SA Meet Number 5

In a rare and exciting turn of events, I actually left the house and ventured out amongst other human beings today. Because the annual Edinburgh festival is on right now, the city centre is very, very busy. This proved quite a challenge for my anxiety at first but I felt calmer after a while. After 3 months of inactivity, someone from the meetup group finally organised a time and place for us to meet. I knew that it would be in a cafe and that only 3 of us would be going. I don’t like eating in front of people because of the level of anxiety it brings me, so I arrived early and bought lunch beforehand. I ate lunch in The Meadows and wandered around the area for a bit, walking through the crowds of people. It actually wasn’t so bad after a while.

Before I go on to talk about the meet, I’ll get the most negative things over and done with. As I’ve mentioned in my last couple of posts, I’ve recently had days where I feel completely hopeless and like suicide is my only option. I can’t see a way out. I get far too fixated on my lack of friends, things that people have said/ done to me in the past, how hopeless and futile my efforts to overcome social anxiety disorder often seem, and so on. The whole situation with university/ my course and figuring out what to do is getting me down and causing me a lot of stress as well. Thankfully, the last couple of days haven’t been quite so bad and I’ve been somewhat impressed by my resilience at times. Certain things that would usually cause a dramatic drop in my mood haven’t affected my quite so much and I’ve been able to take it in my stride a bit more, strangely.

*Trigger warning until the photo of Greyfriars Bobby: suicidal/ self-harm themes, as well as mentions of suicide methods*

My online friend has been both worrying and annoying me quite a lot over the last few days. I realise that to those of you who have friends in ‘real life’, it probably seems a bit ‘sad’ that I keep going on about people I’ve never even met face-to-face, but this online friend in particular has been more of a true friend to me than anyone ever has, pathetic as that may seem. Let’s call him T. T says that he’s been very numb for about 3 months now, but it seems to have gotten worse lately. He’s so numb, in fact, that he went skydiving a couple of days ago and said that he felt absolutely nothing – no fear, no exhilaration, no emotion at all. He says that nothing makes him feel anything – not even the tiniest bit of emotion – any more. I’m very worried about him because he said he wanted to consume massive amounts of alcohol (he usually doesn’t drink at all) to see if it made him feel anything. T said that he wouldn’t care if he ended up in hospital with liver poisoning or dead. He wouldn’t care what happened to him. Today, he took six times the recommended dose of paracetamol to see if that would make him feel anything. From what he was saying, it seemed that he wanted to overdose, though as far as I’m aware, he hasn’t taken any more yet. He says that he’s so numb that he doesn’t even care that other people care and would be upset if he hurt or killed himself. I don’t think he has enough paracetamol to kill himself, but he does have enough to permanently damage his liver. Though if he wanted to, there would be nothing stopping him from going out and buying more. I worry a lot because it’s as if he’s a different person when he’s like this, and – what with him being on the other side of the world – there would be very little I could do to stop him from taking his own life or causing himself serious, permanent damage. All I can do is offer advice and let him know that I’m always there if he needs anyone to talk to. But I can’t really do anything to help, other than that. It makes me feel like a crap friend. But then…a lot of the time, I will offer T loads of advice, and he’ll either ignore it, not try it, or tell me that it’s complete bullshit. I understand that certain things don’t work for everyone, but when I’ve spent ages suggesting things that might help, it’s extremely infuriating when he criticises those things without having even tried them.

