One of the reasons I make it a point to not fervently deny that I've ever been depressed is that I have this undying hope that someday I'll be able to explain it well enough that the people who have never been depressed will know how to react. Allie covered it pretty well in the return of Hyperbole And A Half -- people try to help, but they're all determined to give you solutions to a problem that is not the one you have. Then when that solution doesn't work, they get frustrated, and sometimes angry at you for it.

It also makes me fight with myself sometimes when other people ring that bell in my brain. When you're depressed, one of the things that keeps you awake at night is the idea that you're making life difficult for other people. You spend a lot of time and energy trying like hell to pretend you're not depressed. If someone brings it up, most of the time your reaction is to yell NO I'M FINE as loud as you can, and then flee.

One of my co-volunteers has not been around lately. He doesn't cancel things, but he doesn't turn up either. He's still offering to take desk shifts, but then sometimes he shows up, and sometimes he scrambles at the last minute to find a replacement -- behaving, in general, like he wants to/intends to be there, but something unpredictable keeps pre-empting it. Various and sundry observations have made it pretty clear that he's talked to someone on the admin level, and they're very quietly making accommodations for whatever's going on, but nobody who actually works with him has any idea what's up.

I know as well as anyone that people are more stochastic than stoichiometric. I am aware that:

  1. There are a billion possible explanations for all of this that make it not a Really Bad Sign.
  2. I don't know any of them, so to me, this looks like a Really Bad Sign.
I've seen other people pull this kind of vanishing act before, and I've done it myself. Not all disappearances are because of unpleasant things, but when they're because of something good, usually someone knows about it. Maybe not everybody -- it's considered bad form to brag about your upcoming three-week Hawaiian vacation to the intern stuck doing data processing for the next six months. But if you suddenly elope with your Twoo Wuv and fuck off to Niagara for the honeymoon, eventually someone's going to find out, especially when you've given no sign of loathing the rest of your co-workers. 

It's been my experience to date that radio silence means bad juju, usually some kind of personal bad juju that takes an emotional toll. It's also been my experience that when this gets deep enough, you spend most of your time fighting with yourself over whether you want someone to notice or you pray nobody catches on. 

Our calendar system has been in chaos for a bit, so I've been trying to email or text people when something I've done affects their schedule. I was about to send him a two-sentence email about finding someone to cover for something, and I ended up wrestling with myself over whether I ought to say something about it. Not like, 'Let me share personal history with you and be your therapist!' That turns out well exactly 0% of the time. But like, 'A couple of us have noticed your sudden not-being-around-ness and we're hoping everything's cool on your end.'

People don't all react the same to it. Sometimes I get no response at all. Occasionally they think I'm bizarre, actually observing other people and wondering what goes on in their lives, and never talk to me again. That's probably for the better -- I'm shit at not watching and wondering. Every once in a great while I get the explanation they've been dying to give to someone for ages and finally just said, hell with it, I'll type it all out. I don't know if I'm any better at giving advice than anyone else, but at least I've learned how to listen without getting dragged in, if it's something truly petty or crazy or what-have-you. 

A lot of the time, I get a polite 'thank you, XYZ is going on, I appreciate the sympathy/offer of help/kind word.' I mostly don't ever find out whether that actually means 'this is the polite way I don't talk about this' or 'oh thank god someone noticed, I'm not invisible and alone'. I've never been able to decide whether that bothers me or not, but I don't do that sort of thing to rake in gratitude or favors, so I suspect that either way, it doesn't actually matter.

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