Depression kept Sheila O’Malley from being able to unpack her apartment, so her friends showed up in the most amazing way
In the wake of the news of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain dying by suicide last week, people everywhere began opening up about their own battles with depression. One woman shared a particularly moving story on Twitter about how her friends showed up to help her during her own serious battle with depression following the death of her dad.
People who are depressed or feeling suicidal are often encouraged to reach out for help — especially when a high-profile famous person dies by suicide and it dominates the news cycle. The problem with putting the responsibility of seeking help squarely on the shoulders of the person who needs it is that sometimes people who are depressed can’t ask for help.
The year after my dad died was so bad I don't remember 90% of it. I moved to a new apt and was unable to unpack. For MONTHS. I was ashamed I couldn't unpack. How can you be UNABLE to unpack? Just open the g.d. boxes. That was the year I cried for 19 days. Straight. /1
— Sheila O'Malley (@sheilakathleen) June 8, 2018
My good friend David - whom I've known since high school - knew I was struggling and he felt helpless. He said "you are loved" "we need you". I was like, "Doesn't matter, but thanks." So he took a risk. It very well could have ended badly. I could have lashed out. /2— Sheila O'Malley (@sheilakathleen) June 8, 2018
I could have been really REALLY offended. But he took the risk. He sent out an email to a group of local friends (w/out my knowledge) and said, "Sheila is struggling. She needs our help. Let's all go over there and unpack her apartment for her. Bring food. Let's make it fun." /3— Sheila O'Malley (@sheilakathleen) June 8, 2018
When you’re suffering from depression, motivating yourself to do even the most seemingly simple tasks can feel impossible. Sometimes being unable to do things like unpack and clean can make those of us who have suffered from depression feel ashamed or embarrassed.
So when Sheila’s friend David rounded up all their friends to come help her unpack her apartment, she could have felt defensive or sensitive about several people swooping into her home uninvited. And that would have been OK.
Sheila writes that she tried to protest, telling them they didn’t “have to” help her. But that’s the thing about people who love you — they know they don’t “have to.” They want to.
They unpacked my boxes. They put away my 1,500 books. They hung pictures for me. They organized my closet and put away all my clothes. Meanwhile, someone set up a taco-making station in the kitchen. People brought beer. By the end of the night, my apartment was all set up. /6— Sheila O'Malley (@sheilakathleen) June 8, 2018
I literally was unable to do THE SIMPLEST THINGS. And nobody judged me. They were like superheroes sweeping in. One friend arrived late, stood in the hallway, looked at me and said, "PUT ME TO WORK." /7— Sheila O'Malley (@sheilakathleen) June 8, 2018
Relinquishing control to several of her friends taking over her home wasn’t easy.
One of my friends basically took over hanging all of my posters and pictures. "I'm really good at measuring stuff. Let me put all these up in your hallway." I hovered, not wanting to give up control: "wait ... put that one there maybe?" She said, "Go away." I did. /8— Sheila O'Malley (@sheilakathleen) June 8, 2018
But it was worth it.
And she was so much better at hanging stuff than I was! Here are my friends putting away my books. /9 pic.twitter.com/YM87gF1pLs— Sheila O'Malley (@sheilakathleen) June 8, 2018
She admits she felt embarrassed — because showing your vulnerability on full display is an incredibly difficult thing to do, even to your closest friends.
I was overwhelmed at the sight of all of my crazy friends turning themselves into Santa's workshop. On my behalf. W/out asking me. They just showed up and barged in. I was embarrassed for like 10 minutes but they were all so practical and bossy I had no choice but to let that go.— Sheila O'Malley (@sheilakathleen) June 8, 2018
By the end of the night, she was completely speechless at the love and support shown by her friends. She tried to thank the husband of one of her friends, and his words to her are just incredibly moving.
He looked at me, saw the look on my face, understood the look, understood everything that was behind it - and said, “Listen, baby, what we did today was a barn-raising.”— Sheila O'Malley (@sheilakathleen) June 8, 2018
A “barn-raising.” I’m not crying, you’re crying.
That's the end. The "ask for help" advice is well-meaning but not really thought through. There's shame, there's enforced helplessness, there's the feeling you're not worth it, etc. My friends didn't wait for me to ask. They showed up. They took over. They didn't ask.— Sheila O'Malley (@sheilakathleen) June 8, 2018
It’s worth mentioning that plenty of people whose loved ones are suffering from severe depression have reached out or offered their help. When I was going through a truly troubling and dark time awhile ago, my own friends tried to be there for me as best they could. I knew they loved me, I knew they were being supportive. But for a really long time, it wasn’t enough — my depression was stronger than their love.
As for Sheila’s friends, how they showed up for her in her time of need is truly beautiful. She ends her Twitter thread with some lovely advice for everyone reading.
When they all swept out of there 4 hours later, my place was a home. Not only was everything put away - but now it had a memory attached to it, a group memory, friends, laughing, dirty jokes, hard work. These are the kinds of friends I have. Be that kind of friend to others.— Sheila O'Malley (@sheilakathleen) June 8, 2018