Depression, anxiety, bipolar, psychosis; whatever your ailment it can feel very lonely and isolating dealing with the day to day troubles of having to muddle through with mental health issues. Sometimes it can feel like you are the only person in the world that’s dealing with this, and that no-one understands at all what you’re going through. I get this, I was in the same situation myself at one point. Sometimes it felt like no-one had a clue.
I remember the advice that I was given back in those days. Back when I was dealing with a mountain of weight on my shoulders. People would say things to me like,
Raymond, you make life hard for yourself, you need to simplify it more to make it easier for yourself
But what people didn’t seem to understand is that I wasn’t at that stage of enlightenment yet; you don’t show a toddler how to do somersaults before they can walk, right? The same can be applied to people with mental health problems — you can’t teach anyone to take care of themselves before that idea isn’t even on their radar. Many of those snippets were right of course, all the information I was given in my youth, but I couldn’t make use of it until much later.
It can feel very lonely; when the people that you love and trust are telling you things that just don’t compute or make sense at all at the time. It can often feel like no-one understands, or that they just don’t care and that is very isolating.
I’m one for recognizing that I believe a good portion of the population cares, they just don’t know how to properly act around people who are suffering with the mind — it can be tough, you know? For both parties. Not everyone has had education and on the job training like I have. Some people have to just get it as they go along, and often they can miss wildly. It’s not an exact science.
I will also say that I’ve lost friendships in the past when people were only trying to help, and I took it completely the wrong way. But then again, it’s not just their fault — sometimes it would have been easier if I was a bit more open-minded. Friendships are a two-way process and give and take on both sides.
I would have done it completely differently if it were me now, so here’s the advice I would give myself:
Understand that people have different ways of helping, and speak more empathetically when it hurts
I will say that I ended up all on my own in 2006. I spent an entire year just watching movies and going to work and not integrating with any of my friends at all. This was a time of immense change for me, and whilst I was doing so I had isolated myself into complete loneliness. To me, my friends just didn’t understand what I was going through, and their words came like a wrecking ball when they did try to help. So, I annexed them for that time.
I didn’t understand that this was their way of reaching out though, so to them, it probably seemed like I was the one that was being the difficult one. We were two friends at odds with each other. We couldn’t come to an agreement. They couldn’t understand me, and I couldn’t understand them
What would have been better for me would have been to speak to them more empathetically. Perhaps swearing at them and telling them to get lost wasn’t the best course of action. Perhaps it would have been better explaining my situation in full, how I felt, how it was impacting my life, and why I wasn’t able to do the things I was previously able to do — honesty with your communication keeps the right people close, and those that aren’t worth your time far away.
Sometimes I didn’t have the energy to explain, or the right skills to explain it to them properly, but I would have done when I had.
People have often said it’s not my place to explain things to others, but to me, a friend is a friend. When I get into a friendship, I want to keep them close, rather than isolate them too. It’s absolutely my position to explain my feelings so that they can take the necessary action — even if it means leaving me alone for a day or so.
Understand that everything good in life is mutual, and to force yourself when necessary.
You know? Depression is tough as nails. It can hit you like a wrecking ball to the temple and knock you in bed for weeks. Doing anything that isn’t laying down doing nothing (perhaps sleeping) seems like a vertical uphill impossible climb.
I can occasionally slip into depressive states, and it can seem the only thing that matters in the world is myself. Who cares what anyone else is doing, I feel bad, and you guys should help me. Yep, that’s me. In a nutshell whenever it happens.
Living with my wife, she has taught me to force myself up and continue to do as much as I can. I’ll not lie, it’s like pulling teeth for a while but after I get into the swing of things it feels marginally better. I usually feel better about myself for a while.
Also, I am reminded to regularly check in with my friends because it’s not always their responsibility to check in with me, no matter what I’m dealing with; a friendship is mutual contract — you keep in contact with each other. If I had regularly checked in with my friends back in 2006 then I wouldn’t have had such a lonely life.
Surrounded yourself with people that listen rather than dictate.
I know I said earlier that it’s good to understand that people have their own different styles of learning, but there’s nothing worse than having a bunch of friends that think you should be doing x, y, and z constantly.
I more opt for the friend that’s just happy to be in your presence and will listen to you rather than tell you what to do and how you should feel. Whilst I think they mean well, it can also be extremely draining. I’d rather just be with someone that enjoys being in my vicinity.
So absolutely, yes, try and limit isolating friends by understanding that it’s just their way of helping, but also understand that you don’t always need to put up with that crap, especially if they aren’t listening to you themselves.
Opt for a more calming experience with a friend that will just sit and watch TV and just be happy to be there experiencing life with you.
And above all — gravitate towards positive, healing people.
They are all around us. They are the people that will tell you that you definitely should make that application to be a web designer, even although you don’t feel confident enough to apply. Those are the people that will tell you the company would be missing out if they didn’t hire you.
Positive people will tell you that the music script is the best music they’ve ever heard, and they’ll encourage you to push your limits.
They are the kind of people that will tell you that you are amazing and will be right by your side when you fall.
Gravitate towards those people.
Stay away from people that say ‘can’t’ too often.