I’m quite isolated right now in terms of friends and relationships, outside the four walls of my home and my mental health team I don’t really have anyone. A lot of people have walked out of my life without argument or negativity, they’ve simply deleted me from their social networks and stopped talking to me and it’s because I have been unwell for a long time.
I know how it looks, I am unemployed, I don’t go out, I don’t appear to do anything. I’m a young adult, all the people I went to school with go out at the weekends and work or study and I do ‘nothing’. I can understand why they wouldn’t want me in their lives. You are only young once, of course they want to go to Zante and go on nights out rather than be friends with someone who spends their life in and out of hospital and can often end up house bound by illness. I know that it can be difficult to understand, people often think it’s a choice or that you’ve given up when going through a relapse but that’s the reality of mental illness, for some people it is a life of relapse and remission. I completely understand that I am not the easy option and I also realise that this is something that a lot of people with mental illness have to deal with.
Understandably I find it upsetting, it makes me sad that I will never know the people I went to school with, the people I spent my childhood with are no longer a part of my life and they probably won’t be. I also feel some family members have distanced themselves. It can be very difficult, I often wonder is it me? Am I a bad person? It’s hard to not have any friends and I often worry that people think badly of me. I worry they think I’m lazy or stupid or attention seeking but this isn’t a game, I live with a severe and enduring mental illness. I may not have a degree like the people I went to school with but catching a bus is an achievement for me. It can be very difficult for people to comprehend.
I try to get involved in the world around me but I find it very difficult and anxiety provoking. My mind goes into overdrive. I find conversation hard because I’ve spent the past 5 years in treatment of some kind whether that be counselling, inpatient, general hospital, day patient or outpatient. I have been out of work and education for 3 years. Anorexia consumes my life at the moment. How do I answer the question, “What have you been up to?” What do I talk about, I have a lot of doubt in my future, I feel a lot of shame about my past and I’m living a very unwell present. Everyone else has spent their day at college or working and I’ve spent mine in group therapy. My world is very different to the other young people around me.
The isolation makes it harder to get out of the illness, I’m scared I will get well, reach a healthy weight and still be alone. It would mean everything to me to have a friend pop over for a cup of tea or to have someone understand that if I’ve left the house to see them or do something with them when anorexia is affecting my eyesight and strength and depression is trying to superglue me to my bed then I’m doing my best. I apologise if the conversation is quite boring but I can only hope that I will find a few people willing to listen and be patient because only by finding friendships am I going to be able to have interesting things to do and talk about.
Maybe if you’re struggling with a friend who has a mental illness try to think about it this way, if they had a broken leg you would help them to get out and about, pick up a crutch if they dropped one, push their wheelchair. You would go to their home and keep them company and wait it out with them until their leg had recovered. Mental illness is like a broken brain and whilst it might take longer than a leg to heal, it does. I know you can’t see it but it’s there and it’s agony. Make your friend’s day, turn up at their house with a movie or take them out to get a coffee. Be patient and wait it out with them. Just by sticking with your friend it’ll help no end. Isolation and loneliness creates more problems.
On Thursday it’s time to talk day, take 5 minutes to talk about mental health with the people around you. Don’t feed into stigma, don’t allow the people around you to become isolated by their illness. Together we can beat mental illness.