January 23, 2013

Illustration of 2 women in an ambulance | Time to ChangeShell has been my friend since 2003. We met on our 1st day at University and we clicked instantly. We had so much in common it was creepy! We both suffer from night terrors and to be more specific we see spiders (transparent ones) and scream the place down in the early hours of the morning. We love all things horror and supernatural. We have been bridesmaids at each other’s weddings and know each other inside out! I could not imagine my life without her!

Mary’s story

I don't know what I would do without my best friend Shell. She is absolutely amazing. She picks me up when I am down and calms me down when I am making crazy life altering decisions. The most memorable example of Shell being a true friend and being there for me was when I had tried to kill myself.

Although she lives in London and I live in Essex she came straight down to see me. I was so shocked to see her. Being very emotional anyway, I sobbed when she walked in to A&E. Shell stayed with me whilst I waited to be transferred to the mental health unit via ambulance. She'd even bought me presents, little gifts that were a godsend in the assessment unit.

It was so refreshing to have her there. We are so alike and I know that she would never judge me

It was so refreshing to have her there. We are so alike and I know that she would never judge me. My family all followed the ambulance but Shell sat with me for the 30 minute journey, cracking jokes and generally being a comfort in my time of need. I was completely out of it and actually I struggle to remember what we talked about!

When we got to the assessment unit it was extremely daunting for me. It was the first time I had ever been in such a place. I didn't know what to expect and completely freaked out, telling the nurses I didn't want to stay. Shell was great at reassuring me and keeping me grounded. I ended up staying and being diagnosed (finally) with Bipolar Disorder.

I now always look forward to our days out together. It really does help to know I have these art gallery/London/lunch visits to look forward to. Shell even treated me to a spa day after my 5 day stint in hospital. I don't think she realises how truly amazing she is and how lost I would be without her. She gets me and that's so important when you are experiencing a mental illness - she is never too busy and always there if I need her.

Shell’s story

After 10 years of true friendship with Mary and us knowing each other's deepest, darkest and most embarrassing secrets, I felt like the world as I knew it had turned upside down the night I got a text from her husband saying that she had tried to take her own life. I was on the train the very next day to go and visit her in hospital, crying most of the way there and feeling a cocktail of emotions all at once: empathy, despair, confusion, guilt. How had I not foreseen this? Why had I not recognised my friend's desperation and darkness?

I rode in the ambulance with Mary and her husband

I rode in the ambulance with Mary and her husband when she was being transferred to Mental health unit. We sat in silence most of the way apart from the one comment Mary made which I thought nicely summed up her ability to deal with situations in which most people would crumble.

Walking up the plank in to the back of the ambulance, dressed in baggy clothes and slippers, Mary stopped, looked at herself and said to me 'Shell, I look like a bloody stereotype!'

It was then that I realised Mary would be able to work through anything and everything.

It was possibly the most surreal day of my life. However, out of that day has come a series of outings and adventures. Most are memorable - some, however, have been lost in a murky haze of wine, oysters and sunburn.

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