Let me tell you about Rebeca.
Rebeca is my best friend. She’s stood at my side through more than four years of severe depression, and her ability to help me cope has changed both my life and my view of friendship forever.
I was diagnosed with major depression in college. I’ve been hospitalized twice because of it. I use medications to help my brain function without short-circuiting on me; if I miss even one day, my mind goes off-kilter and the whole world tips.
My mental health (or lack thereof) has affected every aspect of my life, none more so than my friendships. I’ve lost some because of it. But others have been strengthened, like my relationship with Rebeca.
Before Rebeca, I didn’t really trust my friends. I didn’t believe they were going to be there for me through thick and thin. I always assumed they were only hanging out with me out of obligation, because they felt bad for me. I thought I was truly unlovable.
My depression has at times led me further into the belief that there is nothing good in me. I have spent countless evenings curled up under my covers, crying. Worse, I’ve spent hours doing nothing, simply staring up at the ceiling, thinking about all the bad things in my life.
I have vague memories of being a happy child. I don’t remember being an elementary student consumed by worries, anxiety and fears. I remember doing my thing and letting it go at that.
But that changed over the years as I sank deeper into depression. I lost my easy smile, my laugh, my childish belief in the hopefulness of the future. I lost my trust in my friends.
But Rebeca changed my life. We met in seventh grade, became good friends in ninth grade and kept up a long-distance friendship throughout high school, which I spent at a boarding school in Germany. I already considered her my best friend.
In her telling, though, our friendship didn’t really bloom until college. That’s when we did the unthinkable: We decided to be roommates.
Our mutual friends warned us against it, filling us with stories of doom and broken relationships; telling us that the best roommates are the ones who don’t know each other going in.
But Rebeca and I are both pretty stubborn; it’s one of the reasons we get along and one of the reasons we don’t, at times. We decided it would work.
And by golly, it did.
Rebeca and I, still good friends even after four years as roommates.
That’s not to say it was always perfect. We’ve fought, loudly, viciously, and often. But we’ve always made up, often within seconds, almost always with tears and promises never to fight again. Promises that we inevitably broke the next time something went wrong.
She never left me, not even for a second.
More often than not, what went wrong was in my mind. My depression, as I mentioned, caused a lot of mental pain, much of it from the idea that I wasn’t worthy of friendships. I don’t know how many times I accused Rebeca of not being a true friend — despite all the times she’d proved it.
But then something crazy happened: even at my ugliest (inside and out), with tears and snot streaming down my red cheeks and insulting accusations coming out of my mouth, she stuck by my side.
She never left me, not even for a second.
She was there for me when I ran out into the rain, determined to kill myself. She was there for me during both my hospitalizations, even though for the second one we lived in different states. She’s there to comfort me when I need it and kick me in the butt when I need that.
More importantly, she’s allowed me to trust again.
It’s not just that I trust Rebeca now. It’s that I believe in myself as a friend, and I believe in my other friends.
It’s astonishing that it took depression for me to realize that friendship can be real. And it’s hard to believe that it took entering into despair to realize that I am, indeed, worthy of love.
Just the other night, I was having a major depressive episode. I sat crying on my bed, extremely tempted to hurt myself in some way. Friends’ names started flashing through my head as resources. At first I said, “no, I can’t.” And then I remembered — yes, I can.
My friends are there for me. I called one up and she put her evening plans aside to spend the evening at Shake Shack with me. I texted others asking them to pray, and they responded immediately.
And that’s when it hit me: Yes, depression sucks, but my depression has had the unintended side effect of allowing me to believe in friendship. It’s allowed me to believe that people are good.
There’s a silver lining in every cloud, even when that cloud is jet-black and pouring constant showers of despair on your head.
Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com.
If you’re struggling with thoughts of self-harm, there is hope. You can call 1-800-273-TALK to chat with someone about it. For a list of other resources, visit the website of To Write Love on Her Arms here.