Living with mental health issues is hard, really hard but being being friends with someone who has mental health issues can also be tough.
I have lost many friends over the years because of my mental illnesses but I have gained some fantastic ones too. I think, looking back, the reason these friends left my life is down to lack of understanding. Me not truly understanding what was ‘wrong’ with me but also those friends couldn’t understand why I would do the things that I was doing, why I would overreact etc. They never mentioned it or asked me about it. I have learnt not to dwell on this and that some people are just not meant to be in your life – it was just not meant to be.
I used to dwell on these ‘endings’ a lot. I would torture myself about them for weeks or months, sometimes years! I have now decided to stop looking back and start looking forward – it is ok to put myself first sometimes and if that means letting these people leave my life then so be it.
I think I am incredibly lucky to have the friends who are in my life right now. Some suffering mental health issues themselves. I have thought of just a few things that might help if you are a friend of someone who has mental health issues understand us a little more. What not to say and a few things we might desperately want to say but just can’t find the words. Obviously it goes without saying that everyone suffering with mental health illnesses are different and will struggle with different things but here is my perspective.
We cancel plans – I know this one can be an awful one to have to deal with as a friend but I can promise you it’s not a decision made lightly. We certainly don’t do it to be rude or mean. We do not simply wake up and think we really don’t want to see you. Quite the opposite. I will often worry and panic about how I am going to turn you down or cancel altogether. Sometimes for hours but more likely days and nights of worry and anxiety. I will play out every single possible scenario in my head until I am a nervous wreak. And the stupid things is that I probably do want to go and I do want to see you but I am now in such a state I can’t possibly even think about it!
Telling us to calm down or stop overreacting doesn’t help – I have had these said to me a lot. I guess it’s the BPD swinging my moods all over the places and telling things are worse than what they actually are. But honestly, I don’t need you to tell me I am overreacting I am well aware of this a split second after the event and I will be beating myself about it for hours or days to come.
Please don’t forget about me – I know this one is tough but please remember me. Please still invite me to things. I know I might not reply to your text or answer the phone very often but I promise I am not trying to be horrible or difficult I am just really struggling to cope. Talking about it is very difficult but knowing that you are there makes life that tiny bit less awful.
Be on my side – Again I understand how this can be difficult for a friend of someone struggling with mental health issues but it will really help. It will make me less likely to isolate myself and keep the lines of communication open. If I decide against taking a certain medication or therapy please don’t tell me I am wrong. Don’t assume it is a spur of the moment decision as I have most likely spent months thinking it all over and weighing up every possible pro and con imaginable!
Don’t assume that the way I am acting is because of BPD or that I haven’t taken my medication – This is so so irritating! I may have been diagnosed with these illnesses but I am still human. I may have taken my medication perfectly for months on end but still have days that I’m moody, sad or low. All humans on the planet – mental health issues or not – have up days and down days. So please remember that and don’t assume it’s because I am having a BPD ‘episode’!
Again these few things are from my own experience and may not be true for ever single sufferer out there but I bet even one or two might help you in being the best friend you can be to those going through some difficult times.
The bottom line, I think is that friendship is about listening and being there for one another – mental health issues or not!
Be kind always,
Love Amy xxx