Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The value of friends

How many friends do you have? And I'm not talking about Facebook. I'm talking about face-to-face, actual relationship friends. I count three. I have three close friends.

Of those 3 friends I think 2 would also list me as a close friend. The third friend has so many other friends I'm not sure I would make the top three. Nevertheless, I count her as a close friend of mine. Like the other two, my third friend is always there when I need her. We can go months without talking yet pick up right where we left off. There is a mutual respect and understanding between each of my friends and I, with no judgement and few expectations. I value each of them, and they each bring different beauty to my life.

Why am I thinking about friendship this morning? Well I just read a very interesting interview with a scientist, a scientist who studies friendship. Who knew? The scientist and author, Lydia Denworth, just published a book detailing the results of her research. I'm feeling a sense of relief after reading about her findings because I typically feel friendship is just one more area where I fail.

Perhaps like a few of you, I have some persistent feelings of not measuring up when it comes to relationships. I often wonder if I'd have more friends if I didn't have severe and persistent depression. I'm guilty of comparing myself to others. Those comparisons invariably lead me to determine that having (only) 3 friends is a weakness. It's bad, and it's indicative of my unworthiness.

This assumption of unworthiness is further reinforced by the fact that I'm single. I'm old and single. I've been single most of my life. Would that be different if depression wasn't stalking my every move? Well you can guess my answer to that question. After all, my longest, most intimate and stable relationship ended after I was diagnosed with depression. Proof!

I don't think I'm detailing unusual thoughts and feelings here, especially among those of us with depression. Depression is certainly not a selling point when it comes to relationships. And depression clouds our thinking when it comes to our self worth. Hell, it flat out lies! So feeling less-than is routine for most of us, regardless of whether it's true or not.

Among its many lies depression convinces me I should have more friends, closer friends, friends banging down my door, blah, blah, blah... But it's not true! And now there is research to support that fact. Ms. Denworth would say I'm actually doing okay in the friendship arena. According to her research having (only) 3 close friends is, dare I say it, normal!

Per her research, "On average, people have only four very close relationships, and very few people can sustain more than six." More importantly, Ms. Denworth notes the many proven health benefits of having close friendships. There are benefits to many aspects of our physical health, not just our mental health. She has some interesting observations about social media and middle school, too. (Ugh! Middle school--wouldn't do that again for a million bucks!) I encourage you to check out her research if, like me, you think you don't measure up. Maybe, just maybe, depression is lying to you, too.

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