I like to think that I’m a pretty good friend. I’m loyal, thoughtful and I’m a good listener but when it comes to my mental illness – sometimes it can feel like I’m not the most considerate. The truth is that when you have a mental illness sometimes you have to be a bit selfish.
I cancel plans at the last minute, ignore text messages for days and I control where we go if I’m feeling particularly anxious. I know, not cool. But it’s essential to my happiness, in the long run, I asked on Twitter what other people thought how their mental illness an impact on their relationships. Here’s what I found out:
It feels like no one else understands.
It’s true. No one else can fully understand exactly what you’re going through. Even when I talk to other people my age with depression and anxiety, they don’t have an experience which is identical to me. I speak to a lot of people who fear abandonment, but that’s never been an issue for me. I actually crave alone time and probably appear quite rude as a result.
Being misunderstood. Friends losing patience with me. Happens rarely now. But had big trauma at work, had to leave and i’m in touch with one friend from my last department. I was seen as a troublemaker as I stood up for my rights.
— LovingMentalHealth (@Luvmentalhealth) June 26, 2018
Some people can’t face leaving the house, but that’s never really been a consistent problem for me. Like I say, not everyone will understand your irrational fears and the root of your sadness and this can be a source of conflict. Try to explain your feelings no matter how strange they may seem. Even if your friends can understand them, they can be aware and begin to accommodate them. This is also true at work. It can be really hard to open up to your employers but ultimately it’s the best way forward.
Having to cancel on friends due to social anxiety
— Eleanor Segall (@EleanorSegall) June 26, 2018
Like I said earlier, sometimes people do think I’m being rude. Even if they don’t (a few friends know my history and they can tell I’m just going through something) I start to tell myself I’m rude. Then is escalates into negative thoughts like I’m a bad friend, I’m useless, no one likes me… You get the idea.
One of the things I’ve had to deal with recently is having to be aware of my emotions now that I’m in recovery. When I was in the middle of a mental breakdown it was pretty easy to attribute all of my negative emotions to depression.
for me it’s trusting my own emotions – I have bipolar (II) and it’s sometimes hard to tell when I’m actually irritated or upset or whether it’s just mania, meaning I second-guess myself and my feelings toward others
— Jo – Time to Change (@JoTTCLondon) June 26, 2018
Now that I’m functioning ‘normally’ most of the time it can be tricky to spot when a relapse is coming. This means that my friends and family might think I’m just sad when really I’m struggling to cope. Then I worry that I’m just being dramatic.
I like to think I’m quite sociable, but if I’m struggling mentally more or less just shut down.
The real desire to escape, to exclude yourself and shut off from the world. Also, I am so chatty but I literally lose the ability to make small talk
— Jess Corcoran (@JessCCorcoran) June 26, 2018
Similar to Jess, I lose the ability to speak! It can be really hard especially if my husband is asking me what he can do to help. Often I don’t know the answer and I can’t form a sentence to communicate. I feel incredibly lucky that my partner is so understanding, and he is so patient when I have a down day.
You should be aware though, that there are services available like marriage counselling, CBT and talking therapy. I personally found that counselling really helped me have healthier relationships. I never really discussed my relationships directly with my counsellor, but having someone impartial to talk to undoubtedly took a lot of pressure off my friends and family. As much as the people close to you will want to help, the fact is that they don’t always know how to. They’re not trained professionals. It really is an amazing opportunity to be able to speak to someone who actually knows how mental illness works. They can spot patterns and offer practical advice in a way that friends and family aren’t qualified to do.
But I’m not perfect. Sometimes I fly off the handle and it’s nothing to do with my mental illness, but I’m working on it. How to you maintain healthy relationships with your mental illness?