Tuesday, 17 November 2009

I admit I've been a crappy friend

I posted on Facebook and Twitter today that I wasn't taking shit from anyone else who put me last in their lives. Several friends threw their hands in the air and asked if I realised that I'm one of those people and they found my hypocrisy amusing, to say the least.

Although I like to think I'm pretty honest about what I'm going through in this interesting year of my life, it's possible that I've been sheltering you because I am ashamed of my thoughts and what I feel. Maybe I've been sheltering me because admitting this makes me one of those crazy people.

To be honest, I realised after hearing your sniggers and losing so many friends this year that I would rather be that crazy bitch than that unreliable friend you dumped in 2009.

If you read this blog then you have known me a while. In Darwin, Canberra and the early days in Sydney, I was a good friend to many people. Always there when people needed a laugh, a drink, a shoulder to cry on, someone to bitch with or someone to listen to relationship, work and life problems. This didn't just go for friends. I was there for those I worked with even if they weren't on my team, the geek girls and guys of wherever I worked and friends of friends.

Unfortunately, you are like me and you remember the last interaction we had and not the reason we became friends.

I want to tell you what has made me the most unreliable friend, ex-friend, acquaintance or colleague you've ever known. What changed Damana? Is it this Giles business because people break up all the time and that's no excuse? Is she going to cry "depression" again and aren't we sick of that excuse?

Let me lay it out for you. I went from a functioning member of society with friends, a good work ethic and an ability to answer mobile phones to a person who couldn't even get out of bed in the morning.

Couldn't Get Out of Bed
For 20 months from mid-2007 to early-2009, I could only make it to work for 9/10 days in a fortnight. I'd call in sick, making some excuse and then roll over and go back to sleep. I call it sleep but it was more just lying there paralysed and unable to motivate myself to get out of bed. I wouldn't eat, talk to another soul, get out of bed or even go to the bathroom until Giles came home after work and coaxed me out of bed. Sometimes he had to use strength and drag me out. On weekends, I was not much better. If I woke up on Saturday morning and one negative thought crossed my mind then I stay in bed until Monday morning. There were days when I didn't eat or speak. To say this was taxing on my marriage is an understatement. The fact that Giles left me is not as big a surprise in hindsight. I wouldn't have done it the way he did but I can't say I would have been strong enough for him, if the roles were reversed.

The rest may be out of order but bear with me. This has to be said.

The fix: I tell my mother and people I live with now about all my appointments and ask them to not let me get out of going. Since I am unable to motivate myself, I rely on others... for now anyway. It is working. I also eat breakfast every morning within 30 minutes of waking up. My trainer taught me that. It starts your metabolism off strong and also means I get out of bed because my stomach won't shut up.

Couldn't Answer the Phone
You've all called me and been surprised when I actually answered my mobile. Ask people who knew me in Canberra and they'll swear I was always talking on the damn phone and the easiest person to get hold of if you were up for doing something. In the last 12 months at least, when the mobile rings I feel pure terror. Usually even walking towards the phone is paralysing. First, I stopped answering "Blocked" numbers because I could rationalise that it was probably recruiters or businesses calling. Then I would see the caller Id and pump myself up to answer after 4 or 5 rings. Then I stopped answering and let calls ring out. Then I started hitting decline on every call that came through, even if I'd just SMS'd or called the person and they were returning my initial contact.

This was easy to justify to me. I told myself things like "If it is important then they will call back" or "If it's important they can leave a voicemail" or "This phone is for my convenience and not others". That's all bullshit. It was still easier to lie to myself than to answer the phone. My rapid heart rate and anxiety didn't correlate to any real or proposed threat. It wasn't rational. It wasn't acceptable but it just was how it was.

People realised this about me and started sending me texts to communicate. It's the worst form of communication and resulted in me losing one of my best friends in Sydney, Ines. I'd pulled out of a holiday we planned together and I didn't even have the gutts to tell her to her face or on the phone. Instead I emailed her and texted her. She refused to respond until we actually spoke and I never made the call or answered hers. It ended badly but I ended it. It was me who caused it and there is no excuse that will satisfy a rational person. That's because it was irrational.

Ask Rob Hunter about how I used to hide my head under a pillow rather than look at the caller Id on my phone. He witnessed some of the insanity.

The fix: Each day I promise to answer a phone call from people in my family and inner circle, or call them back straight away. I also call back my employer and real estate agent. You may believe that is easy because there are consequences but ask Amanda Keleher about how impossible I was to contact and the consequences of that. Even now, I don't answer calls from friends. Ask Christie Brown (my second best friend ever) who has called me over and over to organise to go out and she'll tell you I never answer ever. That's the next step, to answer the phone when Christie calls again.

Turning out the lights and hiding
When you came to the door and buzzed my apartment I would turn out the lights and stay away from the windows. The sound of the buzzer sent my cats running upstairs and me to the kitchen where I sat and cried quietly for at least an hour after the person left. Why? I don't know. The thoughts that went through my mind were of someone invading my space unannounced. Of a person seeing that I hadn't put on makeup or showered by 4pm that day and the utter failure I'd present to them. At that time, I honestly thought one of my dearest friends Alice would disown me if she knew I spent day after day in pajamas and didn't take out the garbage.

