is back, but what’s really strange is that it’s not just me under it. All of my closest friends seem to be suffering at the moment – from relationship woes, work troubles, and, most upsettingly, from a general feeling of pessimism.
I went through a phase of wondering whether my depression infected the people I care about. When I was at home, at the very low point of this year, I avoided seeing my three-year-old niece because I kept having intrusive thoughts that she’d end up like me if I spent too long around her. That’s quite an egocentric way of thinking about things – supposing that everyone’s fine and living in the mental health equivalent of the Shire until Ro rocks into their lives and fucks shit up – but it is true that a lot of the people closest to me seem to be suffering, especially over the last couple of weeks.
Maybe it’s a sign of the times, or maybe it’s because I feel closer to people whose experiences are more similar to mine, but I can’t think of many close friends who haven’t been through a rocky mental health period. That said, I wonder how many people on earth haven’t had those kind of moments.
Worrying that, actually, the black cloud was me all along is probably a futile pursuit. For one thing, it stops me from accepting that my friends have autonomous, inner lives (how can they be experiencing something so profound if it’s not related to or even the result of me??); for another, it puts needless blame on me. I am not the weather. I am not the concept of depression.
I do wonder, though, how much people’s individual wellbeing is connected to other people, whether we’re all responding to each other, or whether we’re all responding to the same rhythms – whether there really is a cloud overhead and it really is raining on all of us. This last week, truly, all of my best friends in Prague have been really down and I wonder whether it’s connected, although you could attribute it to a bunch of independent stuff – the pressures of working as a freelancer coming to a head, relationship problems, working underground for eight hours a day like a gremlin. It’s enough to get anyone down.
I want to help the people I care about who are struggling, but I don’t feel like I’m in a position to help in a meaningful way. I’m more capable of truly loving people than I’ve been for a while, and I am almost always available as a shoulder or an ear; but I wonder – will my perspective, filtered through my own problems, help or hurt my friends? Will I not just make them feel worse? Am I part of the problem?
I don’t have any answers.
And what about the people I try to reach out to who don’t respond? I know that all I can do is express my love and good intentions, but it doesn’t feel like enough. The best thing to do, probably, in absence of any other options, is to try to care for myself and to let my friends and family know that I’m there for them and I love them, in whatever capacity I can.
Yesterday I took the metro to the end of the line and walked to a lake. I put my phone on flight mode and hid my rucksack in a bush and jumped into the lake. The water was a murky green colour and freezing, but I felt like it was washing the mess from my mind. I spent the whole day in and by the lake, getting burnt by the sun and bitten by ants, eating apples I’d brought with me and reading my book; and when I left I felt profoundly calm. It felt like my soul had been healed.
I’m waiting for more bright days, for me and for the people I love.