Because T doesn’t care about anything or anyone right now, he doesn’t seem to care if he annoys or upsets anyone. He’s said a few things that have been quite hurtful and annoying over the last couple of days. Although I can’t do much, I’m doing everything within my power to help/ support him right now, spending hours each day messaging him and trying to talk him out of various things, only for him to criticise me about it. He even criticised me about the small steps I made SA-wise today (I’ll get to this later): “I hope you’re proud of yourself when chewing your food too – or when walking while wearing shoes – or putting headphones on your ears – etc”, which angered me a lot. He never usually belittles my achievements like that – he’s usually very supportive and encouraging whenever I face my fears, no matter how small they are. It’s honestly like he’s another person when depression takes over him like this. Sometimes I wonder if people with severe depression should be friends. Especially as – in this case – he’s my only friend. The other online friend I had barely talks to me at all now. When neither of us are depressed, it’s an amazing friendship and one that I get a lot of enjoyment and happiness out of. It makes me a lot happier than I would ever be if I was completely alone. It cheers me up when I’d otherwise be feeling lonely and discouraged. When one of us is depressed, it can be very worrying and draining for the other person to deal with. It can bring you down when you’d otherwise be feeling happy. It can make you feel very upset and hopeless, and worried sick that the other person could kill themselves at any moment, and there would be virtually nothing you could do. When both of us are depressed at the same time, it’s the absolute worst because one person’s depression just feeds off the other person’s depression and negativity, and vice versa. All we end up talking about is how hopeless everything is, and probably triggering each other quite a lot.

There are times when trying to support T through another depressive episode just seems so hard and so draining to do. I dread it almost as much as I dread sinking into another depressive episode myself. Each time, I worry that he won’t make it – that this will be the one that finally causes him to end his own life and there will be nothing I can do. And then I’ll be completely alone again. The only real friend I’ve ever had will be dead and gone. And I have no idea how on earth I’d deal with that. I couldn’t deal with that. Sometimes I wonder if T and I should be friends at all, but then I remember everything that he’s ever done for me. I honestly don’t think I’d be alive today if it wasn’t for all the support he gave me during my last depressive episode. If he hadn’t talked me out of various things, hadn’t shown such perseverance, hadn’t been so selfless and kind, I’d probably be long gone by now. And though dealing with his depression often feels really tough, I just imagine the sheer intensity of pain that he must be in. I could switch my phone or laptop off and escape from it at any time if I wanted to. He can’t escape from his own mind. I just wish that I had another friend or two who didn’t have depression and who could help cheer me up again if T has – without meaning to – brought my mood down as well. I wish that he had a friend or two who didn’t have depression but understood it and could help to bring his mood up, even if just a little bit. It’s just hard sometimes. Constantly worrying that your friend is going to kill their self is certainly not a pleasant thing to have to deal with. All you can really do is show that you care and that you’re there whenever they need someone.

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Greyfriars Bobby

A photo of Greyfriars Bobby which I took today. Just a picture to help break the text up a bit.

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Anyway, moving on to slightly more cheerful subjects now. I honestly felt like I was about to throw up as I was approaching the cafe, but it wasn’t quite so bad once I got there and met the guy who’d organised the meet. I’m not going to lie – it was, by far, the most awkward and uncomfortable meet that I’ve been on yet. I couldn’t really think of anything to say, and my eye contact  was terrible. I thought it would be slightly less awkward when the other woman (the one who I’ve talked to on facebook) showed up but it was just as bad. The three of us just stared very awkwardly at the floor or around the room for most of the time that we were there. The conversation didn’t really get anywhere and no one could think of much to say. The guy who organised the meet said that he actually doesn’t really have anxiety, but he has depression. He actually showed us the scars on his wrist as he said this, which – because I’d never show anyone my own scars unless they asked, or unless it was too hot to wear short sleeves – I found a bit strange. But I suppose if he doesn’t really have social anxiety, he’s probably not too worried about what other people think. He also mentioned that he’d been suicidal right off the bat, which I’d never be able to do/ want to do. I could never be so open about my experiences with people that I’d only just met. Still…I suppose I admire his bravery, in a way. Maybe that’s the best way to do it – be open from the start so that you are instantly rid of anyone who doesn’t understand or who is judgemental. Or maybe he was only so open because he knows that we have similar issues – I don’t know. Another thing that I found quite strange/ worrying is that he said that he was taking higher than the recommended dose of his anti-depressant and was lying to his doctor/ the pharmacy so that he could get more. Rather odd… He did say that it was helping, but at what cost to his physical health, I wonder?

