How to lose friends and alienate people…

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about friends and how my mental health has affected my friendships over the past 5 years. It may be an old adage, but the notion of going through a hard time and therefore finding out who your real friends are is a very true one. As anyone who has struggled with depression and anxiety will tell you – not everyone understands it and not everyone sees it as a real thing and this can have a real impact on your friends. Some will rally around you, have the patience of saints and just be there for you, some will shy away not really knowing how to treat you and some, will quite frankly, just be dicks.

My circle of friends has never been huge and definitely  curtailed in the last few years and whilst at the time it isn’t very pleasant and adds to the feelings of hopelessness, in hindsight it was a positive thing. It means I now only surround myself with people who ‘get it’ and people who aren’t going to make me feel guilty for not being up to going out or for cancelling plans at the last minute. Getting out of bed and showering can be hard enough some days, no-one needs the added pressure of having someone take offence and be bitchy when they can’t make it out for a drink.

When I think about my friends and the people that I thought were my friends, there’s always one instance that sticks in my mind. As with most memories I have it’s not a particularly happy one but it is an important one that proved pivotal.

As previously mentioned I had a stint of self harming when I was first prescribed antidepressants. In my mind it started out relatively innocuously, but soon spiralled into something more serious and my arms were in quite a mess. I tried disguising them and hiding them for a long time but the humid Manchester summer made that quite difficult. At the time I wasn’t really seeing many people, I would make excuses and just spend my time at work or locked in my bedroom. As time went on I plucked up the courage to tell some people; people that at the time, I trusted. Weeks went by and I didn’t really do anything, but a bank holiday came around and a friend suggested I go out with her for a few drinks as a friend of ours was DJing. I’m not sure how it came about but I must have felt a bit more confident as I got dressed up and went out; parts of my arms were on show but it somehow didn’t matter. I remember feeling excited, I had some cocktails and was looking forward to seeing people after weeks of being shut away. We went to my favourite bar and met up with some other friends and my friend who was DJing. I remember going over to speak to her, she already knew about everything that was going on so I felt comfortable, and then, she grabbed my scarred arm and said “god, you’re such an emo aren’t you?”.

Everything seemed to change after that one comment. It made me feel like a freak. And I think that was one of the last times I ever spoke to her. I’d sort of looked up to her before that; beautiful, successful and popular she seemed to have it all. She’d always been really kind and I thought she understood, but the expression on her face when she grabbed my arm is something I will never forget.

I don’t blame her for what she said, I’m sure many people said worse, it was more the disappointment and shame she made me feel. It was the disappointment that someone I thought was my friend didn’t see how much effort it had taken me to even be out of my bedroom that night. In fact I don’t really look back on my last year in Manchester very fondly. It was the hardest time for me and the most lonely of times and the fact that I only have one real friend (lovely Lou) to take from it all speaks volumes. When it came down to it, all those people that I thought were friends weren’t and I blame myself a bit for that as I went through a period of just wanting to be in with all the cool people and threw myself into social circles that I wasn’t necessarily comfortable in. But, I’m a firm believer in life being a learning curve and it made me realise that it’s far better to have a small group of fabulous friends that you can count on than lots of flimsy friends who never really give anything back.

If you have a friend going through a hard time and living with anxiety, depression or any sort of mental illness; be kind to them. Be patient and really think before you speak. You can say something in a fleeting second but the scars can still be there years later.

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14 thoughts on “How to lose friends and alienate people…

  1. I had to ‘save’ this on my phone and then when I got home, I ran to my computer so I could write a response as I hate the responses by phone they are always so short and inadequate. No response I give could be adequate actually. That is because this is the finest treaty on depression I have read on here in a very, very long time. I relate to 110 percent of this. You have done a superb job of fleshing out the VERY nature of depression and friendship and how it can sabotage friendship but mostly how SO CALLED FRIENDS really stab people who are depressed in the back. My friend this has happened to me. Many times. I have grown to not care. If I have friends, great. If I don’t. I will endure. It’s just how it has to be. What you have written here needs to be read by everyone. I never repost someone’s work because I try to write my own but THIS is too good so I’m reposting it on both of my sites. I hope others will read this and LEARN from it. You have done such a good job of educating those who simply do NOT understand. I wish you only good things and I know your truth will make a difference. It has already. Wow. Wonderful. Wonderful writing here.

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  2. First thank you for sharing this story, it takes courage to speak about the journey we have with depression. And some people can never understand the feelings of isolation those who are suffering go through.
    So I can fully understand the deep DEEP hurt your so called friend wounded you when she spoke as she did.
    I know how Depression feels, and I went through a nervous breakdown in the 90’s a long story I wont bore you with here.
    But it was an Aunt whom I turned to when at a low ebb to try to understand my Mothers actions at the time.. When I told her I had had a nervous breakdown. Her simple words of Pull Your Self together hurt very deep..

    Some Years later I changed career paths and became a support worker.. Supporting Learning Difficulties and Mental Health.. And later self harm abuse..

    Going through my breakdown and battling my own Depression through the years, I think had helped me understand Depression much better.. Enabling me to help others ..

    Talking about your experience is all part of the healing process.. And your Last paragraph is so true Even after all of these Years those words of my aunt are still there, when I was trying to reach out to someone to help heal my mind at the time..

    Love and Blessings to you, And I wish you well upon your pathway.. And by sharing your thoughts, You are helping reach others to heal..

    Love Sue

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  3. Thank you for a poignant reminder. For those of us not afflicted with depression, it is often baffling to observe friends and acquaintances who have not been so lucky. When life is not going well is when we sort our friends from our acquaintances.

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  4. So much is said that is, at best, thoughtless and ignorant. When I feel better I can be forgiving of this stuff. When I feel bad I have learned to protect myself. Unfortunately, when I feel bad, that is the time I really should not be isolating. Over time we learn who we can trust, but it is a difficult journey.

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  5. My fortune cookie tonight reads, “Courage is rightly considered the foremost of the virtues, for upon it, all others depend.” It was courageous of you to write this, because few people understand, or even accept the idea of depression. I suffered from a situational depression for years, having gone along to get along with a controlling personality. I finally woke up and am working on putting that person in my past. In my case, it wasn’t a chemical issue, so awakening to reality was half the cure. I only hope that any sufferers of depression caused by imbalances in body chemistry get the right treatment to bring a balance. In the meantime, put those negative people out of your lives asap. They add nothing, while taking a huge toll on you.

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  6. Thank you for sharing this. This post is very helpful to me and unfortunately I think I have been one of those insensitive people that you talk about. I am definitely going to do better and keep my mouth shut when someone shares they are depressed. I don’t want to hurt anyone; I want to be helpful and being insensitive is hurtful. Again thank you for posting this and I truly hope, no pray that your depression will leave.

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