When you deal with mental illness, you get used to seeing a lot of people you care for steer away from your life.
Sooner or later, friends and significant others get tired of your moods. And it’s not like I can blame them. I know that it can be very difficult to deal with seeing someone you love (or at least like) going through the difficult patches.
I am also not saying that people should stay in abusive relationships because they know that what’s causing a person to be abusive is his/her mental illness.
But even when we’re not being abusive, we are sometimes difficult to be friends with. I am not even going to talk about romantic relationships for now. Just the friendship ones.
In my case, I can only imagine how hard it is for my friends to be around me when I’m depressed. It has to be hard to be around someone who always look on the verge of tears. Or doesn’t want to talk. Or doesn’t reciprocate their friendship efforts.
When I’m at my darkest moments, I simply hide from the world.
And I find that when I’m finally ready to come out of my cave again, most casual friends would have moved on. There’s always a core of friends who always remain, of course. Two of my friends from childhood. A handful of friends from Med School.
But none of those friends are here in Canada with me.
A few years back, I met someone who I thought had made it into that core. She said many times she considered me a sister. We told each other all the time we loved each other.
Some time around the summer, I noticed she was not returning my phone calls, text messages or FB posts. The summertime was incredibly difficult for me as I was going through a very stressful situation so I let it slip. I would still text her every two or three weeks to ask her about her life. Sometimes I’d get a polite answer, sometimes I’d get nothing.
A couple of months ago, I got together with a mutual friend. We used to be very close, the three of us. I used to think of us as the Three Musketeers. We had many adventures together, had a lot of fun together. I asked the mutual friend what had happened.
He apologized for betting so out of touch with me. He blamed it to having a girlfriend and being very happy with her. He said he didn’t even hang out with my best friend -my sister, that much either. But he also said there was definitely something going there but that he was not a liberty to say what it was.
Since I knew my friend had had a very traumatic experience during the summer, I thought I’d wait a little bit longer. We even met a couple of times and I never stopped inquiring about her life. It was always the same, a polite answer here and there but nothing more.
Today, I finally got the courage to ask her what was it that I had done to her to make her stay away from me.
Her answer: “You didn’t do anything. I got tired of having a very one-sided relationship”
It makes me incredibly sad that she thinks I wasn’t there for her at all.
I mean, I am sure I wasn’t there for her a couple of times. I know I’ve been very depressed this year. I know that back in the spring, she wanted to get together twice or three times and I couldn’t. But I didn’t think it was that bad.
Most of all, I wish she had told me how she felt instead of let it fester. Now she’s not even replying to me.
There goes another friendship on account of mental illness.
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I totally understand this. There isn’t enough out there about lost friendships. I think losing those can be as bad or worse than losing a romantic one. Especially if you develop a close bond. I had a friendship like that last year. I was there for her during her divorce, but when she got a new boyfriend, drop! I was going through some depressive stuff, and needed a friend. She wasn’t there. It’s hard, I know. I’ve told my husband before that I know it isn’t fair – sometimes he needs to stay with me even though he let me go out because it might be dangerous for me to be alone. That’s just how it is – I’d be there if he had a physical illness, etc.
That is one good thing about this site – we understand each other in ways people without mental illness cannot. So sorry about your friends. This might not help, but I try to use humor to cope as much as I can. I hope you are hanging in there.
Yes, this site – and blogging in general, is great because of that. And yes, humour is very important! Laugh is a great medicine! 🙂
I`m doing much better but of course, I`ll always miss her. A little part of me still hopes she won’t let the friendship die but I have to respect her feelings.
I’m forced to ponder not if or when this has happened to me, but if or when I’ve done this to someone else. Thanks for the perspective, and for sharing.
You’re welcome. Thanks for reading! 🙂
I’ve been on both sides of broken friendships; sometimes I went away and sometimes the friend went away. It hurts both ways, I’ve found. One thing I really resent is when a friend “falls away” but won’t tell me why. Do they think I don’t care? Do they think I’m unwilling to change? I don’t know!
Thank you for sharing this. You are definitely not alone.
I guess we all have been on both sides. I know that when I’m ill, I disappear from the world. And I totally hear you about resenting a friend falling away without telling me why. That’s the most hurtful part. If they told me they can’t deal with my illness, that’s something I can understand. But I think people deserve to know the reason for pulling away, right?
I am so sorry you had to lose a friend. That really sucks no matter the reason. And I completely understand where you’re coming from, this has always been something I had happen as well, and is a frequent topic with my therapist. But, even if they blame it on us or our illness or symptoms, in the long run we are probably better off without people who can’t or won’t understand us. Good luck !
Yes, unfortunately it is something that we who deal with mental illness will have to experience. I think that if they can’t or won’t understand us, it is mostly because of lack of awareness of what mental illness really is and what it does to us.
Hopefully, that’ll change some day!
Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂
I don’t have or place any expectations on those who are close to me, because I know I cannot bring much to maintaining the balance that some expect (or as in your case, require).
If you only like me for what I do for you and not for who I am, then you are not a friend, you are an acquaintance.
Sorry for your loss and any doubt that has come from those words. It is a very lonely road at times with few who understand and even less who are prepared to walk beside us.
We are capable of being wonderful friends and I think in many ways we can be better than most. But I do feel sometimes that I need to hand out a “Safety Not Guaranteed” card to those few who dare to get close.
Yeah, I see where you’re coming from. And at times, I have also felt the need of handing out that same card. After my husband of 15 years left because he couldn’t handle my illness anymore, I learned that mental illness is a big burden that not very many people are able or willing to understand. Part of the human condition, I suppose. That just makes me value the friends that have stuck around throughout the years even more 🙂
But yeah, ours is mostly a lonely road, methinks.
Yeah, same here. And I never ask for anything, because I know I can’t give back. About every two-three years it’s like I start over. That’s about how long it takes someone to move on without me. But I don’t blame them. I feel like I’m pretty toxic and basically unhelpful most of the time.
Interesting. The turnover is about the same for me. I don’t blame them either. But I wish things could be different
I am so used to losing friends. many people and I have become so close, with friendship and also sometimes in a romantic way. then when they have reached their limit, i am dropped, and usually i don’t know what hit me, like i have no idea why i have been dropped. The dropping happens to me with friendship. With most romantic relationships, it always comes to the point where these people usually are too disappointing and cause more bad than good for me, so then i drop them because i feel like i need someone better in my life. but either way it ends up with lost friends and lost loves that i never talk to again, and no matter how deep the relationship was, years later it’s as if it had never happened at all. I am always afraid of losing people in my life weather it be friends or romantic partners. i lose romantic partners because they don’t turn out to be who i thought they were. i lose friends because i probably disappoint/annoy/etc. them no even knowing so, and then they drop me. either way, it’s a loss. another one to add to the growing list. this all makes it hard to trust when starting new relationships, because i am used to people leaving my life no matter how good it starts out, or seems to be going. then all of a sudden, poof… they are gone.
I hear ya. Nowadays, I just tell myself everybody is going to leave so it doesn’t hurt that much if they do. It’s hard not to fall in dangers of the vicious circle of self-fulfilling prophecy, though. Either way, we lose. And it’s disheartening 😦
I totally hear this one. After I had my major breakdown, suddenly my “best friend” disappeared like ice on a hot summer day. It compounded my grief and helped me feel even more worthless. I guess friends like that aren’t really friends after all, at the end of the day, but it hurts anyway. Sorry that you have had this sad experience.
oh, so sorry to hear that. But you are right, friends like that are not really friends. However, it still hurts a lot.
I completely relate to what you have written (and the comments). I have both lost friends and dropped people from my life – all in the name of protection. This Christmas, a lifelong friendship was almost done and dusted. By being stubborn, I said things I wish I hadn’t. By swallowing my pride, I was truthful about the fact that I don’t want to lose another person. This ‘friend’ doesn’t really get my illness but I know he does care about me. We have been friends for 20+ years and have been through various ups and downs, which no doubt occurs in any friendship. What I resent the most is the effect that mental illness has on friendships/relationships. I have recently met somebody new and whilst we are just friends, I already fear another person getting close and then losing them somewhere down the track.
Yes, all friendships have ups and downs. Which makes me wonder, why some friendships survive the downs and why some others don’t…
I feel the same fear you mention every time I make new friends. It enough to make me think at times that maybe I shouldn’t bother because it’s just too painful
Some risks are worth taking I guess. At least that’s how I feel at the moment. Hopefully I don’t get burnt and end up shutting people out as a result.
yeah, that’s how I feel at the moment too. But I’m afraid I’m gonna end up shutting down eventually
I can totally relate to this. I have a big problem with friendships, in that I don’t have any. I think it was the many years of depression which kept me from connecting, and now I don’t know any other way.
I hope you are able to connect and make new friends this year. I wish you no depression this year.
Yes, mental illness can do that to us, leave us alone and vulnerable.
Thank you for reading and I wish you all the best for 2013 as well
Wow, great piece. I know what you are talking about. I feel like I’m a terrible friend because I tend to avoid my friends and situations that will make me panic. (I have panic attacks/anxiety/Depression) and so I’ve not kept in touch with people. I really don’t have that many close friends that I see on a regular basis and it makes me sad because I like friends, I want friends and I miss the ones I have/had, but having them is so much pressure for me to do things that make me anxious. I’m better at efriends, or email correspondence. I wish it was easier for me, but it seems like not having a lot of close friends who I can spend time with on a regular basis is yet another way my anxiety restricts my life. I wish it weren’t so. But I’m very happy to find a community of like-minded people on the web and there really isn’t as much pressure in the friendships, as friendships where you live.