[Guest Post] On Friendship and Mental Illness // Shattering Stigmas

Posted October 3, 2017 by Both in Features, Join the Dance // Events, Tags & Challenges / 7 Comments

Shattering Stigmas is an annual blogging event that lasts two weeks. During this fortnight, we’ll be talking about anything and everything mental health related. The aim of these posts are to take away some of the stigma surrounding mental illness, to invite people to open up about their stories, and to help others learn.

My dear friend Dina has written not one but two blog posts for this event. Her little corner of the internet is called Dinasoaur and you can also find her on Twitter.


On Friendship and Mental Illness

Since I have always had mental illness, I noticed that friendships don’t normally last long for me. In more recent years, I have been fortunate to have healthier relationships with friends. This post is going to be a discussion and a series of advice for maintaining friendships while having a mental illness (or more than one).

Issues that arise 

It is sometimes very hard to reach out and make new friends when you’re mentally ill. This is the case for many people, because mental illness does this thing where it isolates a person. To me, it always feels like I’m trapped in a glass jar accompanied by a hurricane. Essentially, it is hard to look around you and notice people when there is so much inner turmoil.

Anxiety also plays a huge role in how relationships can unfold. For instance, I remember crying the first time someone asked me to come over to their house because my brain was saying that I was unworthy of their presence. Sometimes, you’re just far too depressed to communicate. With each mental illness comes a series of issues to adjust to as a friend.

Educate Yourself 

Be an ally. Learn about mental illness, and how it may affect a person. I want to put an asterisk here, though. Don’t be attached to the definitions you hear. Keep an open mind.

Be Patient 

It’s often quite terrifying for people with mental illness to befriend people. Not just being nice, but getting to know people deeply and intimately. Be patient with people and let them take their time to trust you. This advice goes both ways. People with mental illness tend to have a hard time trusting others, for various reasons. They may run away from connections. I know for me, I often delete accounts when the anxiety just gets way too much. I sometimes cut out relationships with friends because I worry about being judged. It’s like getting claustrophobic.

So…be patient.

Share 

(For some reason, my brain was like, Cher!! Ahem. Back to the post). As a neuro-typical person, it’s a good idea to open up about your own insecurities with neuro-divergent people in your life. Tell them what makes  you uncomfortable, squeamish, scared. Discuss conflicts you have in a calm and understanding manner.

For people with mental illness, it’s important to try and share thoughts and insecurities. Explain what’s scaring you. Discuss it with people. Take the internal struggle to a literal manifestation.

Ask What You Can Do For Help and/or support

Once friends start explaining their actions and their thoughts in more detail, rather than doling out advice, ask what the person needs for support. Sometimes, people just want to be heard and understood.

Reassurance 

Like I said earlier, it’s really nice when you express your feelings with people who are mentally ill. In many of my relationships, I often ask, “Are you okay? Are we okay?” This tends to happen when people don’t voice their feelings enough.

Mental illness isolates a person quite intensely. Your brain can tell you that you’re unloved and alone. Mine certainly does. Granted, I am fortunate to have the ability of asking for reassurance, but not everyone is able to do this.

Take Care of Yourself 

Ultimately, you have to remember that you need to take care of yourself. Mentally ill or not, friendships take effort. Give yourself breaks. Obviously, the challenge is balancing between focusing on friends while taking care of yourself.

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7 responses to “[Guest Post] On Friendship and Mental Illness // Shattering Stigmas

  1. Aww Dina this is AWESOME. And such an important topic! I find that it’s almost like a snowball situation, personally- if I am lonely, my mental health suffers, which makes me lonelier, and so on. And I feel like a lot of times, that when I was happy and cheerful and such, people wanted to be friends, but a few bad days, and BAM, they disappear. And sure, logically I know that these aren’t people who are true friends, but that doesn’t make it stop hurting. That is why this post is so awesome, it is really helpful to ALL people in friendships to recognize that sometimes things are just harder with mental illnesses. Thank you So much for sharing, Dina! And for hosting of course, Inge!

  2. Great topic. It is hard. Even I have noticed how hard it is to maintain friendships, even in periods of my life where I’ve been doing better. Being open is a good thing but scary.

  3. What a great post, Dina! This is definitely something that had to be addressed because mental illness can affect friendships in so many ways. You did a great job addressing this. I especially like the advice to just ask what someone needs and listen to them – it’s so simple, but I think we forget to do it a lot of the time, myself included. For me, it can also sometimes be difficult to understand that people don’t have an issue with me or our friendship when they withdraw when really they may just be dealing with their own struggles. Thanks for reminding me!

  4. I have definitely felt these issues when trying to make new friends. My brain too has convinced me that I’m not worthy of their friendship, that they don’t actually want to be my friend, that I’m a burden. But I’ve been really lucky in the last few years, especially through blogging. I’ve made amazing friends, who completely understand mental illness and get how hard it is. But I need to remind myself to be patient, too, to give both myself and others time. To remember that people have their own struggles. I feel Vlora, it can difficult to understand when someone withdraws, but it’s not necessarily because of anything either of us did (though my brain loves to try to convince me of that). Maybe they just need the time. Usually my friends and I will check in with each other if that happens, ask questions. It’s been so good for me to have open communication like that. It can be hard, but so worth it!

    Lovely post, Dina!

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