I used to be happy when it rained because people didn't usually come around on those days or nights. I would be safe usually.

The fix: This was easier. I moved to Darwin where there are so many windows that I can't hide. People know I'm home and they say "hi" as they walk up the driveway. I have simply put myself in a place where I can not hide although you could argue that being in Darwin is hiding too.

Never respond to emails
That was my rule. Actually the rule was don't respond straight away. I read it in a book somewhere that people think you have no life if you do. That was my excuse to simply not reply. At my worst, if anyone asked me a direct question in a personal email then I would delete it and pretend it never existed. The guilt disappeared as soon it was in the trash. Sometimes I deleted the gmail trash dozens of times in a row just to make sure the question was gone forever and I didn't have to answer it.

The fix: I respond within a week and never delete anything. If someone sends me an email then I will make sure I send something back within a week, even if I discuss it face to face and send a follow up summary email. This is working more and more each day.

Yeah, that word. People get sick of hearing it. They want you to just get over it - move on - suck it up - stop giving excuses. People use the phrase "I'm depressed" in every day life but trust me when I say that severe depression is nothing like you having a bad day or sad moment. It's not caused by my husband leaving me or my cat dying. It is a chemical imbalance that causes us to feel something. As human beings, we like to believe we understand why we do things but ultimately we are dumb animals. When we feel something, we assume it's been caused by something. We think we are reacting. Thing is that with depression, we feel it because our brain simply gets it wrong. Nothing triggered the emotion. It just happened then we attributed a reason to it.

Is any of it rational? Do you even understand what irrational feels like? Once you do then please explain it to me because when I'm acting irrational, it feels completely normal. It's as if to think anything else would be nuts. To anyone watching, it's crazy. To be honest, it is bloody crazy.

The fix: Therapy, Medication and Behavioural Change. That means not drinking like I once did to self-medicate. It means going out for exercise even when I'm so lethargic that the thought of moving tires me. It means committing to take a tablet every single day at the same time for at least 12 months. It means participating in a draining struggle with yourself, against yourself. Not believing the bad thoughts that tell you the world is a better place without you. Not listening to the sadness that leaves you rocking like a baby on a pile of sheets soaked with tears. It means ignoring the belief that you are invisible and no one cares. That if they knew what you thought, they'd have you scheduled. Hoping that saying this now won't see it used against me in the future and that maybe it frees someone else or even gives my friends a reason to wait until I am well.

Give me a chance. That's all I want. If you could see where I was and where I am now then you'd be so proud of me. Yes, it's not your problem and please don't think I expect you to solve it. Just give me a chance to become that amazing woman who you became friends with. She's in here and slowly finding her footing. She'll be a good friend again, like she once was. If not then you can dump her and move on.

If you can't understand or empathise then at least please just accept that it is what it is.


Anonymous said...

This is brave and beautiful. Good luck and best wishes.

weannie said...

I know what your talking about. Believe me when I tell you that it WILL get better. Your on the right path. {HUGS}

Catherine said...

Damana, I am proud of you for being able to share so much of this!

I am sure you're sharing this will help so many other people.

Keep working on the fixes one step at a time & stay as amazing as you are!



Cathie said...

The fact that you're striving to be a better friend while in the midst of all this wretchedness perhaps makes you a better friend than you realise.
I, for one, feel privileged to have met you.

All will be well, lovely, one step at a time...
onwards and upwards!
C x

Anonymous said...

thank you. thank you. thank you so much for being brave and sharing this, I needed to read it this morning. Best wishes on your journey.

brooke said...

Thank you xxx

weannie said...

I'm in absolute awe that U can put yourself out there. I couldn't do it, as much as I would like to. I sure wish U were in the States. I would love to meet you!

TheFragrantElf said...

That was an amazing and honest post. And so glad things are improving. VioletLily

Alice said...

I can't think of the right words to say how much this moved me. Thank you so much for your honesty and courage.

Damana, you were there for me when I desperately needed someone to be. There's nothing that will change that. Keep taking care of yourself, beautiful girl. I miss you.

Anonymous said...

You can do it!! good luck Damana!

Loquacity said...

Damana, you are a beautiful, amazing, inspiring, and brave woman.

I look up to you.

Hang in there, we're all behind you on this.


a resident said...

it's great that you're on track for improvement. having the 'fixes' steps & being able to write all of your experiences proves that. good luck with it. I'm sure you will succeed.

Pia Waugh said...

Holy crap Damana, I'm sorry to hear it has been so awful for you. You've been an inspiration to many people (including me) and I think that when some "friends" throw their hands in the air, then perhaps they weren't the friends you deserve. Either that or they are themselves unable to deal with it, which is unfortunate but again you need people who are supportive. Friends aren't just friends in the fun times.

