Today was R U OK Day here in Australia. It’s a day promoted by the foundation of the same name, “a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging all people to regularly and meaningfully ask ‘are you ok?’ to support those struggling with life”, as they put it. They believe suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility.
Over the past few days I have shared a fair number of their posts on Facebook so it would be almost impossible for any of my friends there to not know it was on. It would also be impossible for anyone who knows me to be unaware that I have been fighting major depression for the last eighteen months.
Socialisation is so good for me. Getting out and talking to people and connecting to the world. As I’ve mentioned Jessi just turned 21 and her 21st birthday party was better than drugs. It had a knock on effect, I felt better after the party so I managed to get some serious tasks done and that also made me feel better. Of course it eventually faded.
I also have to admit that I am not the best social companion at the moment. I am prone to spending at least part of the time telling you about how terrible I feel and my current anxieties, though not all the time. I will, as an example from a recent drink and a meal with a friend showed, be perfectly happy to spend half an hour on a pointless argument about the digital review system in international cricket or listening to how you are going and some of your troubles.
I now find it difficult to try organising or asking for social connections. It only took a few misses, knock-backs and last minute cancellations before I found myself with a terrible anxiety about rejection. I have tried to make it clear that I would really like social contacts from small gatherings to just a cup of coffee or a drink with a friend.
Given all that how many of my friends do you think were reminded today that they haven’t talked to me on the phone or made any contact apart from Facebook in many months? Don’t know the answer to that but I can tell you that not one actually picked up the phone.
It’s pretty easy to find yourself feeling lonely and isolated when you’re suffering depression. I don’t have a full time job at the moment so I can sometimes go weeks without talking to anyone apart from Jessica or the people in the supermarket. Beating myself up is easy. Feeling that nobody cares and nothing helps is all too familiar. Having a day like today makes it almost impossible to not think of myself as friendless, worthless and a failure.
In case you’re wondering, yes I did. I rang a friend who lives at a long distance and spent a few minutes checking how he had been going. He’s fine, a new job has lifted him out of his hole. Oh, and to my friends, don’t feel guilty, that’s not what this is about and you were (obviously) not the only one.
Please, if you know someone going through a rough time then make sure you stay in touch. If you really care then you might even want to put a repeating entry into your calendar, “Phone Steve”. Google Calendar even allows you to have something repeat with a gap in any number of days so you can set it to some number like 17 or 23 so your friend doesn’t think “Pete rings every third Friday”. Then be prepared for a little real conversation, be ready to arrange a cup of coffee or a drink. If you go to the R U OK Day website they have some tips on how to do that.
You could save a life. Perhaps even mine.