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Conquering Depression Together

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“Nothing.” With this word, my small flame of hope that this time she would tell me what’s wrong was extinguished. This same word had been trickling out of my best friend’s mouth for the past five months, along with “whatever,” “I don’t know” and the worst, “I don’t care.” Who was this blank-faced girl in front of me? When did she become so unemotional and lifeless? I barely recognized her as the formerly bright and optimistic best friend whom I’ve known and spent the best years of my life with. Since the beginning of the school year, we’d done nothing but sit listlessly in my basement, me half-heartedly throwing out suggestions of things to do, and her shooting every one of them down. School was something she rarely showed up to, and seeing her outside her house on a Friday night was an occurrence rarer than a solar eclipse. I’d been badgering her for weeks to let me in, to tell me what’s wrong, but my attempts were always met with the same, impassive “nothing.” I slowly turned and retreated out of her room, ready to call my attempt at intervention a failure, when I spotted her mom outside, waiting for me in the driveway. She called me over to her and my heartbeat quickened. I knew she was about to reveal the truth that I’d been chiseling away at for months. She opened her mouth to answer the question I’d been asking myself for months, and that one word cleared up all my questions, replacing them with a new set of worries and challenges that would provide the ultimate test for our friendship: depression.

The shock washed over me, and while my body went numb, my mind buzzed uncontrollably; everything fell into place. The unhappiness, the lethargy, and the tiny disagreements we’d had that blossomed into full-fledged fights, they all suddenly made sense. One in five teenagers experience some kind of depression, but I still never believed it would happen to me, or someone I was so close to. My shock quickly transformed into guilt and remorse. How had I not recognized the symptoms? The past few months had been full of hardships, as she struggled through family issues and lost two of our classmates in a fatal car crash. Was I really that bad of a friend that I hadn’t put this all together? My friend’s mother, a teacher and friend to me for years, recognized my feelings instantly, but her insists that I not blame myself did nothing to subside my self-reproach. As I drove home that night I knew our friendship had changed, and I allowed myself to be consumed by a whirlwind of memories of the easy friendship we had had before the sickness. Family vacations that we had convinced our parents to spend together, sleepovers that consisted of anything but sleep, and the nights we stayed in together, eating our weight in white chocolate chips and talking about what the future would be like. So many memories of the easier days, before this monster had entered our lives and threatened to wreck the relationship we had built. Now I could hardly remember the last time we had laughed together, or the last smile that had lit up my best friend’s face. But it was then that I made the decision that this would not be something that I would let beat us, and so I took action.

The next few weeks passed in a blur of chocolate, visits, and tears. Actually being there for someone is much harder than it seems, and often just saying the words is not enough. Most of my paychecks were gobbled up by gas and chocolate as I made the daily drive to her house, bringing the endorphin-filled Hershey bars that I hoped could provide temporary relief, even if they couldn’t solve the chemical imbalance that had brought her so much pain. Often I would return home feeling worse than when I had left, and many of the tears that filled that difficult month were my own, for she just didn’t seem to be getting any better. One night though, I sensed a small change in her demeanor, and the spark of life seemed to have been relit, but just barely. I remember the night perfectly, because it was the first night in a month that I returned home from her house and was able to fall asleep peacefully, without tossing and turning for hours while my mind raced with thoughts of depression and suicide. It seemed as if my efforts, when combined with the therapy and the doctor-prescribed medication, were just enough to tilt the balance and begin the journey towards rehabilitation.

Since that night, every day of recovery has been a challenge. Although my friend is surely getting better, it is not a steady revival at all, and the smallest thing seems to send her into a hysterical fit of tears. Often I find myself feeling hopeless and defeated, and I have to constantly remind myself that if she can only beat this, we can return to the strong and easy friendship that seems to be so far in the past. I know it is not going to get any easier, but I can only drive on, hoping that eventually she will see the world for the great place it can be, and our rocky path through life can become the smooth road we once walked on. If anyone can beat this, I know it is us.





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