April 26, 2017

quote: One of my friends  once said to me:  “I don't understand  mental health, but I'm  here to support you.”

I've suffered with anxiety previously and although I've sort help from my GP I have never really fully addressed the issue. In the summer of 2016, I started becoming unwell again with anxiety and this time depression too. Depression was a shock to me and I found it really hard to accept and understand.

I had learnt from previous times of being unwell that I tend to cut myself off from everyone. So I messaged my friends telling them I was struggling and that I was seeking medical help.

I am lucky to have a very supportive and loving partner and family. I also viewed myself as have an amazing group of close friends.

Sadly, from being unwell I am no longer close with one of my friends. I thought I had let her down over some plans we had made, so rather than talk to her, I avoided her – as when you have depression it's far easier to avoid someone or something than to deal with anything you class as being remotely stressful. She was left feeling rejected, having heard that I was talking to other friends and not her. When we did talk again, after no contact for a couple of months, she was frustrated with being let down and voiced this. This unfortunately left me feeling as though I was a failure and everyone would in turn leave me. She questioned my behaviours and, although I tried to explain, I don't feel she understood that these were the behaviours my depression had impacted on. Months later, we haven't been able to heal the divide and we’re both feeling let down.

I am coming to accept that my depression played a massive part in this rift, and that I was too sensitive to comments and withdrew from contact. However, I do not accept having to repeatedly answer my behaviours and explain why without this being heard or understood.

One of my friends once said to me that I don't understand mental health but I'm here to support you. This left me feeling so loved that my friend was willing to just accept the me that I was at present. Another friend has always messaged me and if she can't get hold of me she'll get in touch with my partner to check on me.

Sadly, when you become unwell, it often will be some time before you recover. How you respond to your friend when they are ill will have a massive impact on them. You don't need to be a mental health practitioner to support your friend, you just need to be you. Think of what would make you happy when you are sad, often it is something funny and not your friend trying to find out why you are sad or give you counselling. One of my other friends suffers with anxiety and was having a bad day. I bombarded her with pictures of cats dressed up as sushi – this made her smile and happy even if only for a moment. It shows you even the silliest littlest thing you can do will show someone you care.

Supporting a friend with depression can of course be difficult. My advice would be don't give up if you can, voice your upset but express you understand they are not well, recognise their behaviours and thoughts will not always make sense, reassure them you are there for them and finally send them pictures of cats dressed up like sushi!

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