I know they are only trying to help.
And I want to be helped. Or so I say. But is that true? Am I feeling so guilty and embarrassed about talking to someone about my depression that I am pushing away those who want to help? I did that with two therapists, and now I am close to pushing away my peer advocate.
They are professionals who are in my life to help me learn to help myself.
And I am afraid to let them in. Afraid to answer the phone when they call. Even as I see the name on my caller ID, I am sure I will let it go to voice mail. And I justify this in any number of ways. The “I’m at work so I will call back when I get a minute” is always a classic go-to.
Somehow, I never get around to making that return call.
Then the next time she calls, I feel guilty for not answering the phone when she called yesterday. It is all my fault; she is doing what I agreed that I wanted her to do. She is calling to talk, to check up on me and how I am feeling. All of this is good and makes me feel heard and cared about.
So why am I pushing this help away?
What can I do differently to stop this isolation from intensifying? I recognize that a pattern is forming, and I am the weakest link. In fact, I am the only link. When things get real, I get going. I’m not interested in sharing my feelings, pouring my guts out onto the stage for everyone to see.
So far, I have skirted around blaming depression for my thoughts and feelings.
Maybe I am not even a patient. Perhaps I’m a client or an appointment, a number, quota, or a session that can be booked and paid out to someone. I guess what I am is not important.
How I am acting is what’s important.
And I am acting foolishly. How can I justify treating people as casually as I am doing? They are attempting to engage me in conversation. The intent is to help, to offer anything I might need to lead a balanced life with depression. And yet I am finding it impossible to speak with them. Even when I find the courage, I begin by making an excuse about why I can only talk a minute.
“You know I am at work, and I need to get back to it soon.”
I set up the interaction with a clear understanding that I am going to leave as soon as I get the opportunity. There is no way that I am going to ask questions, give sprawling, long-winded answers to questions, or engage in idle chatter. Ask your questions, I will give short succinct answers and we will be done.
No muss, no fuss, and I am outta here.
Now I am having a flashback to my attitude about company Christmas parties. I plan a holiday party “drive-by,” but never commit to staying for the entire event. I always put in an appearance and shake a few hands, but then I get the heck out of there. It’s not the people, it’s just all the talking and listening and hearing and responding.
All of this for me is a ton of serious, serious work.
I did make it almost to the end of a party one year. However, I saw a chance to leave and I went. I even left all my raffle tickets for prizes with another manager. There was no way I was going to ask them to watch my tickets and give me any prizes I might win. So, I just gave the raffle tickets to my friend and said “they are all yours, best of luck!” And of course, they won a nice prize from my tickets.
It doesn’t surprise me that I am pulling the same stuff with my therapists, and peer support professionals.
Wanting to be a part of things, to share in the occasion attracts me. Yet seeing it through to the end is often very, very draining. It is expected that senior managers attend holiday parties. Employees understand that those managers who attend are interested in the success of the organization and of supporting employee events. Yet for me, attending events, including parties is more a sense of duty.
Showing up for appointments I have made falls under this sense of duty.
If I say I am going to do something, I feel obligated to meet it, to accomplish it. But I often struggle to be present. Not meeting my commitments would be embarrassing and I would feel guilty about it. And as I dance around appointments , I can see that I am finding ways to not commit to a new appointment. This involves justifying my excuses and using unhelpful thinking to rationalize my decision.
It is fear that keeps me from setting these appointments.
Fear, dread, and worry over what I might say. Depression often leads the way in this type of thinking. Once I get it in my head that the appointment could lead to something, depression helps me figure a way to not make the appointment. If I don’t make the appointment, then I do not need to feel guilty for not keeping it. And not feeling guilty makes me feel OK. The fact that I am cheating myself out of the resources, tools, and professional help I have available to me, is immaterial.