To the woman in front of me in the Target checkout line:
I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with your friend about the other girl that had bailed on you tonight… again.
“She uses her Anxiety as an excuse,” you claimed, complete with an eye roll.
An excuse? No, sweetheart—but you’re fortunate to have a friend who considers you safe enough to speak the truth instead of actually making up an excuse. I’m not angry with you for not understanding; I can put myself in your shoes and feel the confusion. Instead, I feel sad. I want to throw another metaphor at you about, “Would you claim she was making an excuse if she had cancer and said she was too unwell to accompany you tonight?”
Except I don’t want to do that. Honestly, I believe that metaphor has been used beyond any effective measure. Cancer and Mental Illness, they’re 2 completely different illnesses; and the metaphor is apples and oranges. I can wrap my head around the message intended, but I would rather just speak the truth and see if that could bring a hint of understanding about the struggles of your absent friend.
She didn’t make an excuse. She wanted to be with you tonight. She had looked forward to your girls’ night for a week. Planning for an entire evening with friends brightened her days leading up to the occasion. Because you see, she doesn’t take those girls’ nights for granted like you. She craves those outings—because they don’t come easy for her—and her mind renders her lonely most days.
She wasn’t making an excuse. She legitimately could not bring herself to attend. The irrational fear and self-consciousness was too great to leave the safety and comfort of the home surrounding her. She doesn’t want to miss out; she resents her illness for shutting her inside again. She’s sitting on her couch right now wondering about the fun you’re having without her—which only increases her feelings of loneliness.
For the beautiful souls who watch their loved ones spend the majority of their days in bed—depression isn’t an excuse. Depression is their reality. They sense your frustration even though you try to seem empathetic; but they know you believe they’re using their Mental Illness to excuse their laziness.
Except they aren’t lazy; they are fighting harder than you can imagine to break the chains of their depression. It suffocates the life out of their spirit. It’s not an excuse. On the days they wake up and complete the dishes and laundry and run the vacuum—you probably haphazardly praise their efforts. It’s not a big deal to you, those are simple chores. Except for them it’s the promise that one day they might feel normal—and on this day, they feel worthy. Completing a simple task for them is comparable to a job promotion for you.
It’s not an excuse—for them to climb out of bed and complete a grocery shopping mission is cause for Champagne.
There are some that can no longer carry on. The demons of their mind have exhausted them; and that spark of hope that carried them through their worst days has lost its flame. When they commit suicide you believe they use their Mental Illness and life choices as an excuse. You label them cowards; maybe because it helps you deal with the pain of knowing you might have been able to save them?
Except you couldn’t save them, so please don’t blame yourself. It’s a fight only they can conquer—alone. You can stand outside the ring and cheer them on, but you cannot enter; and you cannot fight for them.
Suicide is not a glamourized portrayal of a person seeking attention. Suicide is not the epitome of excuse. Suicide is not a controversial series on Netflix: Thirteen Reasons Why… Suicide is the raw truth of a victim overcome by their mentally ill thoughts. You will never understand the pain they have walked through. You will never understand that battle between their heart and mind; the war of survival vs. complete loss of hope. Because if you could, you wouldn’t claim them to be a coward for ending their life; you would see them as I do—a fallen Warrior.
While you sit in shock after your favorite celebrity commits suicide, thankful you don’t have to endure the pressures of fame and drugs that took their life; I sit and sob, and pray for my comrades. I realize fame wasn’t their demise—their illness that you called an excuse was. Only one thought circulates in my mind after I hear of suicide: That could have been me—will the fire of hope that gives me strength turn to ashes one day?
Your friend wasn’t making an excuse. In not so many words, your friend was telling you she is unwell.
If you truly claim friend status in her life, please don’t scoff behind her back and roll your eyes. She can sense those arrows of judgment.
Go find her. Change your plans; bring dinner and movies to her house. Stay inside her safe-zone so she can participate.
Become her loudest cheerleader standing outside her ring.