Friends and the human survival system

As autumn sets in I always find myself slipping into depression and loneliness. It might be due to the cold or the thought of the coming winter, or because I have a knack of seeing the darker side of things, but I actually see my own behavior in a lot of people around me and strangers with who eyes meet on the street. Their bodies squat and withdrawn in their coats, they are adapting their posture, their clothing and attitude to what is to come. It is part of the human survival system to weather any storm.

I miss my friends. Those who I have lost due to arguments which in hindsight were based on misconceptions or disagreements, and those who have moved on with their lives and moved away. I think my wife Wendy is my closest ally and friend, but with her busy work schedule it is hard for her to keep up with everything and then come home to do fun things with me. She is not getting any downtime and I understand people need time to sleep in, relax and recharge, but my emotional state does not.

And so I started to understand that I am lonely, I am missing friends. And then the thought came up: what are friends?

Friends are people you do fun stuff with. Through that bond some become people you confide in and some are people who touch your heart and you fall in love with. Now this love doesn’t have to be physical, it can be mental as well. Someone you just love to discuss with, make plans with.

People who suffer from depression are not fun to be with and so will not attract others. It takes a lot of energy to keep chasing down people to just have coffee with and talk for a while, play chess or go to the movies with, and not having this energy to start with most people spiral down into deeper depression.

But what are you actually looking for when you say ‘friends’? Energy. Contact. Someone to see you and give you a sense that you are alright as you are. This feeling makes you feel better and consequently make you a better person, more fun to be around.

So what is the message?

For people who are depressed not to stay at home, enclosed by four walls and suffer in silence. Get your clothes on and go out that door. Shake off that emptiness inside, simply by shaking yourself and jump up and down to get your adrenaline pumping and your blood flowing, and just make eye contact and smile at random people you meet. It is really not that scary when you get into it. See someone who is lost? Step in, comment they seem lost and ask if they need help. Even if you cannot help you have made contact for a moment. And don’t expect more than that moment, that smile of thankfulness of the attempt, pet a stay cat, get a coffee and hang around to just listen to people talk. Making friends is not something that just happens overnight, though with some people it seems to be a given. You are not like that. Some people are in general taste, like waffles or apple pie, while others are a more exclusive taste like nutmeg. But there are people out there who like nutmeg and by sitting on your couch at home watching Netflix you will never get to meet them.

Weather the storm, wait for it to die out, and leave it behind you. Try keeping a log in which at the end of each day you write down the good things you did and give that day a number ranging from 1 (shitty) to 10 (excellent). You will see that when over time you put them in a graph, your mood will rise. Some days it will peak, some days it will be down. But being depressed is not a life sentence, even when it feels like it. It is just an affliction and you are equipped to survive it until the better times come again and you forget all about your depression, your log and giving days numbers.

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