January 5: The Airing of the Gratitude

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 8.04.44 PMThis is my holiday yard card. Yard cards are kind of a thing in my town.

Since the holidays are over, I’m getting ready to take it down now. But I can’t help but get a little weepy when I think about how it got up there in the first place.

My friend and I went together and painted our respective boards in the storefront dedicated to the yard card workshop. When the designs were finished and the paint was dry, we were sent home with the cards and a fairly cryptic sheet explaining how we were supposed to attach posts to the wood and illuminate the card with a spotlight. This was just before Thanksgiving.

Two weeks later, the same friend and I were having lunch, and I confessed to her that my yard card still hadn’t been put on display. I explained that power tools weren’t exactly my forte under the best of circumstances, let alone during the pit of depression I was currently experiencing.

“I have my drill in the car,” she said. “I’ll swing by Home Depot and get you everything you need, then come by and set it all up for you.”

And she did.

And I cried.

It was such a beautiful gesture.

She didn’t stop there. She texted me several times over the next two weeks to find out how I was doing. She invited me to go out with her, even though it was freezing cold and we were in the throes of holiday madness.

Shortly after the yard card assembly, another friend texted me. “I’m at Walgreen’s. I want to bring you a treat. What do you want?” I wanted to respond with the standard “Oh, don’t worry about me,” but I decided I needed to let her do something nice for me. I asked her to bring me Mike & Ikes. Soon a bag containing three different varieties of Mike & Ikes, plus a box of tea, showed up on my doorstep.

That friend kept texting me through the coming weeks, too. “How are you?” “I’m worried about you.”

It’s important when friends recognize that depression takes a long time to get better. It’s important when they keep checking on you and showing their support.

Another friend of mine, on a rare balmy 50-degree day in December, offered to walk laps around the park with me while our children played on the playground. She listened. She said, “This isn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter that you have a good life. Depression is something you just get.”

I also have friends I only know online. They g-chatted and Facebook messaged their support almost daily. You can send a lot of love through cyberspace.

And I have a friend who never failed to be there for me, even though I know she was going through some of her own difficult stuff. The brutally honest, tear-filled, soul-baring conversations we had were some of the most meaningful interactions I’ve ever had with another human being. It’s going to be okay, she told me over and over, even though I don’t know if she always believed it herself. That’s love.

Why am I telling you all this? I’m not usually a fan of the public shout-outs—I think if you want to thank somebody, you should do it privately. But I wanted to go public with my gratitude because I want to emphasize how important friends can be when you’re facing depression. If you are the depressed one, try to reach out to a friend, even though I know that’s a really difficult thing to do. If your friend is depressed, send a text or email and ask if he or she is okay—and do it often. Take the friend out somewhere low-key, or just offer to sit in the friend’s house and talk.

No friend can cure a friend’s depression. That’s an awful realization I have come to again and again. Whether you are the depressed one or your friend is, there is nothing one friend can say or do that will automatically make the pain go away.

But a friend’s small gesture can go a long way. Because sometimes your friend is propping up more than just a wooden board in your front yard.

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