August 20, 2019:
I want to reach out. It's what the literature recommends, and it's a homework task my therapist has assigned. Besides, it's what I want. Connection, solidarity. Understanding.
The question is: to whom? Because there are two practical hurdles. Depressed people are unreliable, and, undepressed people have no clue.
I have dinner with a friend. He's a work colleague, brilliant, one of the genuinely nice people. I tell him I'm in therapy and have just started meds. He's shocked, you can read it in capital letters like a blinking neon sign across his forehead: "I'M SHOCKED". He says, collecting himself, "I didn't think you could be rattled by anything." Well — I'm not rattled, thank you. I struggle with a condition called Major Depressive Disorder. And now I'm treating it. But we can't converse about this. He's all stereotypes and popular misconceptions. Correcting his tabloid assumptions, providing a context of reality for him to think within: it requires too much educating, while part of the definition of "depression" is that you lack the stamina for that kind of effort.
I schedule lunch with a friend. She knows in great personal depth exactly what the struggle is. But she's lost her insurance, so she self-medicates her crippling anxiety with alcohol. She's previously been on tricyclics, benzodiazepines, SNRIs, SSRIs. But, uninsured, she can't afford them, or even have her 'scripts renewed. So she drinks. And because she drinks she sleeps late and is hung-over all day, so that she cancels our lunches or ignores them, and I know not to show up at restaurants unless we explicitly reconfirm shortly before the time I'd have to leave home. Today she texts as she frequently does late in the afternoon: "Sorry I just woke up."
These experiences aren't isolated. Your friends have to be prepared to hear you. They require the knowledge, the temperament, the emotional wherewithal: to hear, understand, and respond appropriately.
I've read of people like that. There are stories in the memoirs. Right now they feel mythological. Not so much unicorns as, say, Atlanteans. Hyper-enlightened superhumans from somewhere that doesn't exist, because it never existed. About which people tell very pretty stories.