How Mental Illness Affects My Friendships

May 01, 2019

I wouldn't say I have the worst track record of being a friend but it's for sure not getting any better as I'm getting older. You see, when we are young we're kind of forced to do the whole socialising thing, but now that I have aged, now that I'm damaged and now that I have absolutely no desire to put up with bullshit, it's definitely gotten worse. I've always considered myself as someone who's easy going and kind but it's hard being a good friend when you struggle with your mental health. It's hard to make friends and it's hard to keep up with friends. I'm not good at keeping up with people. I'm good at being a girlfriend and a best friend to my boyfriend but that's about it. I'm not a flaky kind of girl but I ghost, a lot of the times. I mean, imagine trying to ghost the person you live with, that'd be weird.

I just don't have the patience anymore. I tried the whole socialising thing and, at 28 years of age, I've noticed it's very much like dating. You need to feel each other out, see how everything goes. People are suspicious. They wanna know who you vote for, what you eat, what you breathe. I used to crave connecting with people that know what it's like to struggle with your health but I've come to realise that that isn't at all beneficial for my recovery. You change and you get better or you change and you get worse. You don't grow together and that is a tough pill to swallow. You don't need to have mental health issues for that last one but it's important nevertheless. Going to therapy and being in recovery doesn't just mean you're getting treatment, it also involves changing the language you use, the way you talk to yourself and to others. You learn simple things like replacing 'I have to' with 'I would like to'. You learn to say 'thank you for waiting' instead of 'sorry I'm late'. You learn to pick and choose your words wisely, you start to pay attention and listen to how others use their words. You start distinguishing facts from feelings, manners from boundaries. You start learning what you want in a relationship.

Being in recovery has made the friendship scene a little challenging for me. I have noticed that a lot of people don't actually love themselves, don't treat themselves with respect, are very dismissive when it comes to emotions and don't have their shit together as much as I thought they did. I want to protect my energy and potential friendships are something that I judge much more severely. Now, more than ever, I have the desire to connect with people who are aware of their feelings, their struggles, people who aren't just looking to vent and unload all the negative energy they've built up inside. I admire those who know how to take responsibility. I don't know why friendship-wise I've never taken my own advice but I've always said that you shouldn't date those who are the same as you, you should invest your time in connecting with the people who teach you something new, who inspire you, have a way of peaking your interest about concepts and subjects in a way you've never thought about before. In other words, date what you don't have instead of dating what you do.

I think I'm re-evaluating what I like and what I want. I have a few good friends now that I see once in a while for which I'm very grateful but I miss the kind of spontaneity where I can ask someone to hang out with on whim, laugh or cry with on the phone, things like that. I miss having a friend to organise parties with, trips, someone other than my boyfriend. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just too comfortable being by myself or if I'm simply self sabotaging because I didn't have good examples of healthy relationships when I was young. Making friends as an adult is hard. I don't have any friends left from school because I didn't want to (too many bad memories) and the friends that I did make when I lived abroad all do their own thing now, just like I'm doing mine. I've thought about signing up to a friendship app but I'm not sure that is how I want to spend my time or where I want to focus my energy. Come to think about it, I've pretty much made all of my friends online starting from the age of 19. Facebook was the first platform I used, now mostly Twitter and Instagram but with a lot more hiccups. It's been 10 years and unfortunately many weirdos have found their way onto the internet.

I'm not sure what my next steps will be. Do I focus on what I have, on getting better and knowing what I want or do I try harder? Not gonna lie, socialising can be rather exhausting for me. I often find myself having a hangover the day after I've seen someone. My head and stomach will ache and I'm just so tired. I'm currently recuperating from an event I went to last night. I'm feeling good but I know I need to take things slow or I'll crash and burn later. I have more plans this weekend and I want to have fun. Because I don't have a basic friend group I belong to, I hang out with certain family members a lot. We don't look like family, which I like so it isn't obvious when we're out. We're also close in age so that's nice. I wonder if sometimes I simply just have major fomo. People who I think are successful always seem to have many friends. I might be making that up, I don't know. I'm insecure, that's one thing I know for sure. 

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