Friendship & Mental Illness
Living with a mental illness can sometimes make us feel as if we don’t “measure-up” to other people. Mental illness can create an isolating and lonely life, void of friendship, of meaningful relationships.
When you are diagnosed with a mental illness it can feel like you’ve landed on a different planet: “The Land of The Mentally Ill.” Nobody really wants to arrive here– Disneyland sounds a bit better, maybe an abandoned island?–but sometimes we do and when we do we feel isolated. We feel as if the idea of anyone choosing to be around us is laughable. We might isolate ourselves because we fear rejection; like a bear that hibernates, we might rather be inside where it’s warm, where we feel safe.
Despite this, our friendships are among the most valuable relationships we have. We gain in various ways from different friendships. We may talk to friends in confidence about things we wouldn’t discuss with our families. Our friends may annoy us, but they can also keep us going.
Friendship is a crucial element in protecting our mental health. Our friends can keep us grounded and can help us get things in perspective. It is worth putting effort into maintaining our friendships and making new friends. Friends form one of the foundations of our ability to cope with the problems that life throws at us.
People with mental health problems often need different things from their friends at different times and friends show their support in different ways. If you’re the friend, the most valuable support you can provide is just being there to talk and listen. People really appreciate that their friends have made time to contact them, visit them and invite them round. Mental health problems are so misunderstood that someone who acknowledges your problem continues to accept you and treats you with compassion are doing something extremely important to aid your recovery.
A few important ideas to remember:
- You are not a label. You are (insert name here) and you like certain things and have specific hobbies. You are not your mental illness
- Remember that you have a lot to offer other people
- You are not damaged goods, rather, you have worked hard to obtain stability
- We all struggle, it’s the human condition, it builds character. And you have a heck of a lot of it!
- Healthy relationships are an important part of self-care. Working to find them, maintain them, builds our confidence.
And finally…you deserve friendships and those you choose to spend time with are lucky, you have a lot of offer. Just give it a shot.
Ask yourself: “What do I have to lose?”