One of the best things about being part of the blogging community, particularly the mental health blogging community, is having the chance to talk to so many amazing people. Mental illness is such a varied struggle, no two people experience it in exactly the same way. The community itself reflects this. There are people from all over the world, from all kinds of struggles, and they all come together to offer support and inspiration to their friends, and to those who are currently finding it particularly tough.
One thing that I find is a recurring theme, is that of people losing friends as a result of their illnesses. This can be for a number of reasons, but is usually because the friends have little time for people who act, perhaps, a little differently as a result of their illness.
Now, I would never say ‘People should stick by you, no matter what!’ because that’s a little unfair. The fact is, we have to look out for ourselves before we can think about others, and being friends with somebody suffering from a mental illness can be draining. We can’t demand people stay by our side if they’re not prepared for the negative aspects of their friend’s illness.
But if they do decide that this is too much for them, they should say so. They should sit down, and explain why they find it too difficult, or at least explain why they will no longer be in contact with you. I have no issue with people who want to take more time to look after themselves rather than being a constant source of support for others. What I do take issue with are those who cut all ties without any warning, or any explanation.
This seems to be a frequent occurrence for those of us in the Mental Health community. It’s happened to me several times. I had made (what I thought were) strong connections with people; I had trusted them with secrets; I had come to think of them as my best friends, and as somebody who doesn’t leave the house very often, and finds it incredibly difficult to communicate and socialise when she does, best friends are often (at the risk of sounding self-pitying!) your only friends. Or at least the ones you feel closest to in every way.
And then suddenly the invites stop coming; the messages stop arriving; you see pictures of them on the traditional weekly night out that you used to be a part of. Having no prior warning to this happening, this can be so difficult to wrap your head around.
Suddenly blocking you from their lives is one thing, and becoming cruel face-to-face is another. I’ve dealt with both. I went through a particularly bad patch a few years ago, and those who I thought were the most supportive turned out to be the first to turn their backs on me. They began talking about me behind my back; they spread cruel messages online; they blanked me in the street and then joked about it on Twitter a few hours later.
The main point of this blog post isn’t to make you feel sorry for me, or for anybody who goes through this. The point is to show that it does get better. When you first lose these friends it feels like the end of the world. Those that you invested so much time in have now dropped you like a hot baking tray. It’s painful, and it’s frustrating, and it’s angering. But over time you’ll come to realise that it’s their loss. They are clearly not worth your time, or your friendship. You deserve friends who’ll be there for you, and who won’t blank you without rhyme or reason. Above all, you must remember that you’re worth more than that, regardless of what you’re going through.