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(Warning: Language in video is NSFW)
It’s one of the famous scenes from the trailer and most people who like the movie, Ted, can sing the Thunder Song word for word. While it’s clearly meant to be an endearing comedic moment there is some truth to the concept of a Thunder Buddy.
I have a small group of Thunder Buddies. We’re all in a group text together, so we’re all within reach. When the thunder of our mental illness starts to roll in, we’re all in the fight together.
I’m grateful for my Thunder Buddies. They keep me going. They are prayer warriors determined to see me through my struggles. Often, my depression renders me speechless and unable to communicate with the outside world. My wife (who is one of my buddies in the group text) communicates on my behalf letting the rest of the crew know what’s happening and how they can be there for me.
Over the years, I’ve had many friends that have “been there for me” but everyone eventually fades away. They have their lives, and they don’t fully get what I’m going through, so it happens. They bail. It hurts, and I resent it but it happens, and I have to move on.
Not my Thunder Buddies, though. They’re still here. I can’t get rid of them even if I try.
So, what makes a Thunder Buddy different? Why are they more effective than regular friends?
In the movie, Ted and John are both terrified of thunder. This fear seems ridiculous as John is an adult in a relationship. “Nobody his age should be scared of thunder.” Still, Ted and John are both scared, so they are in it together. Others may roll their eyes because nobody is going to get John’s fear like Ted does.
The common denominator, the thing that sets my Thunder Buddies apart from my normal-ish friends, is the fact that they struggle with mental illness too. I can tell my Thunder Buddies that I can’t stop thinking about killing myself today, and they will know exactly how to talk to me and, more important, exactly how to pray.
My deep depression and suicidal thoughts never weird out my Thunder Buddies. They aren’t scared of me. Why, because they’ve been there recently, and we all had to hold on to them. Whether you’re battling cancer, addiction, depression or something else, Thunder Buddies have been there. They know what weight is holding you down.
I have a hard time with depression support groups. Most of the time it just becomes a complaint fest where everyone tries to out-bummer the other. They are all pulling each other down.
My Thunder Buddies don’t try to out-bummer me. You would think a private chat group made up of suicidal depressives would be the saddest conversation on Earth. Nope. There are jokes and GIFs and other ridiculousness. My Thunder Buddy text group is my favorite social network. They try to build me up and when I can’t stand, they are there for me to lean on.
Thunder Buddies are battling just like you and expect you to keep pushing. We’re all fighting for our lives here, so we take it seriously. We try to focus on the positives and not just dwell on the negatives that come from our illness.
I admit, this is the part where I suck. When I’m bad, I just withdraw. I stop communicating altogether. That’s just one of the many reasons my wife is a blessing to me. She fires off a flare for me and lets the Thunder Team know what’s going on. The result is an onslaught of prayers, texts, emails and encouragement. I then keep fighting to overcome whatever is punching me in the face that day.
And, when I feel better, one of them will be in need. Then it’s time for me to step up and be there for them. That’s how Thunder Buddies roll.
As I said, I withdraw. My depression plans to leave me beaten and lonely. When it’s bad, I flake and bail worse than anyone I know. You won’t see me or hear from me for months. (Some people haven’t seen me in years.)
My Thunder Buddies won’t let me “quit them.” They are sticking to me whether my emotions want them to or not. Not only do they have my back, but they are also hanging onto my back and won’t let me run away from them.
My Thunder Buddies see something in me worth keeping. I need to lean on their confidence in me when I don’t have any of my own.
Not everyone can be a Thunder Buddy. I’ll even argue that you don’t always find your Thunder Buddies, they have a way of finding you. As cynical and untrusting as I’ve become in 32 years I’m still surprised and heartbroken when a friend, who said they would be there for me, takes off. Depression makes me feel lonely enough. I don’t need to feel rejected too. So I’ve had to go through a lot of people to find the three Thunder Buddies I have.
Here are a few ways you can start the search for your next Thunder Buddy.
I remember one year I was so upset that one of my businesses was struggling. It was months without a new client, and I was frustrated. I eventually realized that I had been slacking on actually getting out there and telling people that our business was around and what we did. I couldn’t be mad that I didn’t have customers when I didn’t put myself out there to let people know we existed.
Similarly, I know someone who is bitter that she is still single after all these years. One day I asked my wife what this lady did in her spare time. She listed off next to nothing but what she did mention was all isolated activities. Her situation is very sad. But she can’t be mad she hasn’t found a man when she hasn’t been out in public so a man can find her too. It’s not like people aren’t looking.
We isolate when we have depression. I’m notorious for it. You can’t do that. You have to put yourself out there. Obviously there is a time and place. You don’t always want to walk into a room and introduce yourself as the person with depression. But you know I’m against hiding your illness too.
Putting it out there, when appropriate, can help people like you come out of the woodwork. But, at the very least, try and get outside and around people. Take it from a guy who hides in his home for weeks at a time. I know it’s difficult, but you have to do it. It’s healthy for you. And, who knows, you might just meet your new Thunder Buddy.
My group of Thunder Buddies started because we invested in each other. We were willing to encourage and pray for each other and didn’t expect anything in return. I reached out to them individually for months and asked how they were doing, and I encouraged them one-on-one. I didn’t think I would, one day soon, need them to keep me alive when depression once again rendered me suicidal.
Eventually, these “depression check-ins” morphed into one group as we were all doing the same thing to each other one-on-one.
The key is to give yourself to others despite your problems. It’s tough. I don’t want to carry the burdens of everyone else. I can’t even carry my own, so I struggle when you tell me about yours. But that’s how this works.
Be the friend you want to have and you’ll be surprised who ends up returning the favor.
For years, I have said that people suck so we should all just plan accordingly. Broken people living in a broken world results in you being disappointed, a lot. It’s a fact of life that people are going to let you down and not be there for you.
I removed my birthday from Facebook this year to avoid all the attention, but even I was surprised by how many of my closest friends skipped over my birthday because of it. Like it’s been months, and they still have no clue they missed it. And these are people who love me and want me to continue having birthdays.
My point is that, for awhile at least, it is a numbers game. You’re going to have to churn through some people before you find your Thunder Buddies. But that’s life. We have different groups of friends for different things.
I have my friends I talk about whatever with, and I adore them. But my wife isn’t texting them at midnight when she’s worried she’ll lose me. When she’s wondering if she needs to hide all the knives in the kitchen, that’s reserved for my Thunder Buddies.
Ted: Thunder buddies for life, right, Johnny?
John: F*ing right.
Ted: Alright, come on…
I’m grateful for my Thunder Buddies. I’m so blessed that we’re fighting this together. I’m not sure I’d still be here without them. So don’t give up, you’re going to find yours too. Just keep trying.