A young woman with a mental disorder worries about alienating her friends.
I’m a 22-year-old woman and over the course of my life I’ve been diagnosed with several different anxiety and mood disorders.
Because of my mental illnesses, friendships can be challenging. I myself have had friends with mental illnesses, so I know how taxing it can be to the person on the other end of the friendship. I don’t want my problems to become burdensome, irritating, or hurtful to those around me.
How can I maintain healthy friendships when by brain isn’t always healthy?
Your prospects for maintaining healthy friendships are quite good because you seem to have insight and sensitivity to the burden your symptoms and mental disorder might pose for friends. Here are a few thoughts:
1) Because the symptoms of mood and anxiety disorders often wax and wane over time, pay attention to your moods and the impact they may be having on your friendships. If you sense that you are overly anxious, very depressed or hypomanic, speak with your therapist to see if he/she can offer strategies to better manage your symptoms either with medication, cognitive-behavioral approaches, or a combination of the two. If you feel you have burdened a friend unduly, apologize.
2) Related to this, be careful not to depend on friends as therapists. The two are not interchangeable. While it’s normal to discuss problems with friends, be cautious not to go overboard. Friends don’t have the training to substitute as therapists.
3) Try to educate your close friends about your disorder to enhance their understanding of you and of mental disorders, in general. While the stigma of mental disorders is being reduced as celebrities and other prominent people disclose their conditions, and people talk about mental disorders—misunderstanding and misperceptions still abound.
4) If you aren’t feeling up to being with a friend, give yourself permission to take a “mental health day.” Bow out gracefully, explaining that you aren’t feeling up to par.
5) Remember that you are more than your illness or your symptoms. Your close friends know that no one is perfect and friendship is a matter of give and take. Also, there may be times when your friends are needy and feel like a drain on you. Be there for them to the extent you can, and the kindness and compassion will be returned.
Hope this helps.
While the book I co-authored with my husband for the Wiley series, Schizophrenia for Dummies, focusing primarily on that disorder, it is also offers practical information for families and for those living with any mental disorder. It is likely to be available at your local library.
Category: KEEPING FRIENDS