I made two good friends after moving to a new town several years ago. We are retirement-age women, intelligent, educated, with much in common. I’ve always thought one of those commonalities was that we’d each experienced extremely difficult times. Lately, though, I’ve become aware of a theme in the comments of one friend: If I talk about feeling overwhelmed and/or depressed, she gets a bit exasperated and says something to the effect that I “don’t know what HARD is” because I never had kids. This friend has struggled with two difficult children (one is on the spectrum), and the other friend has lost a child. I know that their lives have often been hard and painful. But mine has been, too. I’ve lost decades to serious illnesses. The latest (severe, treatment resistant depression that ultimately required electro-convulsive treatments) resulted in me losing my livelihood, my (long and happy) marriage, my friends—everything important to me. But now I’m feeling like I’m not allowed to talk about any of this because without kids I’ve “had it easy,” according to this friend. Her comments feel like another version of “what do you have to be depressed about?!” that I heard constantly during my years of illness, and that made my blood boil. Am I out of line to feel resentful when she says these things?
— On Easy Street