Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How friendship helps.

friendship animated GIF

The Atlantic has an article up today on How Friendship Fights Depression.

Having friends definitely helps pull you out from depressions knack for keeping you alone. It's also a great distraction from yourself. 

I know in my case, a lot of the time I get into a cycle or thought pattern I can't really talk myself out of, or I'll isolate myself. Having a friend invite you out or visit you can really help. They also offer a space for me to enjoy life, which is something I can't always do. They're a retreat from myself. They're another person I get to discover and bounce off of.

Sometimes it's just a friend texting you that they care, and that they're around if you need them. Sometimes it's expressing something you're thinking, and then seeing that your cemented mentality is not the be-all end-all. 

The article points to a recent study that showed positivity and good humour can spread through a social group and that "high-quality social relationships lower people’s risk of depression."

The references Allie Brosh, author of the Hyperbole and a Half comics, who says friends just want to  help make you feel better:
People want to help,so they try harder to make you feel hopeful and positive about the situation … The positivity starts coming out in a spray—a giant, desperate happiness sprinkler pointed directly at your face. And it keeps going like that until you're having this weird argument where you're trying to convince the person that you are far too hopeless for hope just so they'll give up on their optimism crusade and let you go back to feeling bored and lonely by yourself.
I've often felt this way. This person talking to you about hope when really it's a word with no real meaning any-more. I have a lot in the past with a friend I no longer keep in contact with. He's a good guy, but he had zero comprehension of depression and was big on the "it's all in your mind/you control your thoughts" - crap. I often felt patronized and thought he was reductive and just didn't get it. There was no real empathy there. So, intent is a big part.
One theory of social support and depression suggests that whether relationships have a positive effect depends on whether the person feels like the relationship is meeting their basic psychological needs ... and gives the example of friends helping a depressed person with chores and errands. That could make the person feel better, but only if she sees it as an expression of love, rather than something that’s taking away her control over her own life.
This is something I've offered to a friend of mine who lives with fibromyalgia, so I'm happy to hear it's an official recommendation of science (!). As I've become older relationships have become more about mutual support, empathy, helping, spending time together for joy and enjoyment. Totally different. I'm not interesting in anything that doesn't improve and lighten my life.

It can be really difficult. I often feel like a bummer and a drag. I feel like a burden to my friends and family. Especially my mother, but even with friends. It can't be easy. The SNL Debbie Downer skits are a funny version of what I often feel like. Granted, at my darkest points I isolate myself, but even on mid-level depression days, there's no getting through to me. What can someone else do for me, really? Usually when I reach out, it's because I feel alone and afraid. I don't need friends who aren't able to empathize with that.

No more drama. Just kindness. Just people who like each other and help each other out out of consideration and concern. Making friends is hard. You grow and change. Keeping friends isn't always natural. Growth and change reinforce that. But some friendships surprise you and grow into something unexpected. I think I have some really great friends. And I hope I can be there for them, and be present in our friendships. I wish that kind of friendship for everyone. 

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