Life can be messy: when do you involve your friends?
Life can be messy and you might be wondering if you should involve your friends with your mental health ups-and-downs. You might be afraid because your friends are under-educated and misinformed about people living with mental health issues. They might be in the dark.
You’ve heard them whisper, “She’s off her meds.” As if a pill will solve everything when it is more complicated than that to be truly healthy. Your friends might have said that if you took better care of yourself, you wouldn’t have problems. They might have insinuated that your issues are a wet blanket.
It’s time to address your mental health without losing friendships.
Mental health is a chronic condition not unlike diabetes or hundreds of other medical conditions. You can ask for support beyond your medication and attending regular therapy appointments.
We are all in need of a friend’s help from time to time. Here are 4 tips when you’re feeling low, out of sorts, or on the edge:
1) Be selective
You’re looking for your friends’ support and you’re looking to be understood. You’re not looking for hundreds of people to validate your latest IG post, you are looking for one brave friend who can be steady for you during a storm. Be aware that people might not see your mental health challenges through the same lens as you do. They haven’t lived it.
The friend who you turn to for support might not be your best friend, instead they might be the best person during difficult times. Like a friend of mine called the ‘fixer.’ He had been groomed to be the number-one emergency contact since he was a kid. He was a better guy, a more likable guy during tragedies.
All of your friends might show up when you call them on the first day of a crisis, but there’s a chance they might have left the building before all the dust settles. An emotional crisis can last months not just a few hours and very few friends are built to stand-by you for a long time. Involving the right person is key.
2) Be a planner
Once you’ve selected the most compassionate, dependable friend to be your contact and possibly help you out during an emergency, you’ll want to plan.
Tell them about your medical history and how you manage your condition currently. Share the name and phone number of your health care professional that you see for therapy and medication and give an accurate list of any medicines that you take.
Listen to their concerns and answer their questions. Holding back information can affect whether your friend can truly help you and whether or not they feel a part of your team.
3) Be Committed
Telling a friend about your challenges does not mean that you’ve hired a personal garbage man. A person to pick-up and take out your trash. Instead, once you’ve involved a friend in your quest for stability, you will be held accountable to follow the plan that your health care provider and your friends and family outlined.
You should be honest when you fall short of following the plan whether it be not taking your medication or not seeing your therapist or avoiding stress.
4) Be Charlie Brown
Acknowledge that you, too, will be there for your friend.
Thank your friend in writing and out loud after they have helped you get your life back on track. Promise them that you will be there when they need you. You have the unique experience of understanding how people need help from friends and you will be the best helper to your friend.
The friend who helped you through this storm will likely face some kind of challenges in the coming days. Demonstrating that you will be there for your friend is the best way to ensure that they will show up for you.
If you are feeling alone and thinking about harming yourself, please call this hotline
1-800-950-NAMI or visit NAMI’s website. You are not alone.
E.B. HOWELL is the author of As Much as I Care to Remember, a novel based on her own experiences with bipolar disorder. Raised in Winston-Salem, N.C., E.B. graduated from Furman University and obtained her master’s in journalism and public policy at American University. In New York City, she assisted health organizations with patient advocacy, serving as the Scientific Communications Director of the National Kidney Foundation and as a Communication Specialist at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund. E.B. currently works in health care and lives in Beaufort, S.C., with her husband. Learn more about E.B. Howell at www.ebhowell.com and on Facebook and Twitter.