When we did manage to exchange more than a couple of words, we talked mostly about the difficulties that we face with SA, including university, job-hunting, making friends, social events, eating in front of others, and so on. The other woman seemed to completely relate to a lot of what I said, but the guy didn’t seem to understand a lot of it. He certainly didn’t seem to understand why eating or drinking something in front of others would cause us so much anxiety.  At one point, he asked us both what we had planned for the rest of the week. He said that he was going to a friend’s barbecue/ party that evening, a big social event on Wednesday, and he’d probably be going out most other days as well. He seemed kind of excited/ interested as he asked us what we had planned. I awkwardly said: “I dunno…probably sorting uni stuff out and trying to find a job”. He looked a bit disappointed and (probably thinking that she had something much more exciting planned) turned to the other woman, who simply replied: “Signing on”. Us SA people tend not to have the most exciting of lives, unfortunately. Being asked about out plans for the weekend or whatever is one of the questions that we absolutely dread.  Another awkward moment towards the end of the meet was when there was a song playing in the background which had the lyrics: “Let me go home, Why don’t they let me go home? This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on“. I had to stop myself from laughing because of how much those lyrics fit the awkwardness of the meet, and also just because of how incredibly awkward it was. At least I have a sense of humour about it, I suppose – sometimes I think that if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry, and being able to laugh at oneself or at a situation is often half the battle, I find. Or maybe I’ve just finally lost it, who knows? Anyway…after a bit more awkward conversation (if you could call it that) we went our separate ways.

Usually, a meet going that badly would get me really down and make me feel hopeless and even suicidal for days, but for some reason, it was just like water off a duck’s back this time. I wandered around the city centre a bit more, then I decided that I’d try some exposure therapy in the museum. This mostly involved just walking in busier areas of the museum at first, but then I decided to try taking photos and filming. I know it sounds really weird/ pathetic but I’m often too scared even to do those things, and I don’t really know why.* I even managed to walk past a cafe area with lots of people, while filming. I know it sounds pathetic but I thought that I’d have a panic attack right before I did it. But it was actually quite easy and no one stared at or mocked me. It’s good to challenge my irrational beliefs sometimes. Again, probably 99% of people reading this will find it pathetic, but I’m quite proud of myself for actually managing to do it (i.e. walk past loads of people while filming) and prove myself wrong. I came away from the museum feeling pretty good. Another SA thing (for lack of a better word) that I encountered today was that on the bus home, a woman asked me to hold her toddler while she unfolded his buggy (someone trusted me with their child – I feel special!) It actually wasn’t awkward at all.

*T actually helped me to realise today that all the people who ‘randomly’ teased/ mocked me in the street throughout my teenage years were doing it just to get a reaction/ because they went to my school and knew that I was an easy target. They probably do that to loads of people – they’re perhaps not solely picking on me, they’re just doing it to see what they can get away with/ act cool in front of their friends. People don’t act like that in the adult world (or at least, I sure as hell hope not).

If, in reading the second half of this post, you’re convinced that I’ve gone slightly bonkers, you’re probably right (I blame caffeine, sugar, and the fact that it’s 3am). I actually feel good for the first time in quite a while though. It’s amazing how much just getting out of the house and being among people can improve my mood.

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4 Responses to SA Meet Number 5

  1. solcolasoda says:

    I have the exact same fear of wearing my earphones, usually because I wouldn’t know how to let my hand down naturally after I stuck them in my ears. I think you deserve a pat on the back for all these little exposure exercises that you’ve been doing, I understand how hard they are.

    Have you heard of the phone app “Worrybottle”? I have met many kind folks who gave me valuable advices on it. Many of them are dealing with depression, anxiety etc and some have made their conditions manageable through time and experience(I’ve met people in their middle-age who have much successes in their recovery). The best thing about this app is that you can remain anonymous, so there’s no fear of embarrassing yourself.

    Here’s my email if you would like to talk sometimes: solcolasoda@outlook.com

    I truly hope that things will start getting better for you.

