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The Art of Feeling Useless (and When to Let Go of Friends)

“Do you have days when you feel useless?” asked the nurse, as I sat in the surgery clutching my neck.

Here we had a nurse who had her finger on the pulse, as she rightfully concluded that the muscle spasm in my neck was the culmination of stress, overworking, and a mental health meltdown. Her line of questioning was merely to confirm if I might be suffering with depression.

I paused for a moment. This wasn’t like the questions I’m asked on a daily basis. I’m used to repetitive questions like “Do you have this in a size 12?” or “When are you closing down?” or “What does L/G mean?” – but I’m rarely asked deep and meaningful questions. Although a young colleague once asked me if I regretted not doing anything big with my life, which just amused me more than anything.

For the record; the shop isn’t closing down in the foreseeable future, and L/G on a clothing label means Large/Grande – although I’ve always been tempted to say the G stands for ginormous.

“Yes, I have days when I feel useless,” I replied honestly.

“Sometimes, most of the time or almost always?”

“Almost always,” I said, without hesitation.

There’s a huge difference to *being* completely useless and *feeling* completely useless, so it’s important to elaborate on that one.

The nurse then asked for an example and I explained that my Mum has Alzheimer's but now I live 100 miles away and have to work every day I find it very difficult to get home and offer my parents the support they need on a daily basis. Even if I was able to make it down once a week it wouldn’t feel like I was doing enough to help.

So there’s not a minute in the day when I don’t feel completely useless in that respect.

The nurse then asked me if I’d ever thought about giving up on life (although not in those words). In terms of the “s” word then no, but there have been days when I’ve just wanted to fall off the face of the earth.

Everyone has their own trigger. It could be something small like the cancellation of your favourite TV show… or something more intense like asking a woman out on a date when she has no attraction to you whatsoever and you just want to crawl into a hole until the end of time. Even then she still wouldn’t be interested.

While it’s always tempting to just disappear I think my sole dependant (with four legs) would have issues with that one. I think she’d miss me the most as I obviously don’t spend enough time with other humans for them to really “miss” me on a daily basis.

I have a very small band of friends and, as I’m not really a social animal, I can be quite content just pottering around the house, playing with the dog, listening to podcasts, and doing a spot of writing. Yes it sounds like I'm getting old, but I've been like that since I was about 12 (except listening to podcasts as we didn't have those in my day).

Sometimes people also get me down, and in recent years I’ve also become quite fussy over who I call a friend.

There’s been one or two people I used to hang out with on a regular basis but I’ve had to bin them as they were saying unpleasantries behind my back. I, personally, don’t like to talk about other people behind their back, and when I am discussing someone who isn’t present I always try to imagine that person is also in the room. I find the universe has ways of that person finding out, especially if you have mutual friends with mahoosive mouths.

I know people have moaned about how many dog photos I post on social media, but I couldn’t care less about that. In fact the more I hear of people moaning about the dog photos the more dog photos I want to post – secretly hoping the moaners get so tired of the dog photos that they report and block me for crimes against social media. There’s so much crap people post on social media but if it bothers me that much I just unfollow or unfriend them – because that’s how social media works. The idea is following the people you like, not the people you dislike. It’s not rocket science. I could sit there moaning about someone or I could just save a lot of energy at the click of a button.

If someone is always struggling with something – whether that thing is money, mental health, or their unruly dog – perhaps think for a moment. Can you help the situation by bitching about them to your spouse, or by approaching the individual and asking them if there's anything you can do to help?

Unfortunately, I have told friends things in confidence – that have then reached two or three other people. I’ve also sat in a room with someone who has torn a mutual friend to pieces, but then acts like their best friend when they’re together. I’m not naive enough to believe that person isn’t also bitching about me, which is highly likely.

Sadly, there are people who I’d once happily go for coffee with on a regular basis who I’d never instigate a meeting with ever again. If they suggested a meet-up I might go for a catch-up (to be polite) but I’d certainly not cancel all my plans or give them any information that I didn’t want the world and his wife to know.

When a gossip starts saying things like “Why do you think X and Y split up?” I try to change the subject as I find it’s less confrontational than giving that person the truth. “It’s really none of your business.”

To be honest I’m far happier talking about Midsomer Murders, dogs, or the complete works of Agatha Christie.

I have a huge amount of time for people I like, but I also know where to draw the line. If I’m trying to instigate meetings with someone who clearly has no interest then a point will always come when I revert to my safety mode of drinking coffee, playing with the pooch and listening to podcasts about the history of pirates.

The fact I may be suffering with depression doesn’t define me as a human being. There’s an awful lot of depressed people out there, many of whom don't talk about it because people tell them we shouldn't talk about mental health on social media. We’ve just come through a global pandemic and are in the midst of a cost of living crisis so I'd hazard a guess that a lot of people are suffering out there right now.

I’m exactly the same human being I’ve always been, I’m just less tolerant to petty crap that’s none of my concern or people treating me with cold indifference. The humour will shine through, and so will the plethora of dog photos. If you have a problem with that then come to me, but please don’t be offended if I’m not overly concerned by anything you have to say on that one.

Life is insanely short. I vividly recall my biggest worry being getting through the school day without my fellow pupils throwing my PE kit in the showers or scrawling "Carrot Top" over my English book.

We'll always have days when we feel completely useless, but my best advice is to focus on the things we can change and not on the situations that are completely out of our control.

I'll leave you with a photo of a bitch wearing a bandana on the beach and ask the question; "What's not to love?"

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