The first time I fell in love, I lost my best friend over it.
You see, I was in love with the wrong person – a charming, charismatic, entrepreneurial former-football star who talked about moving to Spain and who led me on for years, drawing me in and then pushing me away again, feeding me off his fork and then telling me he’d slept with a girl from work.
I was, as you might expect, an emotional wreck.
Of course, I turned to my best friend, constantly working through details, pouring my heart out, looking for some insight that would make this horrible yo-yoing stop (because I wasn’t strong enough to stop it myself).
And very quietly, my best friend started to withdraw. She was suddenly unavailable for coffee dates and dinner parties and movie nights. She would offer vague plans and then fail to answer her phone.
I felt more and more isolated. I kept telling myself she was just busy.
Then one day I stopped lying to myself and I called her in tears. What happened? I asked.
She told me I was a downer and she was tired of hearing about my boy problems.
And so my heart, in its already-vulnerable, confused state, learned that it could actually drive people away. My sadness was a sickness, something to be avoided. I still wasn’t allowed to be imperfect or broken. My needs didn’t deserve to be met.
I was, in short, a burden.
I’ve struggled with this idea of being a burden for years. During my most difficult struggles with depression, this was one of the commonest themes. It was my excuse for not letting people in, for not telling anyone about my worst struggles.
I didn’t want to burden them.
And I really didn’t want them to leave.
This is something that I still struggle with today. I make intentional decisions to share my sadness, to be vulnerable, and I find it utterly freeing. But there’s still a soft voice in the back of my mind concerned about being a burden.
And it turns out that that voice is in the back of a lot of other people’s minds as well.
According to Professor Thomas Joiner, it’s one of the most common ideas that precedes suicide.
Which is why I wanted to bring it up today.
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week and this year I’d like to add my voice to the thousands out there to tell you that:
You are not alone.
You are valuable.
You are lovable.
You are not a burden.
Sharing your struggles is brave, not burdensome.
If someone abandons you, if they can’t handle your sadness, that is their burden, not yours.
And if you are struggling with sadness, depression, or suicide? It’s okay to ask for help. Make an appointment with a therapist (mine has changed my life). Have a conversation with a friend. Call a suicide prevention hotline. Give someone the chance to surprise you with their depth of love and understanding.
And know that, if nothing else, I understand. I’ve struggled with depression for years. As the Italians say, “I’ve felt that on my own skin.”