I Am Too Busy To Exercise
“I am so sorry I am late,” I said breathlessly to my friend Ashley as I slid into the booth, “but how are you, my lovely friend?”
“Oh you know me,” Ashley said, as I flipped open the menu in front of me, “My doctor, yet again, rescheduled my MRI appointment, so this hip and knee pain is going to just be my every day until I get a god damn answer from a professional. I do not know how long I live like that, I am in so much pain.”
I, ever so carefully, while perusing the menu, avoiding Ashley’s gaze, asked, “Do you think there are any actions you can take, on your own, before the appointment with the doctor? Things which could perhaps help alleviate the pain temporarily even?”
The past few years have not been easy on Ashley and she has struggled with a strong bout of depression, transforming food and television into her daily therapy and solace. The hip and knee pain she is now plagued with was not a problem before her weight gain, but it was still a touchy subject to address the association of the two.
“What could I possibly do that could help?” Ashley fired back at me, frustrated with her pain and now frustrated me and with what she knew I was alluding to.
“I am not a health professional,” I said cautiously, “but I feel like I recall you mentioning that the doctor said any potential surgery would be contingent on you losing some weight first. Maybe the solution is not as aggressive as surgery, maybe you will start to feel relief from the pain independently, with a bit of weight loss….”
“Weight loss!? I am simply too busy to exercise, I do not have time to exercise,” Ashley stated, matter-of-factly as the waitress arrived to take our order.
I have had similar conversations with Ashley over the past year. She is in constant, daily physical pain, a pain I would not wish on my worst enemy, but she is also in a mental prison which will not allow her the stamina needed to help herself.
When you are struggling with depression you build giant walls around yourself which make even getting out of bed an impossible feat each and every day. These walls are not fake, or invisible, they are very much real and the hurdle to overcome them is very much real and a daily feat.
It is very hard to help a friend when they are in this situation; the situation within which they cannot help themselves, even though you can clearly see how much it will help them. Our job as friends is not to tell our friends what is best for them to do, but rather meet them where they are, with no judgement.
With Ashley, it can be really hard for me to see her struggling, but until she is able to get out of this depressive state, even the idea of exercising to alleviate her daily, persistent pain is an impossibility.
It does frustrate me regularly.
There are times when I cannot respond to her phone calls, texts or comments because I feel like we are circling the same drain over and over again, but I also know to point out the obvious will not make her situation better.
What I try to do is regularly point out the benefits of speaking with a professional.
I tell her how much talking to a therapist has helped me in life because now I am coming from a place of self-improvement, rather than unsolicited advice.
Being a friend to a person in this state can be really hard to do and sometimes, but it is better the give them space, rather than trying to propel them into something they are not ready for.
Sometimes, all you can do is listen and be there for them, until they are ready to face their demons head-on. If it gets too hard for you, remember to take time, space and be protective of your energy because it can be draining.
Create boundaries, let them know that you are there for them, but it hurts you to hear about their problem continually without them taking matters into their own hands.
By creating guidelines of how much complaining you will allow them to dump on you, you will ensure that your relationship might be able to survive this period, but it also lets your friend know that you value them, but that value your own needs as well.