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How to support a friend suffering from depression

DEAR CAROLYN: When a friend is not contacting you due to a depression, what are the best ways to "deal" with it, so to speak, in order to keep the friendship strong throughout the absence? For example, an occasional inquiry into well-being or message of support may be heartening, while too many may cause unnecessary emotional burden and guilt for the depressed one. I would be interested to hear from others who have experience on either end of this sort of relationship, and how they managed to maintain or regain ties to others during or after a depression. This friend of mine is long-distance, so I do not have every strategy at my disposal.

Long-Distance Friend

LONG-DISTANCE FRIEND: When you get in touch, specify clearly "No response necessary." Preempt the guilt the best you can, and make your message closed-ended. "Thinking of you, hope you're OK." You can also send things — a book they might like, a pair of fluffy socks, a funny postcard — and, even better, do so on a convenient but regular basis.

You're a good friend.

RE: DEPRESSION: Ask your friend how they would prefer to be contacted. When I was very depressed I told everyone I wasn't up to phone calls or emails, but I might respond to a Facebook private message. Almost everyone respected that and I felt their interest without feeling a huge obligation to participate on their schedules.

Respected

RE: DEPRESSED FRIEND: Plus-1,000 to "no response needed." Please also talk about your life and what's going on — good, bad or boring — and don't ask after your friend or their mental health every time. Just try to be as if they are holding up their side of the "conversation." And on Carolyn's suggestion of sending stuff — socks, books, etc. — gauge that based on who you know your friend to be. I have friends who love receiving Things so I send that sorta junk to them — within their tastes and interests, I promise — but I hate it (can you tell?). They return the favor by not sending me anything. We all feel seen and appreciated.

Seen

HI, CAROLYN: My husband and I got save-the-dates for weddings in different states on the same weekend. There's no way we could do both. These are both very dear friends of ours, and both traveled quite a distance to make our own wedding, so I'm so torn up about missing either, especially because both couples live out-of-state and we only get a chance to see them about once a year. Any good advice for making the decision, aside from a coin toss? For what it's worth, one would be a drive and the other would be a flight, but we had budgeted for two weddings, so the cost isn't an issue.

Torn Up

TORN UP: Each of you could go to one of them.

RE: WEDDINGS: YES to divide and conquer! Some friends did this at our wedding and for about a half-second we were sad not to have both of them. But then we realized they loved us so much they made it work.

My husband and I have also done this. While I love a good time with my spouse, I also absolutely loved the celebration without him!

Anonymous

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