There is this thin line between regular positive stress, chronic stress and depression. Positive stress can egg you on to positive action. Chronic stress can paralyze your ability to make decisions and depression definitely blinds you to your options, making it impossible to make a decision. Usually, we do not even notice when we cross from the one to the other. Which is dangerous because we then could miss critical signals that are meant to remind us to slow down, back off or seek help.
A friend narrated how his journey to depression began and escalated without him noticing.
He fell in love.
It was like a storm. One day he was happily enjoying not being in love, living for himself, having no plans – the next week he was planning for 30 years ahead. But the woman was not making the same plans – at least not with him.
She had been married before, an abusive marriage according to her. They had recently separated. He felt she was a little insensitive and lacking in empathy. He thought she was being cautious. Abusive relationships can do that to the best of us.
The relationship started with warmth, laughter and chemistry. And it ended within weeks – with silences, unanswered messages, ignored calls and dates that were not kept.
“Let’s meet tomorrow!” She would say.
And then she would not answer his messages or calls for 3 days.
He thought she needed support – after all, she had gone through a lot in her abusive relationship. So he kept reaching out. And she kept ignoring him.
He became stressed out. Had difficulties focusing on anything else. Kept checking his phone. Started stalking her online. Became sad when he saw she was still updating her social media
If she has time to post a photo on social media, she would have time to reply to ONE of my messages; right?
When she posted a photo with her ex, he started feeling the rejection. Became sad and cried himself to sleep. No, of course not, men do not cry. He did not fall asleep at all. Or, he fell asleep and woke up at 4am – the mind working through the whys.
He talked to his friends – without telling them all he was feeling. They told him to forget her.
“There are many fish in lake Victoria!”
The thing is, he did not love her that much at all. But the way she treated him triggered the fears and sadness only rejection can trigger. And because he did not recognize this, he went on thinking he was in love and he wanted her – her and nobody else.
It ended with him focusing a lot of his mental energy and emotions on her, and she continued rejecting him even more. Sometimes she spent the night with him, only to leave the next morning and continue ignoring him. He started to miss work. Or leave work early. When he stayed at work, he performed half-assedly, because he could not focus. Especially if she had taken the 2 minutes it took to reply to his message and hinted that she may be able to drop by his place. He did not want to miss the chance. Maybe this was the chance for him to get her to commit to him.
All this time, she was strategizing on how to get back to her abusive dysfuntional marriage. He was just a distraction. 10 months later, when he learnt she had gotten back together with the guy who ‘abused’ her, he was crashed.
He couldn’t get out of bed to get to work. He lost his job. In Kenya, you loose your job without notice. There are many others waiting for that job.
He went out with his friends to have a drink though. He was angry, confused, bitter and he needed answers. No answers were forthcoming. She had blocked him so he could not even contact her anymore.
“Women are horrible!” He told himself and his friends. They agreed. But that did not heal his hurt heart.
A little stress had turned into chronic stress and worry and into deep sadness. 6 months later, he was drinking too much and unable to find another job. He moved back to his parents house, aware that this was not a move that would win her back. Even if she was available. He was a looser, he told himself. That is why she had not wanted him in the first place.
Depression set in.
When do you think he should have realized that this relationship was a dead end? What should he have done at that time? Why didn’t he realize it in time, or at all?