Last week I compiled a list of things that help me during the bad days living with depression, anxiety, etc. But, one very important thing was missing. Can you guess what it is? Did you guess alligators? That is incorrect. The correct answer is "people".
People are the most important source of help when living with a mental illness. I do not say this lightly. Whether it's friends, family, or a therapist (hopefully all three), they are necessary for survival. However, there's something kind of paradoxical about this. When you're depressed or anxious, it's extremely hard to reach out to other people, and yet you need them so badly. There are so many days where I long for telepathic abilities, so that I don't have to pick up the phone and text someone that I'm having a bad day and need help.
Why is it so hard to ask for help, especially when it's exactly what you need? Because we live in a society where having a mental illness still feels shameful. When we have bad days (or weeks or months or years), we feel like it's our fault; like we did something to cause the broken state that we're in. We carry this feeling around like a layer of armor. Shame armor. Or, sharmor, if you will (I will). This sharmor not only makes it difficult for us to reach out, but also to let others in and allow them to help.
I know that there are many many people out there who would help me at the drop of a hat, if only I'd reach out to them. Yet, that stupid sharmor tries to convince me that those people don't love me anymore. It tells me that I'm on my own for this one, that I'll only be a burden on others, and that I've used up all of my "asks" for help. Before you say, "no, of course that's not true," I want to be honest here. There are times when this is at least partly true. No story of mental illness would be complete without times where people have walked away from you because dealing with all of your mental baggage became too much; or times when you had to walk away from others for the same reason. I have my own examples of both. And maybe, sometimes, it's the right thing to do.
It can be a challenge caring for people with mental illness. I know I'm not easy to love. I know my illnesses (and how they make me act) aren't easy to understand. I'm a broken person, who often has very little energy to give. I keep most of my feelings inside and am afraid to let people in. And yet, for some crazy reason, some of you still want to be let in.
So, if you want to be my friend, but maybe aren't sure if you can handle the challenge, here's an "ad" I've written to help you decide.
Wanted: A friend. Compassion is a necessary requirement. Humor is a plus. Love of John Hughes movies: +5 points. But, I'm going to put this up front: it won't be easy being my friend. There will be many times when our relationship feels one-sided; where I seem to go off into hiding, being slow to respond or reciprocate the efforts that you've put into our friendship. For that, in advance, I'm sorry. I know it sucks. I know it's not fair. I know you have your own things that you're dealing with, and that you need me, too. But, I promise, when I come out of my dark times, I'm going to try harder. Please be patient with me.
There will also be times where I will reach out to you, but I'll be in such a dark and/or stressed-out place, that you won't know how to deal with me or what to say to make me feel better. Yeah, that's really hard, too. Again, I'm sorry. But, I want you to know this: you don't need to do anything during those times except simply exist and maybe, occasionally, say, "I'm here for you, and I love you." And then maybe watch a John Hughes movie together while I cry it out.
For those people that have answered this "ad" in my life: thank you. I am eternally grateful. It is you that have literally kept me alive and surviving through all of the darkness. And, even if I'm not good at showing it, I want you to know: I'm here for you too, and I love you.
No post script this time...just your song of the week below.