it would go away, and her own lack of motivation, because, well, depression.

 

But the reaction of her friends was the beginning of change for the better. They had accepted what she’d felt, let her talk and vent and cry as she needed to, and then ditched class to take her to the counsellor’s office.

 

Over that summer, William had been there every day with her, sitting around doing nothing. They’d curled up on the couch together with their friend Sam, watching movie after movie after movie because depressed Preya couldn’t garner the energy to do much else. They’d once managed a slow amble down the road, where they collapsed in the grass together and took photos in the dying light of the summer sun. Another time, she’d even fallen asleep on them, and they didn’t move her because “you needed to rest”. She’d almost cried at that.

 

“I have to thank you,” I’d once told William, many years and memories after the fact. “You were there for me when I needed someone the most.”

 

“Actually, you were there for me.”

 

Here we are now, years later, with the same uphill battle in front of us—only I’m not there with him for movie nights and grass stains and to be a human pillow. The kilometres between us seem insurmountable, and I feel so helpless in the face of all he’s feeling. All I can really do is offer him the same acceptance he once offered me. So I keep my phone on me at all times, and flick him a message whenever I can.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?”

 

[ssba]

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