The greatest gift you can give someone is the gift of your time.
The past few weeks have been a sort of a hell for me. When I started to write this post, I was still mired in a severe depressive episode. The ripple of effect of that misery hit all facets of my life. The ties with friends fray when it becomes exhausting and uncomfortable to talk on the phone or meet up with classmates. On a theoretical level, I know that the first thing I should do when I’m depressed is reach out. However, it’s often the last thing on my mind. I can usually go against every fiber of my depressed being and call a friend or two for support, but this episode was different.
For one thing, I haven’t yet been able to build the support system during my six months in Little Rock that I left behind after most of my life in Maryland. When I was working for Active Minds in Washington, DC, I had friends in the area to rely on and co-workers who were intimately familiar with the field of mental health. I had it easy. Undergraduate too was easy compared to now. If you think about college, you have friend networks built in and even if there is stigma and ignorance, people are always around. It is hard when you are in a transient point in your life to make local support networks a priority. It becomes even harder as a student knowing that even if you decide to stay put, the people you’ve come to trust may leave.
There are steps to take that I haven’t. I don’t have a local therapist. I’m only starting to think of Arkansas as a long-term home and I found the prospect of building a relationship with a new therapist daunting (especially if I was going to up and leave in a year or two). Something else I realize that I had failed to do was educate my classmates about warning signs and how they can help me when I’m in need. If I had taken those steps, my journey this past month might not have been so awful.
Eventually I did reach out and my classmates were there for me. People have an incredible capacity for compassion if you give them the opportunity. However, if you aren’t in a place where you can disclose what is going on in your life make sure that you can rely on a doctor or a therapist. If you are in crisis, make sure you know that there are places you can call for support without judgment. Keep that 1-800-273-TALK number handy in the case of an emergency. Know that there is incredible strength to be had in numbers when you choose to let someone in. The burden of an eating disorder, an anxiety disorder, depression, mania, and anything and everything else on the mental health spectrum is near impossible to bear alone. It’s okay to need help. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to receive help. It’s okay.
All the best,