I Care About You
Kenice Mobley and Emily Ruskowski are comedians who care about you. This week, they tackle questions about weird-acting male friends, managing severe depression, and finding a healthy substitute for coffee.
A guy friend of mine has been acting strangely around me ever since he got a new girlfriend. When they are both around me he barely acknowledges me. Frankly I would say he avoids me. However on the flip side, when he is alone we go back to our normal friendly conversations and ribbing of each other. I’m not sure if I should just let it go or do something else! Any advice would be great.
Emily: We could speculate for a hundred years about his reasoning…
Kenice: I love speculating! Ok, this guy could not know how to integrate his new girlfriend with his friend group. This guy could have had feelings for you in the past and doesn’t want it to be obvious in front of his girlfriend. Maybe he has been abducted by aliens and they’ve messed up his socialization functions, there are so many options.
E: I mean yes, all of those things could be true. If the relationship is new, I would say that stuff will likely even out after she gets comfortable in the social group/gets to know his friends. Are you a close knit group? Could the social environment be intimidating for her? If it’s not a new relationship, or you don’t want to wait around and figure out if it resolves itself, I would consider how deep this friendship is and if it’s worth a conversation. Is this a friendly acquaintance or a lifelong friend? Do you want to have a discussion about your friendship?
K: If you decide that this person is worth making the effort for, I would try to establish a relationship with this girl. It can be so intimidating when you’re around a new partner’s friends; they have a conversational pattern or a bunch of inside jokes that you can’t participate in. He may be picking up on her nervousness, and making sure she’s not just being left out. Helping her feel like she’s included decreases the boyfriend’s need to keep her company and ignore you.
E: It’s never a bad thing to make someone feel welcome. It’s definitely annoying when someone blatantly ignores their friends when their significant other is around, but it’s not uncommon, and it likely has everything to do with their relationship dynamics.
Hi K+E. I’m almost 30 and I’ve struggled with depression as long as I can remember. Therapy and medication have helped, just not enough. 10 years ago I could tell myself I had the rest of my life to fix myself, these days it seems like my chances of ever being anything more than a barely functioning depressive are somewhere between slim and none. I guess my question is, how do I justify not ending my life when the alternative is nothing but pain, sorrow and taking up space on a planet that’s already overcrowded and dying? Signed, Seeking Advice Despondently
K: Dear S.A.D., thank you for writing. It’s terrible that you’re experiencing that, and that’s a lot to have to deal with day in and day out. It can feel overwhelming and very isolating. This may not help, but many people experience these feelings from time to time. When I experienced depression in the past, I didn’t see any way that things could get better. When people would try to tell me that my life was worth living, I always had a reason to discount what they said, always had a reason why I wasn’t worth it. When you’re in this state, it’s unlikely that you will be able to justify not ending your life because even though you’re a reasonable, intelligent person, the way you’re thinking about this isn’t logic based, it’s feelings based.
E: Yeah, I second that. I want to acknowledge your persistence in battling this for so long. You mentioned “fixing” yourself, but that’s a fruitless pursuit because (even though it feels like it) you’re not broken. Depression isn’t something that can be “fixed” and you’ve labeled yourself a failure for not fixing something unfixable. Depression is a chronic condition, like diabetes or asthma. You don’t fix it, you manage it.
K: Emily is spot on here. It’s clear that you’re already doing some of the work to get out of this feeling, you’re doing therapy and taking medication. But those are just parts of managing depression. I’m sure a million people have mentioned this to you, but you’ve got to work on your diet, exercise, making sure you’re sleeping enough, making sure you’re drinking enough water. When I was feeling my lowest, I made a bargain with myself. I said, well, you’re only allowed to kill yourself if you’ve exercised, slept a full 8 hours and had a balanced diet every day for 14 days. If I did that, and still didn’t feel even incrementally better, I could end it. Focusing on those measurable things, instead of the overwhelming sadness, really helped me.
