DEAR MARY ANN: I have a friend who suffers from depression, sometimes very severe depression. This friend does what I've not seen anyone else do who is depressed -- she works, she socializes, she cares for others. In short, she does not bury her head in the sand and has told me she needs to continue to do this.
When alone, she can suffer even more. What helps the most is having people who will listen to her and spend time with her.
In listening to her myself, I see she has an understanding that others have issues and other commitments, too, and takes this into consideration.
Lately I have seen her take a turn for the worse, and I have learned that fewer people bother to take the time to ask how she's doing or just simply make time to spend with her.
She didn't want to tell me this or let me know she's spent a lot of time privately crying about it.
Too often when we hear the word depression, we step away, and I believe this should be taken as seriously as any other illness and issues.
I would love to let others know that this is a friend who needs to be loved and encouraged, but I don't want to overstep my boundaries or hers. What to do?
-- CARES DEEPLY
DEAR CARES DEEPLY: Depression wears many faces. First and foremost encourage your friend to get professional help. Being a supportive listener is important, but never stroke your own ego by thinking you can fix her problems with your sage advice. Don't assume that what would work for you would work for her. Trying to be Helpful Hanna can backfire.
Your friend's judgment may be cloudy and distorted in spite of her busy outward appearance. It is her decision if she wants you to draw others into a support group, so ask her permission before sharing her story with anyone, otherwise it smells like gossip.
Negativity and depressed thinking are contagious, and that may be a reason others are spending less time with her.
Wear kid gloves, be sensitive and caring but understand you are not responsible for this woman's happiness.
Trust your own instincts, and always remember you are a friend and not a therapist.
DEAR MARY ANN: I think I'm losing my faith in love. Like any other girl I had a dream of the whole spouse, five kids and dog scenario, complete with the white fence.
But because of my past and not having positive examples of love throughout life, I'm losing hope. I used to believe in love that takes my breath away, but these days I think that won't happen. And the worst part is I'm only in my college years so everyone around me thinks I'm crazy. They say "live while you can," just have "fun," but I'd trade all that for one real love.
-- LOVELESS YOUNG LADY
DEAR YOUNG LADY: The picket fence dream is a symbol. Love that takes your breath away is a fantasy and a fake copy of the real thing.
Glossy Hollywood magazines that relay gossip of the latest breakup-make up relationships perpetuate the "live while you can" attitude your friends promote.
Daydreaming about a handsome swain is another form of make-believe.
Strive to define your own interests, character and skills. Your value system will mature as you surround yourself with people who have similar longer-term goals.
Read and observe. Search out a mentor and learn from his or her example.
As you blossom into a strong self-assured woman you will develop confidence in your own judgment.
True love does not take the fast track, and it does not come in pill form. Love that lasts is a life journey that enjoys the peaks and survives the valleys. The high road is always a little steeper, but in the end the view is superior. There may even be a picket fence.lifestyle
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: email@example.com or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.