I found solace in an unlikely friend.
My battle with mental health began in my teenage years. A few months ago, I was going through a bad bout of depression and was starting to feel hopeless.
I had just moved to a small town where I knew no one. I tried to utilize what little entertainment I had around me, but most nights I would spend alone in my apartment watching Netflix.
On Friday nights, though, I would go bowling. I stopped going when I bowled a turkey (three strikes in a row) and realized there was no one around to celebrate with me. Experiencing that little bit of joy and not having anyone to share it with seemed to bring me down more than before I arrived at the bowling alley. To avoid that feeling again, I started spending Friday nights at home, alone, where everything was at least predictable.
After a few weeks of not bowling, and feeling like crap, I took a walk around town. It was late, so the streets were mostly empty – I just wanted to clear my head a bit.
As I rounded a corner, my head down, someone passed by me. I didn’t look up until I heard them say “Hey!”
It took me a second to realize who was talking to me. To be honest, I didn’t recognize them until they asked me, “why haven’t you been at the bowling alley?”
The woman speaking to me worked where I would bowl on Friday nights. I didn’t really know how to respond, seeing as I was hesitant to open up to her, a near stranger. But there she stood, smiling, waiting for my response.
I made something up quick, using my work schedule as an excuse. She smiled and nodded, we made small talk and then she asked me how I was. Part of me wanted to just say “good” and leave it at that, but another part wanted to be honest.
I told her that I had been down, feeling lonely in a new town where I had no friends. She said something along the lines of “I’ve been there, too,” and told me I should come bowling again.
Did she save me from my depression? No, but she treated me like a human being. Even though we had very little interaction prior to that night, she acted like a friend.
Small acts of kindness go a long way. The old saying, “you never know what someone is going through,” rings true. While she didn’t save me, I wasn’t looking to be saved. All I wanted was someone to notice me and to care. She was able to provide me with a spark of hope, a hint of companionship, a little bit of care.
Making sure your friends are okay doesn’t take much effort. It requires listening, empathizing and simply being there for someone. A friend can be found in unlikely areas, such as bowling alleys in small towns in Middle America.