7. All advice is good advice

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Whenever something like this happens (diagnosis: Acute Anxiety Disorder, brought on by prolonged intense stress), good, wonderful, caring friends rush to shower you with words of understanding, consolation, and, yes, lots and lots of advice. Most people around my age have experienced some sort of anxiety, trauma, or panic attacks—although maybe not to this extent—so they’ll try to draw from their own experience to give you pointers and try to help you through this difficult time anyway they can.

It’s a beautiful thing to be on the receiving end of so much support (and a cake! From a wonderful neighbor. Man, it was a very tasty cake!) and it’s very, and I mean very informative to listen to all the advice. And it helps to know that others have been through shit—pardon my language—and gotten to the other side, and they’re here to tell you all about it. It’s also very interesting from a sociological point of view. Because, if your friends are a mixed bag of ages, nationalities, and mental disorders, they all have different takes on your problem, and they all offer different bits of advice. Some of them have their positive or negative experiences with healthcare professionals, with different medications, the health system in their country of residence, their family or work environment—with regards to causes of stress—and many can relate to one or more aspects of your problem. One has similar issues with their children or their spouse, another one suffered from increased anxiety, yet another one dealt with unemployment or physical trauma or a diagnosis similar to yours.

Let me tell you, now, something I figured out just today: listening to all my friends’ advice is an exercise in getting to know them more intimately than any mere discussion between us would ever achieve. The advice they so freely and generously give has less to do with me, and is more a reflection of their experiences, and eventually, their character.

This is absolutely fascinating.

In order for someone to give you truly meaningful and helpful advice, they have to sometimes leave their experiences, impediments, and traumas behind, and focus on you. They have to either know you intimately, so that they can reach a conclusion on what will be good for you—irrelevantly of whether it would be good for them in a similar situation—or, like a healthcare professional, look at you with a scientist’s cold and calculating gaze, as a puzzle to solve, provided they have as much information as possible.

The thing is, none of us can be impartial, especially if we feel strongly about something—which invariably happens when issues of such emotional weight are discussed. This is not criticism, or a condemnation: I couldn’t be an impartial judge of another person’s mental condition, and I don’t think many people can. I still give my advice to my friends, and I expect them to give me their advice—for which I am truly thankful. Advice is, after all, useful: sometimes it just happens to help because your personality is similar to the advice offering person’s personality, it always gives you a different perspective on things—which is a necessary thing, you can’t go through life with only one perspective—or sometimes people are really able to step out of themselves for a minute and truly think about you as a separate entity with completely different feelings.

People are fascinating. Did I say that? My friends are fascinating. I profit from the interactions with them every single day.

And then, of course, there’s Guardian Angel Dimitra: Dimitra is truly able to see me, me, not a projection of herself on me. Or maybe she and I are so similar that the projection is the same as an impartial view of me and my troubles. I don’t know which of the two is true. I do know that, today, my doctor—who’s actually awesome, I take back everything I said about her caution while prescribing anti-anxiety medication—gave me antidepressants to help get me through the next few weeks until we find a more permanent solution to the problem.

Dimitra has been talking to me about antidepressants for more than a week. Since before the breakdown. She fuckin’ knew.

Man, this woman’s potential is wasted. I’m telling you, she could start a cult, and she’d actually make people better.

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