This past weekend I learned that two of my friends are having a very hard time of things. My natural reaction is concern and worry. Unfortunately, there is little I can do to help either of them. One is too far away for me to help with anything other than a kind word of support, which they probably wouldn't have the time or energy to read. I'm basically powerless as they cry. At least their problem is tangible and understandable.
The other is going through some kind of personal identity crisis I don't fully understand. There's this feeling of immense pressure to do and have it all. They're bummed out because they aren't where they think they should be at this stage in life. There are some family issues, too. They're stressed out and exhausted and "just going through some stuff." They'll "be fine" because it's "not like a serious depression." And that "it" runs in the family. They were unable to fully explain how it differs from just normal stress or sum it up in one sentence or one feeling. I don't fully understand what is wrong. I don't understand this "it." Are there varying levels of depression? Because it sounds an awful lot like the big D to me.
The hard part is, these friends of mine are trying to do everything themselves instead of reaching out, talking to someone or trying to keep things in perspective. They are (or have been in the past) on medication for anxiety and depression. They are crying and drinking. Apparently it's been going on for a while and they are just now telling their close friends. I'm worried that both of them are downplaying their problems so I won't worry about them. (Um, that doesn't work. It just makes me worry even more.) So other than telling them I am here for them, and encouraging them to get some help, I don't know what else to do. This kind of behavior is totally foreign to me. I honestly cannot relate.
I have no history of depression, anxiety or any other mental disease in my family. None of us take medication or go to therapy. Trust me, I am grateful for this. And I'm not saying that we don't need it in my family! I just have zero experience with this kind of stuff. The closest we come in my family is what we like to call "The Irish Blues."
My genetic make-up is 2/3 Irish, and my mother is a drama queen, so according to her, we all have this special disorder: In a nutshell, we get bummed out in my family if we aren't productive little monkeys all the time. Sounds weird, I know. When I start having negative thoughts or feeling bummed, I realize that it's because I haven't done anything remotely productive or even looked at my To-Do List in weeks and now I'm feeling like a worthless human. Either that or I'm hormonal. (Why do we think so negatively when we are PMSing?) All it takes is for me to jump up and run a few errands. Voila! Back to normal. It is just that simple.
Don't get me wrong. We suffer from grief in my family, like when my little brother died. And when WLF (my dad) died eight months later. But after a couple of months of being kind of melancholy, it's back to normal. Not that we behave like it never even happened, but it's pretty close. The Czarina (mom) lost both of her parents when she was 21. To this day, she does not talk about it. I know very little about them because she won't discuss them. It makes me sad, but I understand. She is an extremely strong woman and this is her coping strategy. She wouldn't be able to do it otherwise. Some people see this as unhealthy, but it's just the way my family deals with stuff. I'm not as bad as her, but I'm close. Maybe sometimes it's good to repress, because I'm doing pretty well considering the past two years have been total hell on my family.
I have friends who have lost parents, siblings, grandparents, good friends, etc. Some of them talk about it all the time and are having a hard time moving on with their lives. I can understand this completely. I know parents who have kept the lost child's room exactly as it appeared when the child was alive. Again, I can understand this. It's just not how I cope. I look at their behavior and think, "Woah, that's not healthy." But I'm sure they look at my coping strategy and think the same thing.
Why is it so (relatively) easy for me? I feel guilty that after a couple of months, I was ok. One friend of mine still cries about losing her brother two years ago. It's not that it doesn't even cross my mind. I miss WLF and my brother all the time. And I'm sure The Czarina misses them too. But we've been there, done that. We've moved on. We rarely cry about it and we haven't needed therapy or medication. We don't talk about it, really. They are not forgotten, but we're not dwelling either. Why is my family so different? Are we callous, unfeeling people? Are we in denial to the point of absurdity? Or are we just extremely strong and really good at coping? Are we normal? Or are the other people normal?
Overall, I am a really happy person. Very little gets me down. (Notice I said "down" not "pissed off".) There are a few things I want to change about my life, but no life is perfect. I'm employed, healthy, loved, safe, etc. I'm grateful that I don't have to worry about much and I have very little stress in my life. I try to keep it this way, too, and make decisions accordingly. I try to keep stuff in perspective and stay grounded. (Maybe I just have low standards for myself!) So how do I deal when people I love don't see things this way? How do you tell someone to keep stuff in perspective when they obviously can't? How can I help them when I don't understand them?