This past Wednesday, I had the chance to bond with someone I didn’t know well.
I had known her for quite some time, often ending up next to her at dinners and other such events, but aside from her name (we’ll call her Melissa) and some obscure facts and shared interests, she all-in-all was a complete mystery to me.
We ended up back at my place, and I invited her in not knowing if she wanted to come – panic rose in my mind as I pictured her dreaded avoidance, and my embarrassed departure back into my apartment while she no doubt returned to her car glad she came up with an excuse in time to escape.
When she said “sure,” I was convinced I heard hesitation in her voice, and yet as we walked towards my building I found myself apologizing in advance for the mess and the smell.
“It doesn’t smell bad in here…odd, but not bad. Almost, I don’t know, like wood?”
I pointed out my ferret’s bedding, asking her to be honest if the smell was too much, but she seemed unbothered.
She sat on my couch as I started to nervously clean around her – looking around, I realized my depression had overridden my nurtured OCD tendencies and though realistically it really was just piles of clean clothes and a bit of cat hair blowing around, I saw my sadness manifested around me.
We chatted through this, until I finally sat down. Feeling better, I looked at Melissa and saw something on her face I couldn’t quite place – it was a familiar look.
Somehow, I knew. I didn’t know, of course – not really – but I knew at least she would understand.
So, during the course of the conversation, I laid it all out – I started with my social anxiety and how weird I felt it was that I invited her in at all (after all, aside from my boyfriend, I don’t really invite people to come into my small studio), and when I saw that she understood and even experienced it herself, I realized this was a person I could reveal everything to.
Again, we weren’t close. Yet, for the next few hours (or maybe it was only one, the time passed quickly and yet seemed to stretch on forever), I found myself talking to her about my stay in the psychiatric ward, my suicide attempt, and my ongoing struggles to stay awake and motivate myself.
As I spoke, I saw a change in her, but it wasn’t the judgement I often expected – she was relaxing, and as I shared, so did she.
We very quickly pointed out the fact that many people who suffer through depression and anxiety don’t often realize something very important: our thoughts are not unique.
Seeing the same struggles paralleled in another allowed us to take a look at our own ailments as if we had stepped outside them – they didn’t effect us when we spoke of them, and in fact we seemed to gain some power over them. We laughed, we teased ourselves, and we talked about how insane it is that we always feel so alone and yet here we are: two people who see each other often and yet knew not that the other was suffering along with them.
The art of sharing – of divulging – is empowering. To be able to talk about the things you fear the most within yourself stops them from taking over. My depression – a giant shadow – and my anxiety – an enormous weight – both started to shrink, shriveling up as I acknowledged that while they were very real, they often were not based in truth.
Here is a word to anyone who has never done it: talk to someone about it.
It doesn’t have to be a therapist or even anyone you really know – find that odd person sitting at a party, or the person sitting in the waiting room chatting to everyone: as soon as you start to treat you depression as an open book, it becomes one.
Of course, it is terrifying. There’s always that fear and chance that someone will react poorly – that they’ll begin to hover in worry or even say you’re just looking for attention. It is a risk.
But I’ve found, when you feel the urge to suddenly just let someone know what you’re feeling, even if it’s someone you aren’t close to at all, usually your body’s gut reaction is correct – something you see is telling your brain that the person is genuine and will understand, and even though you don’t truly know that, once you learn to trust it you’ll realize you’re right.
So, share you story. Share it with the person sitting next to you or the coworker you always thought was very kind. Sit in a coffee shop and talk to someone who doesn’t seem absorbed in their work, or find the lady feeding pigeons in the park – you’ll be surprised to find that you can relate to nearly anyone if you just give yourself a chance to.