If only I didn’t suffer from this debilitating depression, I thought. But I was often asked to hang out with my best friend, Rita, on days when I didn’t really feel like it. Rita, with curly, red hair, came knocking on my door sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, and sometimes in the evening. I never knew when chipper Rita would come, either in person or on the telephone, and want to have some fun.
“Rita,” I said. “I wasn’t expecting you.” But I was. And I hid my sigh. Not that I didn’t love Rita, but I was experiencing symptoms of tiredness and the desire to cry, all the time, and I had to muster energy just to talk to her. I wanted to be uplifting and fun, but it was so hard.
“Hi Melissa! You’ve just got to hear the latest news about Carla! She’s getting married, and she wants me to come.”
“That’s wonderful, Rita,” I said, my voice low and weak, but Rita wasn’t able to pick up on the sarcasm.
“Don’t you want to come with me to pick out a new outfit?”
Normally, I would pretend to have energy and say, “Sure,” but I was feeling more tired than usual. In fact, my thoughts ruminated about my mother, how we never got along growing up, how I didn’t live with anyone else in the apartment and got lonely, how nothing good ever seemed to happen in my life, and how I was no fun and worthless.
How could I tell Rita what I was experiencing? And she was the nicest person I had ever known. That’s why we became best friends. We’d known each other for fifteen years, and our friendship never ended. I said, “I’m sorry, Rita, but I can’t come. I’m not feeling well. I can’t possibly do it. Please go without me.”
Rita frowned. “What’s wrong, Melissa?”
Tears formed in the corners of my eyes. “I can’t tell you.” And it was because I couldn’t put it into words what I was feeling. I felt a physical ache in my stomach, and the emotions were like a fist clenching the insides, so that it was hard for me to let them out; in fact, I didn’t know if I ever could. So, I asked her to leave, watched her leave, and intended to lie down on my bed and curl up until I could go back to sleep.
But I thought about the many years we had been friends, playing on the swing set, going to school dances together, hanging out at the roller rink to skate, eat pizza and drink colas, and even going to the same college. I loved her so much; in fact, in the past, we had had so much fun together that we once promised that we would never lose touch with one another. But I couldn’t see a future for us now. I couldn’t see how I could ever be the fun, upbeat person she needed. I cried so often, when she wasn’t there, that I realized I had a problem, and I wanted help. Because, what if that swing set, the one we both played on, was missing a friend in one of the seats? I couldn’t let that happen. I thought about her, and how I loved her so much that I could not allow myself to drift away in a spiral of sorrow. I could not tear my picture out of the photographs of us together, because it would leave an empty place in her life. I could not leave her. I didn’t want to hurt her. I didn’t see a future for us together, but I wanted to see one. I needed someone to help me do that.
So, I came to realize, that day, that even when we have a wonderful family, great friends, and an amazing support system, sometimes we need a little extra help. That day I made a telephone call to my doctor and told her I thought I had depression and was experiencing suicidal thoughts. My doctor agreed to have me in for an appointment, and immediately I felt a little better, because I knew that help was coming. I immediately felt better also because I knew that I had made the right decision. I visualized the sun of hope coming up from the horizon in my very near future, and I felt more at peace. The good-bye I had said to Rita earlier was not a permanent good-bye, even though I worried that maybe it was. Help would bring us back together. We would always be friends, and no obstacle, even mental illness, could be stronger than the true love we had for one another. I was glad.