As you may or may not know, I deal with mental illness. It is as integral and innately a part of me as the color of my eyes, my distaste for mathematics and my love for breakfast burritos. In the moments when we smile and laugh and adventure happily, you may forget I am sick. That I am different than you. However, for each of those moments there will be moments when I sob in your arms or on the phone to you about something you’ve heard a hundred times, and you will be acutely aware that I’m struggling. While there isn’t a textbook or a checklist to being my friend or loving me when it’s rough, here are eight things I want you to know.
1. This isn’t a choice.
There may be moments when I am not as visibly sick or where the symptoms aren’t there, but there will be many moments –while you’re on a date, when we’re in class or at 3 a.m. — when it’ll rear it’s ugly head. And it isn’t my choice when or how it hits.
2. It makes me doubt myself.
A good dose of self-doubt can be healthy, but I have more than that. There are days when I doubt I’ll make it out of bed without a disaster. There are days when I fear failing everything. There are times when I think everyone hates me. Anxiety cripples my confidence, depression cripples my perspective. It isn’t logical or rational, but it’s real to me.
3. I smile through the pain.
There are many days when I’ll sit in class or a meeting or on your couch listening to you when my heart is breaking, my head is spinning and my sanity is slipping. Sometimes smiling feels like the only option, but just because I’m smiling doesn’t mean I don’t hurt.
4. I care, about everything, possibly too much.
There will be moments in our friendship when I annoy the crap out of you. When I will do the dreaded double (or gasp, a triple) text. There will be moments when I sob over something you find trivial. There will be moments when I feel too much and I won’t know exactly why. I care and caring is a wonderful gift — but it isn’t always easy (on me or you).
5. I need you to check in on me.
No matter how much I say I am OK or how much I push you away, I need you and want you in my life. Text me to say hi. Text to ask how I’m doing. Call to catch up. Accept my answers with love and don’t hold it against me if I don’t respond.
6. Know that if I reschedule I still love you.
My life is messy outside of my illness, know that as a base fact. Beyond that, know that when I make plans I have the best of intentions and do really want to hang out with you. However, some days I need to sleep another hour (cause I was up counting sheep all night), going out in public would be too much for me or I need to have a mental health day.
7. Be open and honest with me.
I know I can be a hard person to be friends with. The thing I ask for most is honesty. I would rather have the harsh reality than a lack of information (because that makes my head go to the worst place and back a few times). If my over-sharing is burdensome, let me know. If you think I need to work on something, holla at me. If you want space, just ask. If you need something for me, tell me.
8. I love you more than you know.
I may not always express it or thank you enough, but I’m so thankful for your impact in my life. Thank you for listening to me. Thank you for problem solving with me. Thank you for feeding me. Thank you for holding me as I cry. Thank you for being here. Thank you for loving me. I love you!
Your anxious (and at times overwhelming) but grateful friend.
This story was published on The Mighty, a platform for people facing health challenges to share their stories and connect.