I’m good at giving advice. Really, really good. I can be sensible, wise, kind and empathetic and I have frequently surprised myself by seeming to be able to help my friends with my quality advice offerings.
Taking advice, however? Not so much.
Nonetheless, I decided I would force myself to take my own advice and tell some friends here that I was feeling bad. It wasn’t easy – when people say “Hi, how are you?” my automatic response is “Very well, thanks. How are you?” so its not as simple as it sounds just to casually drop in a phrase like “I feel a familiar sense of anxiety and dread” or “I feel close to tears for no clear reason, actually” or, and this is the one with the real bite, “I’m worried that I might be slipping back into Depression again. I had Depression before, you know, and longed to commit suicide – thought about all the ways I might be able to do it effectively and with the minimum of fuss and bother to others. I don’t want to go back there. Well, at least, I know I shouldn’t want to go back there but the trouble is that when you’re depressed the distance between wanting to live and wanting to die which seems like a vast landscape when you’re well shrinks to just a few, easy, shuffling footsteps when you’re ill, until you cease to care and find yourself slipping and sliding all the way down the suddenly empty hill to the cold muddy puddle at the bottom. But other than that, I’m fine, thanks. How are you?”
You see my difficulty.
Anyway, I did it. They were universally concerned and caring and supportive. And powerless.
But I took a day and a half off work, which was good, and then spent a very enjoyable weekend in the company of another set of girlfriends in the coastal suburbs outside Sydney.
We talked about our healthy eating plans – all the foods we had to avoid – and all the exercise we are going to take, as we stuffed ourselves like Foie Gras geese on chocolate, crisps and bread. Then we told each other how gorgeous we all are and how stupid the male population of Sydney is, not to be beating a path to our respective doors, as we watched ‘Under a Tuscan Sun’ and ‘Jane Eyre’ on DVD with the house’s feline and canine residents firmly ensconced on our laps.
How men survive without this kind of reciprocal network of affirmation I will never know.