For Mental Health Awareness Week, our columnist Andrea Hubert offers a short and sarcastic guide to wooing someone who’s dealing with the most common mental illness.
‘I’ve never fucked a depressed girl before.’
That’s what he said to me. Over the first drink. On the first date.
I’d only mentioned my depression because a) I think de-mystifying mental health is important; and b) because my depression is all-pervasive and most people notice anyway. Not because I get moody and quiet, but because some of my responses to normal questions, such as ‘Would you like some wine?’, accidentally come out like: ‘May as well, I’m decaying inside and out anyway hahahahahah I’m serious though and often it’s all I think about. But not Chardonnay. Gross.’
But back to that moment.
I wish I’d said, ‘Oh, I think you have fucked a depressed girl before. In fact, I think it’s entirely likely that almost everyone you ever fucked was depressed, if not before being impaled upon your insensitive brain extensions, then definitely directly after. What I’m saying is, this comment is not an ideal way to get into my pants. They’re already covered in metaphorical barbed wire, and your “flirting” knife just isn’t strong enough to cut through.’
Of course, I didn’t say that. I ended the date quickly because I don’t have the energy to deal with people that shitty. But while deciding what to write about for Mental Health Awareness Week, I dredged the memory back up and realised that maybe I could prevent this and similar excruciating things happening to other poor depressed folks.
Obviously there’s no catch-all technique for acting on attraction, and even less so if the object of your desire happens to be followed everywhere by the ol’ black dog. And probably many people would shy away from a relationship with someone who suffers from mental health issues. And that’s all right in my book. I’d be suspicious of any suitor (and I’ve come across one or two) actively pursuing a person *with* depression, because they’re attracted to a perceived weakness and vulnerability – but that’s really a different blog about bad people.
So if you are dating or fucking or trying to woo a depressed person, here are a few tips for not accidentally crushing their soul.
Don’t assume compliments are required
‘But you’re so pretty!’. I’ve heard that before from boyfriends who either didn’t accept that I didn’t feel like having sex, or who found me crying my eyes out, surrounded by a pile of clothing I’d tried on, ripped off and thrown across the room because ‘I’m disgusting and ugly and sad and everyone hates me!’* (*in my head). At this point, it’s better if you realise that logic has no place here, and therefore an aesthetics-based compliment is a total misunderstanding of the problem’s source. It could be Gisele Bundchen crying about how nothing fits her, and her attractiveness *still* wouldn’t be the point.
Don’t cajole anyone into going out
You like someone. There’s a party. They’ll be there. It’s exciting. But then, they text you – they aren’t up to it.
What do you do? Don’t try and convince them to get out.
Why? Because they already want to want to go out. They would like nothing more than to be able to be part of the world of fun people doing fun things. And if they could, they would. And if they’ve been honest about the fact their mental health condition won’t let them, that means they like you too. If they didn’t want to fuck you in the future, they’d probably have told you they had food poisoning. It’s a classic.
Don’t assume sex is going to be dirtier than usual
Once, a guy attempted to fist me. More power to the elbows of all the people who like to fist, but I’m not in your club. And don’t get me wrong, he didn’t try to do it sneakily (it’s a pretty difficult thing to try to be covert about. You can’t just take a run up with your arm stuck out in premature victory. But I digress). The attempt was respectful and the retreat was swift. But he seemed perplexed that I’d said no and when I pressed him later, he told me: ‘I don’t know. I thought girls like you were into extreme stuff. Aren’t most depressed people?’.
Well, I don’t know about most depressed people’s turn ons, but I do know that I personally am not wet with desire at the idea of being lumped into a box labelled ‘Sad but filthy because of it’. Maybe that theory works for some people. But it’s probably not a great idea if you approach every sexual encounter with a double ended horse sized dildo, assuming all sad girls like it rough because otherwise they can’t feel anything.
And side note: don’t assume great sex will have a lasting curative effect on the mood of someone with a mental health condition. It almost definitely won’t and we don’t need to be blamed when your magical skills didn’t cure us.
Don’t play mental health top trumps
It’s OK to not really understand what it feels like to wake up one day and feel normal, and wake up the next and feel like you’re drowning, and know there’s no logical reason for it. If you’ve never experienced it, I am glad for (and jealous of) you.
Yes, it means it’s harder to talk to you about it, but it doesn’t make it harder to love you or fancy you or care about you. What does make it harder to love you is when you see us, choking on our sadness, and try and convince us that you totally understand how we feel because you once felt bad about a real life tragedy that happened and didn’t get out of bed for a whole week. THAT DOESN’T HELP. And it won’t get you what you want, be it sex, or a night out, or for us to get out of bed so you can change the sheets.
Do keep trying
Not to fix us. God no. But to find a way to live with it. After all, people live with a lot of things in relationships that aren’t ideal. People are layered and complex and infinitely confusing in their wants and needs. So our needs change with the rise and fall of serotonin levels. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker. After all, we’ve got to figure you out too, and we’ve got to do it while fighting a force we can’t control. And depression, like any other mental health condition, can be kept at bay for a long time before it erupts. Plus, we all die eventually so why not try some blues with your rhythm?
Andrea is a mostly straight thirtysomething comedian and writer based in London. She writes film features, sex columns, beauty reviews, sitcoms, corporate stuff she wouldn’t put her name to, and stand-up solo shows. Check out her website for examples of her work and details of her 2018 Edinburgh Festival show ‘Holes of Joy’, watch her on Next Up Comedy, or follow her on Twitter.