March 17, 2014

danielaHaving a mental health problem makes life complicated. For me, a teenage girl, going to boarding school, living with 7 other girls in a room, life seemed impossible, but it wasn’t just that: life always seemed impossible, at home, at school, wherever I was. There wasn’t exactly a lot of privacy with my mental health problem. When you live with your friends, your deterioration isn’t something that is easy to hide. It’s hard to explain why you have been crying for an hour and half, and why the very thought of getting up in the morning makes it hard to breathe. I was lost in my own skin, searching for some way to escape the sadness, running back and forth, in a pitch black maze, looking for an exit that didn’t seem to exist. Though, however impossible life seemed, my friends seemed to make it a little bit more possible.

Sometimes just a text was enough to give me the motivation to smile again

It wasn’t just the big things that people did that would help. Sometimes, just a text saying “I hope you’re okay” or “I’m here if you need” was enough to give me the motivation to smile again, even just for a moment. People often underestimate the power of talking, but also just listening. A rant to a friend was occasionally the best thing for me. They didn’t belittle my problems or tell me to get over it. When I talked, I didn’t always need advice, or a solution, I just needed a friend to listen.

But above all, what made it the most bearable were the talks about trivial things. Whether it was gossiping on a group chat with friends, or talking about what’s been in the news or my favourite TV show, or even just a funny picture that one of us had seen on some social networking site, it helped. The feeling of being completely alone in the world wasn’t screaming quite so loudly in my head. For an hour, I didn’t have to be the one with depression. I just got to be another teenage girl, talking with her friends.

I had hit rock bottom and I was prepared to stay there

I still have days where I don’t feel like I’m ready to face the world. It’s okay to be alone for a little while, and I don’t question that everyone needs some space sometimes, but isolation is far too easy. It was easy for me to think that I was shutting out the world, and the pain. When I took some time off of school, I thought that I could push out the stress of everything, that I would be in my own world for a while. I had hit rock bottom and I was prepared to stay there. However, sitting at home, watching TV, bathing in my self-pity, I received a phone call from my friends at school, telling me cheesy jokes. Another friend texted me, almost constantly, while I was off school. I do not have any doubt that their support was what allowed me to return to school within two weeks.

Through my time experiencing a mental health problem, I haven’t always been openly thankful, or appreciative for the support of my friends. I’ve worked hard, in some cases, to push away those who seemed to care the most. However, my friends gave me the time, and space, to talk when I was ready. The road hasn’t been easy, not for me, and I know, not for them, but I am so thankful that they haven’t left me.

They gave me some light in the darkness, even just for a couple of hours

I’m not under any impression that my friends can change that I have a mental health problem. I’m not under any impression that a day out with friends will “fix” me or change my view of life completely. They may not have been able to lead me out the maze I was so lost in, but they gave me some light in the darkness, even just for a couple of hours. They managed to keep me company in my pain. I’m still experiencing that pain but in my darkest moments, and my hardest days, it’s always so nice to remember that I have friends, just a text away.

Let your friends know you are there to listen, to care, to not judge

I hope, with this blog, to possibly inspire one person to text a friend, to call a friend, to invite a friend out, to ask how are you and be prepared for the “actually, I’m not okay”. I hope I have shown the importance of friends in my life, and hopefully in all of our lives. So please, make yourself known to your friends. Let them know you are there to listen, to care, to not judge. Whether you go for a walk, go out for a meal, talk over a cup of tea or just send a quick text, do not ever underestimate your power to help. The people around you experiencing a mental health problem aren’t asking you to be their therapist. They just need a friend.

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