Last year, I learned three of my closest friends went through terrible depressive episodes.
I had no idea.
I felt horrible. As one of their closest friends, I assumed they would call me if they ever needed anything. They knew I would drop everything to help them, right?
I quickly realized I was being selfish.
I put myself in their shoes. Would I have rushed to call a friend if I was in the same dark place? As I examined some of the darker periods of my life, I recognized there were also some secrets I’d been keeping from them too.
Luckily, each of my friends was able to get themselves out of those dark times, but they aren’t out of the woods. Day to day, they all struggle with the reality that they were able to reach those depths. The struggle is knowing how easy it is to fall back in again. All I can do as their friend is offer comfort, understanding, and support.
Hearing their stories last year taught me that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is struggling with something you don’t know about.
Everyone around you has a life just as complex as yours, but to you, they are just classmates, coworkers, fringe friends, or strangers walking by on the street. Each of us is so focused on our own lives that we often fail to recognize what’s happening in others.
We all have secrets. We all have mental and emotional struggles. And we all have a friend we wish we could confide in but we’re too nervous about the embarrassment or shame that may come from admitting our vulnerabilities to someone you usually joke around with 24/7.
I hate to say the cliche, but I’m going to.
The truth will set you free.
The emotional baggage you carry each and every day is invisible but it weighs heavy. It’s a dark cloud over your head; a weighted vest on your shoulders. It affects everything you do without even realizing it. It affects how you sound when you answer the phone, how you say hi to the cashier, and how you react to the news that a friend is pregnant.
You can only act for so long before you collapse under the weight of the performance. The minute you open up about it to a friend, that weight is lifted and you feel true joy. It’s the uncomfortable conversation you need to have, as the author, Tim Ferriss once wrote, “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”
Men are especially bad at expressing emotion and opening up past the vapid topics of sports stats or the state of the economy. The minute someone mentions the words “trauma” or “anxiety” assholes instantly pucker up.
But can you honestly call someone a best friend if you’ve never been 100% vulnerable with each other?
I thought so until last year.
All of my relationships with those friends are now infinitely closer. We cried together, we told each other we loved one another, and we shared secrets we’d gone decades holding on to.
One of the best books I read last year was The Mountain is You by Brianna Wiest. I recommended it to all of my friends because it confronts the issue of self-sabotage. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite excerpts that hits the nail on the head about opening up:
You change your life when you start doing the truly scary thing – showing up exactly as you are. When you start showing up as exactly who you are, you start radically changing your life. You start receiving authentic love. You start doing your best and most profitable and effortless work. You start laughing; you start enjoying things again. You start realizing that you just needed anything to project all this fear onto, so you chose the most vulnerable and common issues in life.