Not many people know how to help a friend who is suffering from depression – which is why film critic and writer Sheila O’Malley felt compelled to publicly praise her friends for how they helped her when she needed it most.
On the Twitter thread she published last week, O’Malley explained how the death of her father sent her into a grieving spiral. Upon moving to a new apartment, the writer says her mental health prevented her from unpacking any of her belongings.
“For MONTHS, I was ashamed I couldn’t unpack,” says O’Malley. “How can you be UNABLE to unpack? Just open the g.d. boxes. That was the year I cried for 19 days. Straight.”
As she struggled with her condition, her high school friend David did his best to uplift her with words of encouragement and love – neither of which were quite enough to help.
Finally, he took a risk and rallied their friends for a secret unpacking party.
“It very well could have ended badly. I could have lashed out,” says O’Malley. “But he took the risk. He sent out an email to a group of local friends (w/out my knowledge) and said, ‘Sheila is struggling. She needs our help. Let’s all go over there and unpack her apartment for her. Bring food. Let’s make it fun.’”
After ensuring that O’Malley would be home, the determined team of friends showed up at her door ready to get to work.
“At 6 pm on Thursday night the doorbell rang and 10 of my friends barged in, bearing platters of food, cleaning products, and complete unconcern for my ‘Wait … you CAN’T COME IN HERE I HAVEN’T UNPACKED YET’ protestations. They ignored me and got to work.”
For the rest of the evening, the crew shelved every book, hung every poster, cleaned every surface, put away every possession, and they even set up a cozy kitchen-based feast of tacos and beer.
“I literally was unable to do THE SIMPLEST THINGS,” O’Malley recalls. “And nobody judged me. They were like superheroes sweeping in.
“At the end of the night, I looked at my friend’s husband – a quiet tactiturn guy who drives a tugboat on the Hudson – practical, man of few words – and I just looked at him, speechless, not knowing how to say thank you, especially to this tough resilient self-sufficient man.
“He looked at me, saw the look on my face, understood the look, understood everything that was behind it – and said, ‘Listen, baby, what we did today was a barn-raising.’”
O’Malley finishes her heart-wrenching tale by explaining that while people with depression are always encouraged to ask for help, the advice doesn’t always land if they are struggling with feelings of shame – which is why she is grateful that her crew had the courage to take the initiative.
“When they all swept out of there 4 hours later, my place was a home,” writes O’Malley. “Not only was everything put away – but now it had a memory attached to it, a group memory, friends, laughing, dirty jokes, hard work. These are the kinds of friends I have. Be that kind of friend to others.”
The writer emphasizes how her friends “took a risk” by sweeping into her home unannounced, but in O’Malley’s words, “being a friend takes commitment” and “a willingness to take that risk.”
Since she posted the moving tale to Twitter, her thread has been shared thousands of times – and she’s grateful that her experience has inspired so many others in similar situations.
“I’m glad I decided to share it. It’s good to be reminded we need to look out for one another. I need the reminder too.”
Share The Tear-Jerking Story Of Friendship With Your Own Crew – Photo by Sheila O’Malley