    • Gemma says:

      Thank you. I have been putting quite a lot of effort in exposure exercises lately. No, I hadn’t heard of that app before but I’ll give it a try. Thanks again. 🙂

  2. Keshav Bhatnagar says:

    Hey. That’s a really difficult situation with T. When you’re so close with someone it’s so hard not to get caught up in their hardships and suffering. I was kinda in a similar position with a online friend I had too. He was suicidal, self harmed, drank a lot, was in dire straights financially and just felt so hopeless. I did the same thing that you did, and what you’d expect a friend to do – be there for him, try and make him laugh, research and give him advice and suggestions. But like T, he dismissed these suggestions completely without even thinking about them and said that I was stupid for asking him sensible questions to try and get a better understanding of what his thinking was like. In the end we kind of fell out since I just couldn’t deal with it. A large part of it was my fault. I think I cared too much and wanted to help him so much. I’ve been thinking about him a lot recently though. However, no matter how much you want to help them, there is very little you can do in reality, apart from, like you said, being there for them. Ironically I couldn’t even do that at the time because I knew we’d fall out again and it’d be too painful for both of us (I am going to get in touch with him in a few months I think). I probably sound like a heartless monster here.

    I think that if you are quite proactive about dealing with your own illness, it is very hard to put yourself in the shoes of someone who is less proactive, whatever their reasons, be it self pity, lack of support, or really bad illness. It really is a case of taking a step back, to protect yourself from getting hurt and to better help them. I think it’s important to remember that you are delicate too. That’s not to say that you can’t be there for him and support him. The best ways you can help him is if you’re not depressed as well. I wish I could be more helpful. What sort of things make T laugh? Humour has been such a big thing in helping me through my problems. I wonder if something funny would make him feel something.

    On a lighter note, very well done on your achievements this week. Being out and about in town is a big deal and it sounds like you coped with it very well. I know I wouldn’t be able to even do that, albeit for different reasons, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to hold a child or film in the museum in front of people so very well done indeed. I hope things get better and that this good feeling you had carries on. Hopefully T’s situation will improve too. My fingers, and everything else that’s cross-able, are crossed.

    Keshav

    • Gemma says:

      Hi Keshav. Thanks for your comment. No, you don’t sound like a heartless monster at all. It is tough being friends with someone else who is suicidal. Like you, I think I probably care too much and perhaps get too involved with peoples’ problems because I really want to help them. It affects me a lot emotionally when they’re suicidal and there is not a lot I can do to help.

      Fortunately, T seems to be doing a bit better at the moment. I’m not really sure why he is less proactive in fighting his depression. Well…he still does quite a lot – he gets into exercise regimes, makes sure he gets plenty of sleep, and usually tries to eat well. These are obviously all good things, but he’s very reluctant to see any professionals or try any kind of therapy. I suppose he’s never really had a support network. His whole family situation was really bad because of various things that happened and he felt that no one really understood and he couldn’t really tell anyone about being suicidal. His mum offered him no support at all even though she knew he had depression. And while in Australia, he’s also had to deal with his girlfriend’s dad and step-mum, who are (for reasons I won’t go into) horrible people. I’m not sure if his girlfriend even knows about his depression. I don’t think he had anyone to go to for support, other than me and other people on the suicide forum that I ‘met’ him on. He says that he’s seen professionals in the past but they haven’t helped him, which is why he’s reluctant to try anyone else. He’s apparently done a little bit of CBT in the past but didn’t find it helpful. I don’t know why he won’t try anything else though. He’s assured me that he will see a professional when he gets back to Sweden next year (I don’t think he’s able to see anyone in Australia), but I’m not sure if he will stick to his word.

      Maybe I do need to step back a bit and stop getting so involved emotionally. I’m usually not great at making T laugh. A couple of my family members have told me otherwise, I don’t think I’m a very funny person. My sense of humour is often a bit weird. I would like to cheer him up though. Sometimes I’ll send him a link to a funny video or something and he’ll have a laugh at that.

      Re: achievements – thanks. 🙂 I’ve actually made even more steps forward with my SA this week, which I’ll write about in my next post. I hope your situation improves too. Are you getting any help for your OCD?

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