Dear Friend (is it still okay to call you that?)
I have been a lousy friend to you and I’m sorry.
I miss you.
Years ago, depression came out of nowhere and knocked me to my knees. It felt as though overnight, I turned from a lifelong member of our friendship circle into someone who felt so incredibly unworthy of your friendship.
So very ashamed of my illness. And also ashamed of the way it made me feel and then how those feelings ruled my behaviour.
Not understanding enough about what I was going through, it simply felt easier to decline invitations, to hide away and to spare you all the trouble, the trouble that I felt I was. I didn’t want to be a burden to you, to ruin the fun times, to be a source of worry.
As time passed and I became more poorly, I felt as though I’d set you free from it all. As though, in my depression-warped mind, I was being a good friend in saving you from this new lacklustre version of me, from the awkwardness of navigating this new frightening landscape and the negativity that had invaded my mind and was bound to seep out into all that I would do. It felt safer to withdraw from our friendship, from many other friendships and well, life really. As my self-confidence took a battering, you became higher up on the pedestal you were already on. Why on earth would you want to be my friend?The fear of rejection was so acute, it gave depression power and became it’s own self-fulfilling prophecy. I see photos of you all, celebrating marriages, christenings, school reunions and landmark birthdays and I know I should be there. I yearn to be there.
Many years have now passed. Ironically, my actions which served to protect you, did the exact opposite. My understanding of depression has increased and I realise too, that I didn’t consider how hurtful my actions might be. How hurt you’d feel that I’d cut our friendship off, that I’d “checked out”. How confusing that must have been for you, that your loyal friend became prickly and flaky. How I wasn’t giving you a chance to care, to be a friend. How my many excuses must have felt as though I was fobbing you off. How you must have felt you’d done something wrong.
If I could turn back the clock, I would probably write you a letter to explain what I was going through at the time. I would hope that might have sparked a conversation between us and that we could navigate the hell of depression between us, as a team. We’d still be friends, perhaps even stronger than before because by opening the door of vulnerability to you, it would have allowed you to do the same.
I’m so sorry.