Stay strong, stay focused on what helps, and it'd be great to catch up again sometime when I'm in Sydney or when you're in Canberra. Depression is not something to be taken lightly, and although I don't suffer it to this degree, I see first hand the debilitating and paralysing affect it has on a person. Jeff compares it to his arthritis:

"Every now and then, my body stops working properly, and I can’t walk; every now and then, my brain stops working properly, and I can’t… do or feel much of anything at all."

Much hugs,

LindaG said...

This is huge and very brave. It's such hard work doing what you're doing. I have nothing but admiration for you and your efforts. You've made a commitment to yourself and that's really the first step in becoming a better person.

Keep going with it. We're behind you.

*hugs* to you.


Anonymous said...

... After reading this I want to forward it to everyone in my life! I'm going through a pretty ruff patch of depression right now too. Don't answer phones, don't shower or leave the house. Find excuses to miss appointments so I can crawl back into my "nest". So true about it not even being sleep, its just where i feel safe so i hide out there. Therapy and meds are helping.. Slowly. Unless you have been in our shoes no one can truly understand the irrational thoughts and feelings. Good luck to you in your struggle. I have to believe that in time we will get our old lives back.. Or even better ones cuz we will be that much stronger coming out the other side. I like that quote in one of the other replies "friends aren't just friends in the good times" or something close to that. I have lost people too, but I figure if they didn't want to stick around when the chips are down then they were no real friend anyway. Thanks for sharing your story. - Robin xo

definatalie said...

Someone on twitter linked to this post, and I was stunned reading it. I have many of the anxiety symptoms that you have. I fight against them every day, but I've never fully admitted them. This is very brave, and I understand too well what you experiencing right now.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Damana,

This is really brave and honest. I hope writing this has helped you and will also help others reading.

You deserve the good stuff.

Much love

Anonymous said...

Credit to you for your honesty and openness! Seriously inspiring!

Stay strong, all the best for the future!

Dewi said...

Wow. You don't know me, but as a depression sufferer, I am really impressed with how well you've expressed the experience.

Others have commented on the courage you have shown here, but what's even better is that you appear to have learned how to be honest with yourself; to recognize and correct the irrational. (Which I guess sounds obvious, but IMO it takes the greatest amount of work to actually achieve.)

For this reason I feel very confident that you are healing. :)

Best of luck. I'm sure you will re-discover the friendships you feel you have lost.

Anonymous said...



This found it's way through a friend to a facebook group I am part of, Obedience training for your black dog (see link). Feel free to join us, I think we can all relate to this.


ikarius said...

Good luck to you Damana.

It's so hard to share, and so easy to hide.

I've been hiding too at the very same period, i know what you've been though.

One again, good luck to you !

Prashant Gandhi said...

A brave account. Sorry you had to go through this. Good luck with the future.

Sleepydumpling said...

Kudos to you for this post. Been there, done that, written the suicide note. You are not alone, and there is light at the end of the tunnel, even if it doesn't feel that way.

You've done a courageous and strong thing with this blog post.

DeeAnn said...

Damana, my son works for ThoughtWorks and forwarded this to me. I have suffered with depression and anxiety for about ten years but I don't think I have ever read anything that described the experience as completely as you have. My son said, and I concur, that you are incredibly brave! He has been my greatest champion and yet there are times when helping me has tested his patience. I agree with the other posters here who have said you will definitely come out of this stronger and wiser... but I believe because of this experience, we also learn more about who we really are than most people ever understand in their lifetime. The one thing I have found that helps is remembering to celebrate this moment. You should be proud of how far you have come, I know exactly how you feel when you say that others probably don't notice it, but that doesn't really matter... the fact is that you know it and that's all that matters! Just by having the courage to push through the fear and fog to post his truthful, soul-searching blog says you are on the right path! I will keep you and everyone "like us" in my prayers. Take care of yourself, no one else can do it as well.

Bless you!

Christina said...

Dear Mana
What an increadible learning experience you've had this year! And as most of these comments indicate, your post reflects a story about a soul with courage, strength, honesty and integrity.

Congratulations in all the hard work you've put in to healing yourself over the past few months.

Have a great New Year.
Christina Moscovis

SerengetiSunset said...

It's courageous and wonderful of you to share your experience with the rest of the world. I often wish to myself that I could be that brave. In no uncertain terms, you're an inspiration to me. Hugs x

Alison said...

We've spoken about it since you posted. I wanted to comment here to say that I too am waving a Team Damana flag. Knowing personally what it's like to have gone through some of what you've described, please be assured that I'm sticking around for quite a good while longer yet.

Will miss you greatly but understand your reasons for going back to Darwin. Looking forward to seeing you when next our paths cross, whereever that may be.


Work at Home Mom said...

Wow. So much of what you wrote is familiar. I still have days where I have to talk myself out of bed. But thankfully, they're few and far between now. I actually began to enjoy gray rainy days also during my depression (and I think it was probably for just the reason that you gave). I felt safe. No one was going to disturb me in my little cocoon. You were really brave to write this. Keep fighting it. Things will keep getting better every day.