I lost my large intestine to a dreadful disease last year and now I’m losing my best friend to depression.

We haven’t spoken in weeks. I message him every few days. Call him, too. Not so much that it’s pestering, I hope. But not so little that he could ever think I don’t care. Because I do. Since our university freshers’ week, it’s almost six years that we’ve been inseparable.

Off the Grid

This isn’t the first time he has shut out his friends and family. When unresponsive for a concerning period last year, to ensure he was okay, I drove home from a holiday. His brother nearly knocked down our flat door when I was in hospital and couldn’t check on him. I know he hates the idea of being checked on, but when he goes offline to those closest to him, it sets the dark corners of my imagination into motion.

Invisible Illnesses

Mental health issues frighten me. They are just as debilitating as physical disorders like Crohn’s or Colitis, the latter of which made St Thomas’ hospital my second home for 2019. My disease is classed as an invisible disability, but depression, anxiety, bipolar, these are even stealthier and trickier to confront. A more distant friend with a chronic condition committed suicide not too long ago; whenever my best friend goes off the grid I now fear for the worst.

I can see why his social circle has dwindled since graduation. With no mutual effort since, some friends have become mere acquaintances or have lost contact altogether. Regardless, those closest still care deeply about him.

But it takes an emotional toll the longer I’m ignored. Especially now we no longer live together, and particularly in lockdown when I can’t physically go and force him to get out of his room and talk to me.

I miss my mate. I miss his sense of humour, his willingness for adventure, and overall just his presence in my life.

Reluctance to talk

When I’ve previously asked about NHS mental-health care options, or the therapy options his employer offers, he’s dismissed them, bemoaning their uselessness.

I drift from feelings of loss, to concern, to sadness, to loneliness, to anger that my best friend ignores me. He’s being selfish, a family member insists. But is he? Because his actions as a terrific friend for six years say otherwise. My family don’t understand, I don’t understand, and I doubt he does either. I just wish someone had some clear advice that would change things.

I’ve read countless articles on depression, an audio book on cognitive behavioural therapy, even books on neuroscience. But if he doesn’t respond to me or his other remaining friends, how are we supposed to help?

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