I am not an unfeeling empathy-less monster that spouts vitriol and lambasts people who try to get me to care. Though sometimes it feels like I am, and there is a guilt in this, because I know there’s a sliver of truth in this.
I had a pretty rough childhood (cry moar), was depressed for most of my life (sobsob), and just recently made my dreams come true working at a job I love. In a city I adore. With a gorgeous/smart/perfect-angel-man partner who supports me, and a little furry son who, although meowing at all hours of the early-morn like a verifiable devil, is a godsend for a spirited recluse like myself. I have friends here, real friends, and have kept my friends from my ‘old life’ in Boston who are worthy of my affection quite close.
I know the ails and ills of depression, of mood disorders, of anxiety, and how it effects people. And here’s the situation, because I’m going to tell it as clearly and as accurately as humanly possible.
I have emotional reserves for a few set people in my life, and the vetting process for allowing more people into that loving embrace is exhaustive. Like some sortof weekly-progress interview process that demands me check and double-check to see if I’m being siphoned off for some sortof empathy-drug.
I left my old city, Boston, a city I love because of people who demanded more of me than I can give, an old relationship that gives me nightmares to this day, and a career choice that was so ill-placed it was like putting on a turd cape and trying to subsist off of coffee and tears.
I am not a therapy monkey or your surrogate mother.
My emotional reserves are not limitless, and I will broker and negotiate these deals like I would if I were a Real Estate agent and collect on the commission–known as some sortof reciprocity–to protect myself.
I often have friends that are depressed and seek some kindof guidance from me. An unnamed friend, no it’s not you Benjamin, reached out recently to try and reconnect. They positively forgot that during my most depressed last year, while unemployed for a large swath of time, they failed to be there for me. I realized in that moment that we could not be friends as I spent every interaction trying to console, soothe, and care for them as you would a parasite on your body that you seem to think is a friend.
No, parasites are not friends, and let’s stop letting them suck the blood from our tired veins.
You can identify these people in the following ways:
Does talking to them make you irritable, tired, and generally leave behind a dark foggy cloud of fatigue and depression?
Do you seem to be offering support that they will not listen to, advice that they will not take, or generally just caring for them like you are their surrogate parent?
Do you clean up their emotional, physical, or psychological messes?
When your life is happy, do you find them talking to you less, and when your life is terrible, do you find them complaining even more about how their life is worse?
Do you find yourself, when in a crappy situation, that they make false comparisons to their also shitty life and diminish your feelings and replace it with guilt for their life-suckage like a sucker-fish attached to your navel through an umbilical cord you, yourself, have fashioned?
Do you find yourself staring into your coffee cup when they talk to you, or avoiding their phone calls or messages in text or on skype?
Then you may have found yourself an emotional vampire.
And why stay in that situation when there is no reciprocity?
Depression sucks. It is a tethered creature made of chemicals that robs you of life and makes you not want to get the help you need. Like a thick blanket of human excrete that feels warm but smells like shit and makes you sick. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone. But when that ‘talking to someone’ leads them to be depressed as well, because they cannot aid you, or you refuse to seek help, you are just draining them of their vital life forces and making the brokerage deal a deal that has no commission promise. Caring, as some might argue, is inevitably altruistic and you must support those in crisis, irregardless of your mental and emotional state.
This is fundamentally not true.
Take, for example, a family member of mine who laments the entire world as being against them and blames everyone for their pain and ills. During interactions, although I am generally no-contact, it is always about them. Your birthday? Time to complain about their life. You are unemployed and need money, so you ask for some financial support? Expect that to come bite you in the ass. Months of awesome interactions only to have some huge blow-out about how you failed at life? Well, it’s par the course with emotional vampires who hold some authority over you.
Depression may be an evil demon and a hellish son-of-a-bitch but it does not excuse you from using people, being horrible, blaming the world (and you), and generally sucking the life from people who love you.
Or who used to love you.
I have been that person. I have been that person who, in a time of weakness and supreme pain and turmoil, turned on those I cared for in the worst possible way. I turned to a vice that left in my wake a sea of pained humans. With great power can come great propensity for evil. If you are intelligent enough to know all the weaknesses of those around you, please, even in your most direst of emotional distress, do not use it to your advantage to make them hurt like you are hurting.
This is just a terrible thing, and people do it often.
Parents do it to children, spouses do it to their partners, friends do it to their friends.
And it may not even be at some caustic level, like I enacted it, that causes such irreparable damage that you are still working years later to put it right.
It may simply just be you, sitting there, looking at the proverbial me (place yourself in this situation, because I know you’ve been there), and crying about how life cannot get any better and you are at the end of your rope. It may simply be just you, sitting there, looking at the proverbial me, and asking to be taken care of without any recourse to aid the proverbial me in any time of necessity. It may simply just be you, sitting there, looking at the proverbial me, and saying you’ll get help, you’ll try to do better, and then falling into the same trap tomorrow, three days from now, a week, a month–whatever.
And it may be the proverbial me who decides this is not worth the effort to try to comfort you, as you have married yourself to your depression and ills, and do not want a divorce even if they beat you.
Sometimes you cannot help someone. They have to help themselves. Sometimes you need to help someone, because they need a little bit of reassurance and that will aid them in their own path to recovery.
And sometimes I quite simply cannot care anymore than I already do, and as many of you are maybe just figuring out at this moment, that we both (if you are reading this and relate), need to take a step back from people who pour negativity into our lives like snake venom into our veins and expect us to be fine by being poisoned.
I cannot help all of you in your desolation. I can help some of you, and the ones I help, you know who you are.
The rest of you, there is a clear reason why you are not receiving the mama-bear treatment.
Maybe at this point, you need to realize, if you are the parasite or the host.