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.”
Beautifully put. I hope you remember this every day as well.
I might also recommend (if you haven’t seen it yet) Brene Brown’s TED talk on Vulnerability.
Thanks. And yes – love that TED talk! Her book is also quite good.
Very powerful and important words! Thank you for sharing your experience and helping others know that they are not invisible and that they are valuable.
Yes, a wonderful essay, as are all of your blogs.. If I might chip in something….? Having had numerous loveable, valuable, cherished (yet burdened) friends, attracting them magnetically with my social worker personality, LOL, you might try real hard to listen to yourself in the context of “having a dialogue” when you are with them. When you’re really feeling low, about all you CAN do is share your troubles. Those friends who are in that frame of mind get my full attention, and I don’t expect an actual dialogue at that lunch hour. Just remember to ask them about themselves from time to time. You’re a strong one, dear. You’ll make it!
Thanks for the addition!
This was perfect. Such simple and necessary words: You are not a burden. Thank you. I am very open with my history of depression almost immediately upon befriending or starting to date someone. If they can’t handle where I’ve been, I don’t need them around in the future. We deserve people in our lives who will love and respect every part of us. And they are out there.
I very much understand what you went through. I went through a very dark time due to my exhusband. We got divorced and I was crushed both emotionally and just feeling that no matter what I did I would never be happy again. I had a good friend who also got divorced and understood my pain she was there for me and I later passed it on by being there for another friend who was getting divorced.
I lost a part of my soul it took really looking in the mirror to see that I had lost a part of myself and from that day I decided that I didnt need a guy to make me happy I choose to love myself instead.
Thanks for the post and if no one else is there for you just email me I will be.
“I choose to love myself instead” < -- love that. So important. And thank you.
Beautifully written. I lost my best friend due to being called a burden as well. When I was 16, we ended up in the same class in (the Norwegian equivalent of) high school. However she ended up sitting right in front of another “friend” of ours, who constantly fed her stories about how I was so clingy and such a burden… Eventually I confronted her (our mutual friend’s attempts at making inside jokes with her about me being a total drag weren’t too hard to decipher) and she admitted she was too weak to resist the other girl. I ended up taking a year out of school to get away from all that toxicity, and spent a year at a music folk high school in Norway instead. That year wasn’t great, but it was invaluable, it changed my life and gave me so much self-confidence. I made a great friend there who was my next door neighbour in the hall of residence I lived in, but lost her when I started pulling away – I was terrified of her finding me clingy!
Wow. Didn’t mean to write this much – this blog post just really resonated with me. Thanks again for your beautiful words. xx
I also struggled for as long as I can remember with depression. The turning point for me in regard to self-help rather than hoping that someone could fix me was when a mother volunteered to speak to me at a free clinic. After the session the psychiatrist told me she was struggling with depression herself because her runaway son had been killed 6 months before by a bear while tent camping. It put my “feelings” in perspective. I say “feelings” rather than “problems” because I really had no problems to cause the depression. It made me feel so “guilty” that I was whining and crying to this woman who had suffered such a devastating loss. It didn’t make the depression go away, but I cleaned up my diet, practiced Yoga and exercised like mad–and didn’t talk to anyone, family or friends, about my feelings. I kept on surviving for my family. Eight years later I discovered much to my amazement that food allergies caused my problem, and felt incredibly “GIFTED” by God that I wasn’t crazy after all…LOL. When there is no hope, there really is.
This is a really interesting point. I wonder how much food is a culprit when it comes to the rise of depression in the US.
I’m sorry for your struggles. Glad you’re doing well.
[…] many, many people (including myself) is not only a feeling of disconnection, but an unwillingness to burden anyone with our struggles – a decision that only drives us deeper into […]
Your issue with your friend doesn’t cross gender boundaries, so my observation may not hold, but one thing I’ve noticed when put into the situation of your friend is that I will often offer advice, especially if asked but often just in response to the person’s opening up about their problem. I know – a very male characteristic.
Now, I don’t expect people to always take my advice, but when I’ve offered the same advice 5 times and they never take it, I lose interest in hearing about the problem. And ultimately I start to lose interest in being around that person – not because I don’t like them but because they ask for help, induce me to emote with them, ignore my help and then repeat the cycle.
Opening up to other people with your problems/issues/etc. is great and is something we should all do. But hand in hand with that is an obligation to at least try to *do* something with the help those people offer.
Again – I’m not saying this applies to your long-ago situation, but I’ve certainly seen it happen with people around me.
Beautiful posting, Gigi. Validation of our worth shouldn’t be so necessary, but there it is.
Rob, you may not have nailed it when you said its a male characteristic, but my husband feels the same way as you when his advice, so hard won, is “ignored.” Just because you think you have the answers doesn’t mean that is right, or right at the time, for the person to whom you are offering it. We accept what we can, when we can, but acceptance must first come from within.
As a wise young woman told me, “Mom, I’m not wanting you to solve my problems. I just need to talk.”