“Good friends help you to find important things when you have lost them…your smile, your hope, and your courage.” –Doe Zantamata
It’s National Friendship Week here in the United States, and the occasion has got me thinking. The old cliche, “Friends are the family we choose,” comes to mind. I’ve never felt that phrase more clear than I do now. I have had a trying few months when it comes to my mental health recently. Lots of feelings of isolation and loss. I have become estranged from my immediate family and lost everything that I owned. There was a delay with a job opportunity that I am pursuing, plus I am home in Wisconsin with all my childhood triggers.
I spent many days in darkness feeling sorry for myself waiting for time to pass, hoping the feelings would pass too. My true friends never stopped calling. They never let me forget what I am capable of. They knew that I was hurting and vowed to be there for me, even when I didn’t answer the phone. Depression and anxiety have a way of making you think that you are alone and no one cares. My friends are aware of my condition and they work overtime to ensure that I don’t allow it to control my life.
It’s Not You, It’s Mostly Me
You do not have to tell your friends about your experiences with mental health disorders. But if you do let them know, it may save hurt feelings in the future. They will know where to place certain behaviors and not feel responsible if you go ghost or need space. Friends will also know when to send you affirming messages or ask if you need anything from them to help you cope. You may even find that your friend suffers from a similar condition, and you can be there for each other.
I have a solid group of girls who charge me up when I am completely drained. Even when I’m not running on empty, they prove to be the best cheerleaders in the whole universe. I can honestly say that I would not be who I am or where I am without their constant encouragement. They don’t force me out of my comfort zone, but instead coach me on getting up and out of what I call my “dark place”. These girls offer me literature, quotes, small gifts of inspiration, and a couch to sleep on so I’m not alone. They listen to my worries and never judge my tears. Their arms are always open for hugs when I need them. I take every chance I can to let them know I appreciate them.
Friends Helping Friends
If you are a friend of someone who struggles with their mental health, the best thing you can do is be there to talk and listen. It helps to feel included and acknowledged. Trust me, those two things go a long way. You don’t have to acknowledge their problem though. It helps your friend recover if you treat them as if there is nothing wrong. Inviting them to do things you’d usually do aids the process of getting better. AND LAUGHTER. Laughter is the best cure.
Isolation prolongs the depressive state. Call your friends and invite them out. Go stop by and visit them if they will allow it. Be present in their lives. Socializing with others is crucial to survival. You’re needed more than you know. Now go and tell your friends how grateful you are to have them! Let’s celebrate National Friendship Week with lots of love and support regardless of the issues that divide us.