In my room, if you’re sad, we sit on you.
My roommates are my family. We’ve seen each other through some tough stuff. The solution in our room is to get all of the pillows and blankets and stuffed animals and put them on top of the unhappy individual. If that doesn’t seem like enough, the remaining two roommates lay their own bodies on top of the pile. It’s some sort of strange swaddling ritual that’s become commonplace in our home.
Maybe it’s the silliness of it all, or maybe it’s central nervous system compression, or maybe it’s the human contact – but whatever the reason, it usually works. And even on the days when the pillow pyre is not enough, it’s better than nothing.
There’s this Brene Brown video on empathy. The video shows this fox character down in a dark hole. The fox says they’re alone and overwhelmed. A deer walks by, looks in the hole and says, “Wow, that stinks. Want a sandwich?” which, clearly, does not makes the fox feel better. A bear comes along, looks in the hole, sees the fox and climbs in. The bear says, “I’ve been here before, and yeah, it sucks.”
It’s a silly thing, really. But the point is that you can’t necessarily make something better, but you can meet people in their sadness.
For a long time, I made the mistake of trying to hide my depression from my friends. But the problem is that if you hide that big a part of yourself, your friends never know who you are. You always feel like a liar. If you hide your weird, you never find the people who share it.
You have to be willing to make yourself vulnerable. To speak to your peers in classes. To go to paint nights and concerts, open mics and knitting circles, club meetings and art shows. You have to sit with people you don’t know well, to talk to strangers in check out lines and smile at the people you pass in the street. You have to reach out of your comfort zone and make friends out of strangers. You have to reach out and find your people.
Now, of course there are people you don’t share every part of yourself with. Who you let in to your story is up to you. But not every friend has to be a best friend. You will need people who you only talk to about the weather. People to ask questions about the reading material. And people who will laugh with you about the latest episode of The Bachelorette.
But you also need people who will meet you where you are. You must find the people who will sit under the table with you when panic strikes. The people that will offer up their floor when chairs seem too unstable. The people who will hold your hands and count your breaths. The people who will pile all the pillows and soft things on top of you and lay with you. Find those people.
It will take time and trust, but you will find the people who care about you. Not in spite of anything or because of anything. You will find people who care about you because you matter to them.
Reach out with kindness and make an effort to know the people who respond. Your people are out there. Chances are, they need you too.