ASHIMA

My friend has cancer, I have depression, and we are treated worlds apart by our group of friends.

I met my group of high school friends in Grade 8. We came from different elementary schools and different backgrounds, yet the five of us gravitated towards one another and became the best of friends. We spent all our breaks together, took the same classes to be with one another, and spent every weekend together. We would celebrate big holidays and birthdays, we would travel and enjoy big adventures, we would spend hours on the phone. We were inseparable. We experienced the highs and lows of high school and had each other to lean on to get us through it all. We had a strong bond and loved each other.

After graduation, we all went our separate ways in pursuit of our dreams. Some of us moved away, some of us stayed, but despite the distance, seventeen years later we all stayed in touch. In 2010, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety. In 2018, one of the girls in our group was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Since then, I can't help but be a witness to the differences in treatment we both endured by our group of friends.

She is currently undergoing treatment for her cancer. During this time, she has found pouring amounts of love and support. They visit her in the hospital or drive her to chemo sessions. They constantly text her in our group chat to send love and positive thoughts. They show their care and concern through actions and words. Every statement made by them is towards her speedy recovery and her bravery. Her hair loss is a sign of strength and resilience. Her weak and withering body is her fight against cancer. Every conversation has questions about her surgery and drugs, and then some more follow up questions days later. They are so curious and invested in her recovery. The group chat consists of conversions regarding her battle with cancer and their infinite amount of love and support.

When I was undergoing treatment for my depression, I found loneliness and isolation. My friends did not ask me how my therapy was going, or how the antidepressants were affecting my body. Our group chat did not consist of my weekly updates regarding my therapy sessions. I did not have their love and support the way my friend fighting cancer does. Maybe because you couldn't see my damaged and ill brain. Maybe because you couldn't see any physical sign of my withering mind. My depression was insidiously tearing at my thoughts and behaviour from within, and no one mentioned it. My friends didn’t show their love and concern. They never asked me questions after I attempted to commit suicide. They never asked me about the scars on my wrists. They never came to visit when I was hospitalized. The group chat was silent regarding my fight with depression. The chat was filled with stories about plans for the weekend, future dates, and work nights. The chat was filled with avoidance and fear to any talk about my mental illness. For me, it was filled with loneliness and isolation.

During this year, I love and support my friend fighting cancer. I want her body to heal soon. I want her to live her best, healthy life. I want her to be cancer free, but I can't help and compare the difference in their treatment towards her versus me. I live with a chronic illness, and my fight is lifelong. However, to date, the group chat is never geared about how I am feeling or if my depression is at bay. I never get support from them for my recovery. I can't help but feel disheartened, lonely, and angry. I did not ask for depression, just as she did not ask for cancer. I am fighting every day, just as she has been fighting this entire year. My body and mind are often exhausted, just as hers’ are.

My friend has cancer, I have depression, and we are treated worlds apart by our group of friends, but I wish we weren't.

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