I had a significant depressive period earlier this year. I'm climbing out if it now, but I'm awkwardly reticent and hung-up about telling anyone about my issues. My closest friends don't know or have been told a generic, "It was just a hard semester for me" story. But I feel so isolated and acutely lonely when I stumble and have a few bad days again, and I'd like to be able to reach out to friends. I don't want to engage in destructive isolation and have this unnecessary martyr complex, and need advice on how to open up and ask for/accept support.
I was intensely socially awkward and anxious up until high school. I kept a lot of friends at a distance for a while—first because I was Not Good at making good friends, then because I was still warming up and figuring out how to achieve and enjoy emotional intimacy, and now I'm better but horribly afraid of over-burdening friends and/or being harshly judged. I know I'm someone who is over-sensitive to perceived criticisms (therapy has helped me in learning to let go and de-invest, but I'm still working on it!), and I need a lot
of assurance in relationships (trying to get better at communicating this to others and controlling this need as well).
Current state of the union:
I did the CBT/DBT intensive therapy thing and I am quietly confident that Things Will Be All Right. But I still have days where I get acutely sad and lonely, and days where I slip up and my anxiety gets the better of me…on these days I have this horrible fear that I'm regressing, and I enter a state of anxiety/worry/sadness/apathy that takes a while to shake off.
that talking to people will help, and the gentle support of friends and so on will let me get out of micro depressive periods much more easily. But I feel I'm creating a distance between myself and others that means I'm reluctant to reach out when it would help. Logically, I know people close to me care and would be willing to listen and talk. But it's hard to emotionally understand that.
Some specific issues of mine I've identified:
Incidents which have made me wary:
- I've noticed I have a tendency to provide a brief and distant sketch of my issues—maybe as a way of distancing myself from them?—and so it's possible that when I confided to a few friends in this way, they assumed it was an issue I was not comfortable discussing. Which is true, to some extent. But I want so much to feel comfortable and not engage in foolish attempts to be stoic.
- I'm afraid that talking about my depression will make me seem crazy. Or unreliable. The work I do (I'm an undergrad, I care a lot about what I'm studying and the various organizations I'm involved in) is really important to me, and it is so painful to think that others might see me as not up to scratch. It feels like I have failed and my will is not strong enough to fully recover, although I know recovery (and reworking unhealthy thought patterns) takes time.
- I always feel like I am overburdening people with my troubles. I feel it is too much of an imposition, and I worry I'll go straight from being distant and uncommunicative to the kind of person who says every day, "I'm so anxious! I'm so sad!" and people will get tired of my continual crises.
- I'm generally seen as an enthusiastic and cheery and bubbly person, and I feel like I need to maintain that face to others—I think, also, I feel like that's the me that they grew to appreciate and care for, and the depressive me is not.
One of my closest friends—when I voluntarily checked into a psychiatric hospital for a week (aka flashpoint moment where I really started dealing with my issues), I told her about it. She was immediately effusive in her support, but then went on a tangent about her romantic woes ("I like this guy but he's hooking up with another chick" kind of stuff). I feel a bit ashamed of this—but it made me feel terribly frustrated, that she was telling me something I felt was a mundane trouble when I was terrified with how a lot of things in my life were going. Have started distancing myself from her since (there are some other incidents where I felt she was too involved in her life issues for me to confide in her). I think she is a good friend and she cares, but I am not really strong enough to ask her to—pay more attention to my issues? Is that expecting too much?
I visited another close friend for a week, almost right after that hospitalization, because the trip had been planned months earlier. I sort of briefly told her what was up (may have done so in a cold way that discouraged further inquiry—see above). I felt enormously alienated during that trip—she was sick and slightly behind on work, but what transpired is that time we had hoped to spend together didn't happen, she spent a lot of time with her boyfriend, I didn't have the energy to socialize with her friends that she'd introduced to me, so I isolated myself alone in a room for most of the trip and felt acutely miserable. I recognize I could have communicated my needs better and she had other stuff to deal with. The whole incident still hurt, and I have also withdrawn from trying to be close to her.
I think both these incidents have made me gun-shy. I think even when I do reach out, if someone's response is not immediately satisfying and "good enough", I retreat and withdraw because I'm afraid. But I can't withdraw from everyone! Essentially—I think I am bringing a ton of weird hangups into this that are holding me back from confiding in friends. I would be grateful for advice on how to fix this.