Health Care, Love, Life Stories, Advice, Wellness

If you’re struggling with depression, these kinds of dates could really help

I could light some scented candles and take a bath, but that doesn’t really do much for me.

The idea for the Depression Date, like a lot of truly embarrassing yet profound moments, started on an over-emotional phone call with a close friend. One of us had just been mugged and the other fired, and both calamities happening on the same day meant we were both in dire need of some TLC. We decided to meet up at a local coffee shop for some cappuccino and commiserating.

A few weeks later, right in the middle of grad school applications and interviews, we took a break from our summer jobs to grab some midday breakfast at another café and wound up talking for a while about how stressed we were.

Some weeks later, a few more of my down-in-the-dumps friends planned Sunday brunch to get away from how downright strange real life had gotten. 

And then, it just kept on happening.

And that’s essentially how the Depression Date was born – with a bunch of young adults who would easily identify as ‘stressed, depressed and living in sweats’ and would sometimes rather eat their feelings, instead of facing life.

It’s simple, and it works because eating with friends is one of those little pleasures in life that may not leave any lasting impact. But in the moment, it’s the best thing about your day.

Most modern concepts of self-care are hard for me. I could light some scented candles and take a bath, or put on some calming music and clean up the clutter in my space, but that doesn’t really do much for me personally.

All it really achieves at the end of the day is a few more plays on my calming playlist, a very clean bedroom, and the choking sensation of feeling lonelier than ever.

I thrive on privacy and bottling up my emotions, but I also thrive on being around people and seeking emotional connection. So, no matter how much I need to escape my real life sometimes, being absolutely alone just makes me feel more negative, hopeless, and isolated than ever.  

Those ugly feelings of isolation have heightened since graduation. All the people who were such an integral part of daily life are now separated by jobs, grad school plans, the pressures of higher academia, actually earning a living, and being a fully-functioning Adult.

With everything feeling so uncertain and worrisome, the best option is to find somebody who doesn’t make you feel completely horrible about yourself and stuff your face until you feel a little sick. My partners-in-sad and I often go to one of our favorite cafés and eat a mountain of cheesy, fried goodness. We disconnect from our phones and families and real life and just talk. Conversation pours out on these dates, problems and pressures shared over cheesecake dissipate with every bite. We stay until we feel light at heart and way too full in the belly — or until it’s time for class.

Other simpler options exist, too! You gather in the Supporting Friend’s bedroom and eat more mac and cheese than advisable. 

Or you hang out at a park with giant milkshakes from McDonald’s and let the rush of sugar in the blood fuel the confessions. 

Or you have giant cups of chai and a good snuggle. 

Or you put on High School Musical and sing along to all the songs while eating an obscene amount of cake and popcorn. Sometimes, our Depression Dates are just ice cream from the grocery store in the backseat of the car. 

And it is unbelievable how good it feels.

Of course, it’s not always easy to plan Depression Dates. There are times when it’s not easy – or even possible – to find people you want to be with when your mood is at its grayest. And there may be days when you literally can’t afford it. But if you do find the right person, you’re good to go.

Solitary self-care is not something that comes easily to everyone. Most of my ugly thoughts and strange paranoia stem from distance and solitude, and the invention of the Depression Date as a way to deal with that has been life-changing – especially because it involves my closest friends and dessert.