Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Struggle with depression is hard; don't sell yourself short
Virginia: I have lost contact with almost all of my friends because I have been struggling with depression for the last few years.
I really isolated myself and felt that I was getting nowhere in life (still renting rather than owning a house, no love life, and no marriage and children), while all around me people are moving forward in their careers, relationships, etc.
How should I go about re-establishing contact with these friends, several of whom found me through my Facebook account? How should I explain my long absence? I am also lost on how to explain that my circumstances haven't changed much in the past five or six years.
I wish I could tell them just what a struggle it has been to keep my job while treating the depression, and therefore I have had nothing left for other things.
Carolyn: Why can't you? They like you enough to seek you out — and while a Facebook hello isn't exactly a promise to walk by your side for life, it does indicate that they haven't cut you from their lives in a huff. So far so good.
It also indicates you're not so depressed that you won't create a Facebook account, which suggests you want to be found, which suggests you want to reconnect, which suggests you have already thought about what you're going to say about your long absences, which suggests you just want validation. Certainly you have mine.
Add to that the prevalence and growing understanding of depression, and I find it hard to believe there wouldn't be at least a few friends among your old crowd who have first- or secondhand experience with the illness.
And so you wouldn't have to explain as much as you thought, which then might not drain you as much socially.
And in the event you have a 100 percent unenlightened crowd, then you'll remember there was another reason you didn't reach out to these people for so long.
As for your unchanged circumstances, another rhetorical question: Why would anybody care? There's no shame in anything you say — renting, being single, not having children.
If anything, the ones who have some societal explaining to do are the ones who grab at milestones because they feel they have to, and not because they're the right choice for them personally.
But even then, I hesitate to condemn them, too, since the more charitable frame of mind is to see people of all kinds as taking their best shot with the life experience that's available to them at the time — married, single, divorced, unmarried but paired. A little relief from social comparisons would do us all good, methinks.
For you, the person to view in this more charitable frame of mind is yourself. You're fighting a huge battle. If it were cancer, you wouldn't think twice about patting yourself on the back for your effort.
The disease itself is no doubt affecting your self-image, but please try to muscle past that and see you have nothing to hide or excuse.
Tomorrow, readers weigh in.