Sometimes all you need is a little help from your friends. But when you're struggling with mental illness it can seem impossible to face the world outside your bed, never mind ask a friend for help.
But there is hope, as writer Sheila O'Malley found out during her darkest days.
Taking to Twitter to share her story, O'Malley recalls the period after the death fo her father, when she was plunges into the depths of depression. Moving to a new department, she found herself unable to unpack her boxes.
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) 8 June 2018
Her good friend David sensed that she was struggling and reached out to help.
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) 8 June 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) 8 June 2018
So on a Thursday evening, 10 of her closest friends barged into her apartment.
At 6 pm on Thursday night the doorbell rang and 10 of my friends barged in, bearing platters of food, cleaning products, and complete unconcern for my 'wait ... you CAN'T COME IN HERE I HAVEN'T UNPACKED YET" protestations. They ignored me and got to work. /5— Sheila O'Malley (@sheilakathleen) 8 June 2018
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) 8 June 2018
Not only did they get to work unpacking her apartment, but there was no judgement for her "inability to do the simplest things".
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) 8 June 2018
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) 8 June 2018
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) 8 June 2018
While she was overwhelmed and embarrassed at first, the sight of her friends turning her apartment into "Santa's workshop" made her feel loved.
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) 8 June 2018
While the advice of asking for help might seem simple it's far far harded than you might think. Sometimes its not possible at all, and that's were kind friends come in.
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) 8 June 2018
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) 8 June 2018
Be that friend. Don't ask for an invitation, it could save a loved one's life, or it could even save your own one day.
If you've been affected by anything in this article, see here for support and information.