I don’t really know if you’ll be able to help me with this, I just want to vent to someone. And the fact that I don’t know you makes this easier. Because I feel really bad about it.
I don’t like hearing about my friends’ depression. For a long time I’ve been the person people come to when they want to talk, and I’ve always liked listening and helping. But I’m starting to feel drained and exhausted.
Our group chat is filled with sad Tumblr quotes and poems. It feels like that’s all anyone talks about anymore. I recently left the chat. I don’t even like hanging with them in real life anymore because all they do is smoke cigarettes and talk about depression. And it’s not like I don’t relate to it. I deal with things like that as well.
Maybe I don’t like it because I don’t like talking about my feelings. And I feel really bad about this because I know that you’re supposed to encourage people to talk about their feelings. It’s almost like their depression is making me feel worse.
What do I do? I feel like a terrible person for feeling this way and I know everyone is going to tell me I’m being insensitive and selfish. I guess I just want to know if I’m the only person who has felt this way.
Then allow me to be the first to give you the good news, Sparkler: You are so not the only person who has felt this way. In fact, I’m guessing that a solid majority of our readership knows just how you feel, and empathizes completely, and is sustaining finger injuries as we speak in their rush to scroll down to the comments to express their solidarity with your frustration.
Because look, it’s true that talking about your feelings can be a useful way to deal with them. But there’s a big difference between talking about your feelings and talking about your feelings exclusively and all the time, let alone pouring those feelings into a metaphorical vat and climbing in after them and then stewing in your sadness, recreationally, forever, with half a dozen of your closest equally-miserable friends. It’s not just that the latter activity is unproductive and unhealthy (and it is!). It’s also unbelievably boring — which makes it super normal and unsurprising that you are bored by it.
Of course, it’s also super normal for kids of a certain age and temperament to do what your friends are doing. Sharing angry poetry and wallowing in your feelings of alienation and depression is a teenaged cliché for a reason, and social media (e.g. Tumblr) just serves to amplify the angst, as you’ve discovered. But just because it’s not necessarily weird that your friends have gotten obsessed with this kind of non-stop performative sadness, that doesn’t mean you’re wrong or selfish for thinking it’s a drag. Like you said, it’s not as if you don’t relate; the difference is that you don’t enjoy dwelling on the bad stuff, because you don’t see depression as the singlemost defining point of your life and your friendships. Which is fine, and all you need to do in response is what you’ve already done: to take a discreet step back and find something else to do while your friends attend their daily meetings of the Saddest Pandas Club. If they want someone to talk to about how miserable they are, then it’s not as though they don’t have an outlet; they can talk (and listen) to each other.
Meanwhile, it’s also worth noting that this situation almost certainly won’t last forever. You were the first to become fatigued by the bleak vibe of your group chats, but you’re not going to be the only one; people can only spend so much time smoking cigarettes and talking about depression before they start to get sick of themselves. And as long as you’re giving yourself regular, needed breaks from this tiresome situation (and maybe finding some alternative ways to spend your time while you wait), you’ll find that you have a lot more patience in the meantime while you wait for the depression obsession to reach its natural conclusion.
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