E: You described yourself as a “depressive”. I know it feels sometimes like you exist solely as a psychiatric patient, but you aren’t your diagnosis. You’re a person with depression. Therapy and medication management are important pieces in the puzzle, like Kenice said, but their reach has a limit. I encourage you to stick with formal treatment and find a therapist and a prescriber that you trust (you already know that though). Kenice makes an important point about other informal activities. It sounds like you’ve been waiting for your life to start when depression is no longer a part of it, but again, depression is a chronic condition. You ARE alive now. What are things that make you happy/content/not miserable (even very temporarily)? Make an effort to spend time with people you like, and fill your life with more things you enjoy. I’m all about the small stuff. Go get your favorite sandwich for lunch. Do a 10 minute guided meditation in the morning (these are just examples. If you are gluten free and hate mantras, pick something else).
K: Also, you’ve experienced this for 10 years, that’s a long time! What things contribute to this? Is your job stressing you out, do you have a relationship in your life that encourages you to doubt your self worth? Ending your life is a pretty permanent solution for your situation, which can change. What do you want your life to look like, and how is that different from what your life is now?
E: I want to reiterate what Kenice said about the possibility for change, because I know it doesn’t always feel that way. Ultimately, death comes for all of us, and we have the rest of forever to be dead. Right now you’re alive, which means there are still possibilities for you (and I really really believe that there are). Also, you had talked about your worth and whether you are deserving of taking up space. You don’t have to answer to any productivity police to assess your value. There are a gazillion things destroying the planet and humanity. I think it’s a safe bet that you aren’t one of them. Your life belongs to you and you don’t have to prove your worth to anyone. You’re a valuable person deserving of the space you occupy. You don’t have to meet some functionality quota. Celebrate small victories (I got out of bed today! I ate something! I texted a friend! etc.) They add up. Depression is a fog that obscures your path and makes is hard to see the way forward. The thing about fog is that the path forward is still there underneath it. I think it’s worth staying on yours.
** Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t provide the information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (I know sometimes people rag on it in dumb prank videos and stuff like that, but I used to be a volunteer for them and I think it can be really helpful in a pinch).
I’ve come to a fork in the road. For years I’ve relied heavily on coffee to get me through the days. However, recently I discovered that my preferences range from 55g-70g of sugar! I will have to resort to energy drinks. WHATEVER AM I TO DO?!
K: Based on what you’re telling us, you’re dealing with two different issues. One is the caffeine that you rely on to get through the day. The other is the sugar that you’re craving. You’re already having to adjust from your delicious regular coffee routine that provides both, because it’s too many grams of sugar.
E: No one is ever going to mistake me for a nutrition expert, but I will be paying student loan debt forever on the behavior modification strategies I learned in grad school, so let me offer those. You can decide whether you want to go all or nothing, or do a harm reduction model when attempting to eliminate an unwanted behavior (or substance, etc. etc.) Also, Energy drinks are full of all sorts of garbage. I don’t think they’re a great alternative. I would recommend trying to modify/manage your coffee habit instead of subbing in something you don’t like as much that is problematic in its own way.
K: Seconding Emily on this! There isn’t some magical thing that’s going to be healthy, taste exactly how you want, and give you the boost that you’re craving. For every gram of sugar you consume, you’re getting 4 calories. For a drink that’s 70 grams of sugar, you’re getting 280 calories per drink. If it’s calories and weight gain that you’re concerned about, that’s 44 minutes of higher impact exercise to burn off each cup. If you’re already doing that, then this isn’t a terribly taxing problem.
E: Agreed. If you need caffeine to get through your day, there are lifestyle and dietary changes you can make to reduce that reliance (better sleep, more protein, spaced out healthy meals). I would talk to your doctor or a registered dietician to come up with a plan if you feel you need one. If you can’t live without a cup of coffee in the morning or after lunch or whenever you need it most, make as many healthy changes as you can and have the damn cup of coffee. Just don’t have 5 of them.
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