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  • Writer's pictureTara Vaughan

Build Me A Fort

Suffering from severe depression, anxiety and sometimes-even suicidality can be scary. But it’s not just me that this can affect, my friends and family can also get the brunt of it and I’m not great at helping myself by telling them what they can do. I know my family doesn’t have a clue what to do. My mother feels utterly useless and that everything she tries to do seems to be wrong, she asks me why she can’t ever get it right but it’s not really about getting it right. I know that my family and friends can feel scared, frustrated and helpless, especially when around me.

I’m not really sure what it’s like to be the support system in this scenario. What is it like for the person who’s experiencing the depression and anxiety second hand? I feel for you because you have a complete lack of control over the situation. Essentially you are trying to reason with an unreasonable being because depression and anxiety is unreasonable, unfathomable and unexplainable and it doesn’t follow any linear logic so you probably feel very helpless as well as feeling very sad and desperate to help me or anyone else you know suffering with this illness. I imagine at times, that you can feel frustrated and pissed off and just wanting me to get better and to love live again and to join you back in a happy and fulfilled life. But sadly it’s not that easy.

The only thing that I can think of to suggest is that you are endlessly patient and kind. When it’s not a sickness that you can see it’s very easy for loved ones to snap and say “well what can I do? What do I do to make you better? How can we make you better?” and to me, that is the worst thing that you can do but I understand that it is a human reaction that comes out of desperation. My brother Jeremy told a friend of ours that “I need to snap out of it”, she turned around and told him it’s not as simple as that.

You can’t be logical and problem solving because that would be very reductive and frustrating for me because often this just descends on me, I have no reason why this is happening and therefore trying to search for a secret logic, you just wont find it and it will just make me feel more frustrated. You just have to keep being there, keep seeing me, keep talking to me, don’t force me to talk if I don’t want to. Sometimes just the presence of someone can be very soothing. Remember that you need support as well because you might find me upsetting and traumatic. If you can be as strong and supportive as you can then that will help.

Right now I am not someone who can be relied upon emotional or physically. You can expect me to cancel the day before or the day of because I feel too horrific to go to something. I am not a friend to be relied on right now. I am not a friend who is going to be reliable because everything is so incredibly up in the air with what is going on with me in my life right now.

Nobody can tell someone else or should tell someone else how they should feel so remember that even if it doesn’t seem like I should be feeling the way I am feeling no one else can negate or blame or tell someone how or what or why they feel a certain way. And this is also actually outside of anxiety and depression, this is something that we all need to remember, if someone reacts to something or has an emotional response that is unfathomable to you that doesn’t mean that they’re not allowed to feel it or that they’re wrong for feeling it. You have to respond to someone’s emotional reaction and everyone responds differently when it comes to emotions and the world.

You are not my keeper and neither can you be. If someone is in that frame of mind there is nothing that you can do to stop them so you mustn’t feel the weight of that responsibility. All that you can do is try to bring me back to myself. Help me to feel less alone. Help me to feel like I’m safe and help me to feel like I have someone to talk to but you can’t feel that you are my sole savior.

Whether you are reading this because you know me or because it relates to another friend of family member with this illness remember to put my (their) safety first. If you feel like I (they) are in a bad place, perhaps suicidal, then you should call whoever you need to call, whether it’s family or a hospital or parents you are being proactive and that is great. If you don’t feel comfortable calling family then there are other places that you can call, like the Samaritans. You should never feel like the weight of my life is in your hands because I would not want you to feel like that. Just keep being there with me.

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