Ah, Valentine’s Day. I hate to say it, but I am a Valentine’s Day scrooge. Most people look at me funny when I say that. Kind of with a smirking smile. A smile that says, “She’s only saying that because she’s single.”
Maybe that’s true. On some level. But really, the idea of Hallmark and Fannie Mae telling me that I must show my love for a partner on a certain day of the year…really? Why is that? And how much money do companies make selling that idea? And if I’m single, does that mean I don’t matter as much as these couples? Or that I can’t feel, or celebrate love?
Ba Humbug, right?
Now Galentines Day? That’s a holiday I can get behind. What’s Galentine’s Day, you might ask?
“Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, Leslie Knope (character played by Amy Poehler in the comedy Parks and Recreation) and her lady friends leave their husbands and their boyfriends at home and just kick it breakfast style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus, frittatas!”
This is the second year in a row that my gal pals and I have met at a greasy spoon in Oak Park and traded Valentines of the sentimental, silly, and sweet variety. I’m not sure I stopped laughing for two straight hours. And boy did I need it.
This winter has been hard on me. Very hard. Dealing with depression is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to face. And the worst part? More often than not, I’m dealing with it alone. That’s not to say I don’t have a lot of great people in my life who want to help. Truly they do. But it’s an incredibly hard disease to talk about. It’s hard to explain it to people without feeling judgement, shame and abandonment. And it’s certainly not something that I can show during the week at work. So, much of my times is spent pretending everything is fine. And when I do admit that I’m not fine, I’ve had people in my life walk away. So it becomes very isolating. And once you’ve put it out there, you can’t take it back.
And as scared as I am to talk about here, in such a public setting, where my words could easily cross the screens of family and coworkers, and countless others out there, I feel like I need to share my story. If only to help make it a little easier for someone else to share theirs.
When I tell people I’m having a bad week, I’m often asked “What can I do to help?” or “What do you need?”
And I never know what to say. Because I honestly don’t know what I need. Though I often wish it existed, there really isn’t a magic pill that can make it go away. Though psychiatrists and pharmacists would have you believe otherwise, I’m sure. I wish I had an easy answer to tell people, when they ask me what’s wrong. I’ve always been the strong one. The one who takes care of others, and the one people look to for answers.
But there is no easy answer. Everyone is different, and experiences a variety of symptoms. But in general, I would think the best thing someone could do, if they have a loved one facing something like this, is to listen. To truly listen, without judgement. And to check in. Sounds simple, I know. But I’ve noticed that a lot of the time, when people don’t know what to say, they chose to say nothing at all. Rather than risk saying the wrong the thing.
And believe me, nothing is worse than silence, and feeling forgotten.
So this Galentine’s Day weekend, take a minute to remember your friends, and your partner too. Remember that everyone is going through something. And some are better than others when it comes to asking for help. But I would hazard a guess that everyone needs a friend to be there for them, and to check in. To ask them how they are doing, and to just listen to the answer.
Be it sickness, or in health, there’s something magically healing in the love and power of friendship.