I am a single (gay, if it's relevant) man in my late 30s, and have been single for a long time since a series of serious, longer-term relationships in my 20s. I am the only single person among my friends, who are terrific and like family. I'm closer to many of them than I am to my actual family, and I have good relationships with many of their partners, spouses, children, etc. I have a job that is high-pressure and limits my free time, but it gives me a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment. I was OK with this state of affairs for a long time ... but over the past year or so, I have become more and more not OK with it.
I don't necessarily want a relationship – when I do date, I often wish I were by myself or hanging out with my friends – but my single status and, at times, loneliness are increasingly more acutely felt. Over the past few years, I have started getting very sad after friends' weddings, when they announce pregnancies, when their kids have birthdays, etc. I have fun at these events and enjoy spending time with them, and am grateful for the people who are so warm to invite me into their lives.
At the same time, in some cases I find myself breaking into tears unexpectedly as I head home, or I feel low the next morning when I wake up, a feeling that can last on and off for a few days. I have taken a few online screeners for depression but they have all come back saying I don't show symptoms. I thought about mentioning this to a doctor or looking for a counselor but I don't even know what I would say is the "problem." I have a blessed life and would honestly feel awkward talking to someone I don't know well about my personal business, particularly when the few things I have to "complain" about in my life are so petty compared to actual challenges people can face. But I also know the sense of sadness that keeps creeping up on me isn't a good sign, either. How should I think through this?
– Feeling Low
The first thing I'll say is that online screeners for depression aren't the best way to figure out what's going on in your brain. You should be talking to your doctor and looking for a counselor. And rest assured – you described your feelings so well in this letter. All you have to do is tell your doctor how you feel and talk about next steps. I promise that once you start disclosing personal things, it won't feel so weird.
Please know that feeling depressed – and feelings, in general – can have nothing to do with the blessings in life. The whole thing with depression is that it can prevent you from enjoying great things, even if you have many of them. I say this as someone who's dealt with depression. For a long time I was like, "What right do I have? I have wonderful friends, a job I love, and excellent cable!" But that’s not how it works.
I do have one other, slightly less important recommendation: It might help to have a few people in your life who are single and don't have kids. Your chosen family sounds incredible, but they can't be everything, and you don't have to limit yourself to the people who've known you forever. Maybe you can seek out acquaintances who understand exactly where you are in life. It's really important to have a few friends who are available to go to a last-minute movie – and to give you some perspective.
As you figure this out, please know that you're not alone. There are many people reading this thinking, "This. Is. Me."
A lot of us have needed some help figuring it out. I mean ... I think that's why we're all here.