A few years ago I was in the lowest place I’d ever been. Motherhood was crushing me, I worried constantly about the future, and I cried nearly every day. I had gone through a period of depression and even self-harm in college, but this somehow felt different. During college I still understood that I had my whole life before me, but this time I was a full-fledged adult with a husband and kids. This was my future, I thought. There were many days that I honestly believed the rest of my life would be just as hard as the present moment.
Thankfully, I can say that wasn’t the case. It was a hard season of life but it wasn’t permanent. The fact that it passed is due in large part to seeking help from doctors and therapists, journaling, and being open with others about my struggle. Another huge factor was the support system I had in my friends. When you’re in a mental and emotional place that feels incredibly lonely and isolating, it’s all too easy to convince yourself that no one understands and no one cares. While the former may be true – maybe no one can fully understand what you’re going through – that doesn’t mean that they don’t care. And I was incredibly lucky to have friends who were committed to proving it.
Here are 5 things I learned from my friends’ actions, that I want to do for someone else who is hurting:
1. If you’re long distance, you can still be there for your friend.
Some of my best friends live in other cities or even other states, which only contributed to the isolation I already felt. But the ones who took the time to drive up to visit or write a long and heartfelt email made me feel so much less alone. In fact, I was often surprised and humbled to know that in their busy lives far away they were thinking of and praying for me.
2. If you live nearby, offer the gift of a listening ear and your physical presence.
There is nothing quite like a friend who is willing to sit for an hour and listen to you talk (or cry). Oftentimes the simple act of externally processing can lighten a friend’s heart or give them opportunity to work out their thoughts and fears. Inviting your friend to talk over coffee will not go unappreciated.
3. Surprise them with gifts large or small.
A group of friends once compiled little notes of encouragements for me and designated someone to deliver them to my house along with a delicious homemade lunch. I remember how overwhelmed I felt by the love in the gesture. It was days like that that reminded me I was seen and care for. I also once had a long distance friend research spas in my city and mail me a gift card to one nearest me. I felt nurtured and loved, and had something special to look forward to.
4. Offer your time or services in a way that lightens their load.
In that season of my life one of the biggest needs I had was childcare. I was with my children 24/7 and very rarely had time to myself. My single friends were amazing at taking my children on fun outings or babysitting them at home so I could run errands or just read a book. Even something that simple means the world when it meets a need in the person’s heart.
5. Encourage them to seek help.
Sometimes this feels the hardest to do, but it can be the most impactful. The support of friends and family is critical yet it can never replace professional help. Seeking out a doctor or therapist can feel like a daunting task to someone who is already just trying to make it through the day, so oftentimes having someone else gently suggest it (and even help with setting up an appointment) is what we need.
If it weren’t for the support of my incredible friends, I might still be where I was three years ago. Not only did they help me pull myself out, but they personified friendship in a way that cemented trust in my heart. I only hope I can be such a friend to them when the time comes.