Why I Am Not Always the Perfect Friend
I know that my mental illness sometimes makes it difficult to be friends with me. Anxiety and depression come in and out of my life like fashion trends. Add to that major hormonal issues and you have a recipe for a complicated relationship. And even though I take many medications and see a therapist weekly to help me cope, I still constantly struggle with my symptoms. Some days are worse than others.
I can understand why you might find it tough to deal with my mood swings, my isolation, and my lashing out. I have a hard time dealing with myself most days.
I can also understand why you might think that I use my mental illness as an excuse for these things because most people who do not suffer from this illness cannot understand what it is like… and I wish every minute of every day that I did not have to either.
However, there are some things that you might not know about my illness and why I struggle:
Depression is not “sadness”. “Sadness” is a normal human emotion which is usually triggered by something or a situation: a break-up, a bad grade, a hurtful remark. But what happens is – when that something changes or we adjust – the hurt fades and the sadness goes away.
Depression is not “normal”. When we are depressed we feel sad about everything. And it cannot be easily fixed or fade away when situations change. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and can be corrected through medication and coping skills.
Depression causes me to isolate myself even when I am overwhelmed by loneliness. I want to participate – to be part of the crowd – but I need you to include me. Being left out makes my depression worse.
Anxiety is not “stress”. Anxiety causes constant worrying about everything – grades, school, relationships. I worry about what people think of me and I am extremely self conscious. I can’t sleep; I am sick to my stomach; I suffer from panic attacks and even seizures.
Anxiety causes me to always expect the worse, even when there is no reason to. It causes mood swings and sometimes I lash out. This comes from a state of panic where I am not sure what to do.
All of these things can cause me to pull away quite often or to act differently. I will admit – I am not always the best of friends when my anxiety and depression take hold of me. It is these times that I am just trying to hold on – to make it through the day, or the week, or even just the holidays…
And often I tend to subconsciously sabotage friendships. Not because I don’t want to be friends with you – I want that more than anything in the world. It is just easier because I know that eventually my mental illness will push you away and you will leave. How do I know this? Because everyone leaves. So far…
However, there are some good things about my mental illness that make me great friend material:
I can be extremely sensitive and empathetic. I care about you and want to show you. I will bring you a smoothie and chicken noodle soup when you are sick or make you a playlist of happy songs when you are depressed.
I am a good listener. I can empathize and give support to you when things go wrong and can be happy for you when things go right.
I understand when you are not at your best because I have been there... often! And I forgive you. And I still love you.
Please forgive me. I know that I am not always fun to be around but I value your friendship more than you will ever know. You keep me grounded and make me feel special. You give me a reason to be social when all I want to do is hide. You let me care about you instead of just focusing on myself which makes me better and a better person.
From “The Mighty” (www.themighty.com) "How to Be Friends with Someone Who’s Depressed", (10/11/16), Adapted:
“I know how much of a drag I can be. I realize I make snappy comments I can never take back. I am in physical pain or fear every day of my life. I am fully aware of how rude and neglectful I can be. Still, there is no guilt trip you can give me that I haven’t already given myself. So, please forgive me.
It’s so illogical that in our overly connected society we so often confuse connectivity with connection. Resist the tendency to disconnect from someone you suspect is feeling blue. Rather, fight to stay connected through any and every means necessary. Know that the extent of their recovery will greatly depend on each of these connections.”
Please don't give up on me. I need you now more than ever.