Depression is a horrible disease. If you have never suffered from it, you can’t possibly understand the hopelessness and despair that depression sufferers feel at times. It’s hard to do normal things, even simple chores. Of course, some days are better than others, but depression can last for years.
When Sheila O’Malley’s father died, she had a hard time coping with it.
She sank into a deep depression. Although she had recently moved into a new apartment, she wasn’t the least bit motivated to make it feel like a home.
She spent her days crying and staring at the boxes. She was physically and emotionally hurt and tired. Months went by, and the boxes just sat unopened. She knew she needed to get it done, but it just wasn’t possible in her current state of mind. Then, something amazing happened that not only allowed her to make her apartment into a comfortable home but also restored her faith in humanity.
She shared her story in a series of Twitter posts.
“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
“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. 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.’”
David wasn’t sure how Sheila would take their gesture, but he had to try.
He didn’t like seeing his friend so upset. Although there was nothing he could do to take her depression away, he could help her with her home. Sheila posted:
“David sent me an email saying ‘will you be home Thursday night? Can I stop by?’ I said ‘Sure.’ Sitting surrounded by 200 unpacked boxes. 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. 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.”
The friends weren’t taking no for an answer.
They were going to give Sheila the home she deserved one way or another, and they were going to try to bring her some joy and laughter while they did it. Sheila posted:
“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.
“I was overwhelmed at the sight of all of my friends turning themselves into Santa’s workshop. On my behalf. Without 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’s home was complete, but something inside her was also healed.
She couldn’t believe that her friends were willing to give up their night and spend so much time working on her apartment. They had nothing to gain from it; they simply wanted her to know she was loved and wanted to do something nice for her. It was a true testament to friendship. Sheila wrote:
“At the end of the night, I looked at my friend’s husband – a quiet taciturn guy who drives a tugboat on the Hudson – practical, man of few words – and I just looked at him, speechless, not knowing how to say Thank You, especially to this tough resilient self-sufficient man.
“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 hopes that her story will help others.
She doesn’t only want people who suffer from depression to understand that they are loved. She also wants all the friends and family members of these people to realize how much they can change the lives of a friend or loved one. She wrote:
“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.
“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.”
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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