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My first shift at Walmart was on April Fool's Day of last year.
I'm not going to talk about work: the bloom is very much off the rose (though there's at least one rose that works there, and a former cow-orker that has somehow turned into a great friend despite the fact we *never* orked cows  within two hundred feet of each other). Nobody wants to read about me kvetching about my job. Not when there are so many people without one to kvetch about.

As I was, last year.

I'm still on the milder of the two antidepressants I was prescribed...mostly for its heavy sedative effect, which I very much need.  I've weaned myself carefully off the strong one.

I've learned how not to be depressed.

The fact I've been able to do so confirms in my mind that my depression, as nasty as it was, was largely if not completely situational. A big part of it was being unemployed: a big part of it was coming to terms with my station in life; a third big part was learning how to stop devaluing myself. I'm still working on that last: it's hard. But I've come a long, long way. You know what's helped? Learning not to take everything so damned personally.

That's been a habit that's been with me roughly forever, waxing and waning. It got completely out of control during my dark period last year.

I even found myself, to my immense chagrin, getting anxious if a text message of mine wasn't returned immediately. You can bet I kept that private, given how many times I've scoffed at people doing the same thing, but the thing about depression is just how personal it is. Oh, it's different because it's you. Other people are just pitifully insecure and need validation for everything they say, that's why they're sitting there jitterbugging over that last text they sent. You, nobody likes you, and so you're right to be nervous. Any second now they're going to come out and tell you just what a pathetic, ugly creep you are and how they wish you'd never been bo---

Like that. Your mind gets into that loop and it wears ruts in your brain.

Guess what? Everybody else is dealing with their own crap. Some of that crap makes my crap look like an airy fart.  If somebody's abrupt to me, or takes hours to respond to a message I send them, or cancels plans to see me, or...or...or...IT'S NOT BECAUSE I'M A HORRIBLE PERSON.

This seems self-evident to the non-depressed person. To someone in the depths of depression, it takes a ridiculous amount of evidence to prove it's true (and to people stuck in deeper clutches of that disorder than I was, it may not be provable: there gets to be a certain point (and I was very close to it) where it's not paranoia if everybody in the entire world is out to get you.

I met an old colleague for coffee this past week. She said something to me that touched me deeply, that almost made me cry: "I value you highly, you let me be myself around you".  If you ever want to turn all my insides to warm goo, say something like that to me.

I've seen her something like three times in the past year, never for longer than 45 minutes or so at a time.

In 2014-15 I would have spent--I DID spend--a great deal of mental energy on how little time we spent together. In 2016 I choose to focus on what she said to me in that limited time. It makes a world of difference.

Yet another friend...well, she does always return those text messages, but often not in the same hour or on the same day, even if you think you're in the middle of a conversation. Is it because she secretly can't stand talking to me and she wishes I'd go jump in a lake? Of course not. It's because she's insanely busy. That I have any place in her life at all, given how insanely busy it is, that's an honour and a privilege.

And so on and so on down the line. I've come to realize some very important things.

I have more friends than I thought I did. People who could have just faded out of my life have instead asked to keep me in theirs.

Acting as if I'm undeserving of their friendship is a real insult to them.

And "love thyself" isn't just some hokey spiritual claptrap. That, in fact, is advice you can and should take personally.


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