AN OPEN LETTER FROM A DEPRESSIVE TO ALL “WHAT-CAN-I-DO-ERS” EVERYWHERE
Look, I’m probably not going to call you. I’m not up to saying “fine” when you ask how I am. I’m certainly not up to explaining to you how I ACTUALLY am. I’m not up to listening to you tell me to cheer up, to tell me I have so much great stuff in my life, or how bad YOUR life is in some weird attempt to point out how comparatively well off I am.
Honestly, I’m not even up to searching you in my phone or pressing Call.
I know you love me. I know if I called and asked you to take me out to lunch, you would. I know if I called and asked you to pick up a carton of ice cream and drop it off, you would. I know if I called and asked you to come watch a whole season of Angel with me, you’d wait until you hung up to sigh and roll your eyes. But you’d come.
I can’t. I can’t call you first. I can’t even make myself get in the shower.
I know some of you non-Depressive types are all, Oh, I don’t shower every day all the time. Like, once a month I have a No Shower weekend. Or I go to bed still in my clothes all sweaty from the gym. Or, yeah, I’ve skipped it a couple of times myself. This is not that. Not at all. I am in the clothes I wore, that I slept in, from three days ago. Every day, I INTENDED to get in the shower. And then didn’t. It seemed like too much trouble.
Do NOT ask when the last time was that I brushed my hair.
I can’t ask you to come over. There’s nowhere on the couch for you to sit. Some of the laundry is clean, but at this point, I’m not sure which pile it is. I’m sure some of these papers are important, but I can’t sort them to find which ones. I certainly don’t know what to DO with them. And some of them are probably VERY important.
There are a lot of them I haven’t even opened. I can’t make myself do it.
I can, however, develop a shorthand with you.
If you were to call me, for example, and ask how are things, I might say, “Not great.”
You might understand that by Not Great, I mean that I am creating an ass-shaped hole in my sofa, wearing unmatched pajama separates and haven’t done any grocery shopping in two or three weeks.
If you were to call and invite me to lunch, I probably would say No. If you asked would I go with you to a new place you wanted to try, you might understand that “Okay, sure,” is as close as I can get to “That would be nice.” If you were to call and ask me to help you choose a new comforter, I might say Yes, especially if you told me you’d pick me up in an hour. I probably would even shower.
If I had any clothes clean.
If I could ask, I might ask you to come over and just BE with me, without talking about My Problem, or really anything. If I could ask, I might ask you to make me some soup, tea, cinnamon toast. Do not ask me if I am hungry. I can’t remember the last time I cooked an actual meal, which you can probably tell by all the cereal bowls I haven’t washed and the pizza boxes I haven’t thrown away. You could tidy up, or help me. I won’t ask.
If you were here, you might find me a set of fresh clothes and a mostly-clean towel and send me to get washed.
I don’t advise drawing me a bath.
You might pack up my booze and hide it in the trunk of my car, or the trunk of your car, if you think I’m likely to abuse it. You’re probably right. If I say something horrible, forgive me. Let it pass. I’m not my best self.
If you were here, you might clear off the sofa a bit, find the remote, dig something from the freezer to put in the oven and queue up some old movie or television show I like. Watch it with me. Don’t make snarky comments, unless that’s something we usually do together. I’m not up to snark, but it might be reassuring to hear you. Don’t expect conversation from me, but if I do feel like talking, don’t try to ‘solve’ things.
You may understand when I say “Been better” that my meds aren’t working. You may ask if I’ve been taking my meds. You may ask when my next doctor’s visit is scheduled. You may offer to drive me to the appointment. You may offer to call and schedule my next visit. You may offer to pick up my ‘scrip.
I probably won’t believe you’ll do those things, but it’s nice of you to think of them.
It would make me cry if you actually did them, but in a good way.
If you’ve gotten me to agree to go out somewhere with you, don’t ask me where I’d like to go. Ask me if I have a preference. If I say “coffee shop”, please don’t ask which one. If you ask “is Starbucks okay?” I will probably make a face and tell you they burn their beans, but whatever, and will drink a Starbucks something or other. You choose the size. I can’t keep up with the stupid names they have for Small, Medium and Large. Don’t make me make any decisions. If I say “Whatever, “ know that it means “You choose. I can’t.” People-watch with me. You’ll need to start. Notice someone’s flashy jacket, excellent haircut or silly walk.
If I have kids, offer to take them out, to that new movie, or Trick-or-Treat, or someone’s birthday party. If I’ve agreed to a manicure or pedicure, bring them along and walk around the mall or park with them while I’m in the chair. Offer to have them over for dinner, or a sleepover. They’re not having a good time here with me, and I feel just dreadful about it, but I can’t let myself think about it too much or I cry and that scares them.
If I have a hobby, ask me to show you how to do something. I’d like to show you, and it might kick me back into doing it for myself. I probably know where the stuff for it is, and could tell you. You may have to move a few piles of crap to get at it, though.
You really must not mention the condition of my house. I KNOW.
If it’s a nice day, suggest we walk together. Bring the dog along, if either of us has one.
Give me a hug. Don’t worry if I don’t return it. If I do return it, wait for me to let go first. Give me another hug. Lean against me, or let me lean on you while we share popcorn and a movie… nothing too deep or challenging, though. A ‘60s monster movie, anything from the ‘40s, especially the Marx Brothers, almost anything with Adam Sandler in it. Pour more hot water in my teacup. Ask if you could make more popcorn.
If I cry, hand me a fresh tissue and bring the wastebasket in here with us. Keep handing me fresh tissues. Pat me and be soothing. Don’t tell me to stop crying. I will, eventually. Don’t look at me, though. I’m embarrassed.
Remind me that I didn’t always feel this badly. Remind me of something fun we did together. Suggest we do something fun together soon. Schedule that. Schedule it now. Show up for it. Dinner, a show, beers. A haircut might be nice. A massage is too much commitment.
I’d have to shower.
-Cybele Pomeroy, 13 August 2014
ABBA, Take A Chance On Me