September 26, 2012

Elizabeth, a Time to Change bloggerFriends are there for a lot of your ‘first times’ – your first day at school, your first car ride after finally passing your test, your first time out clubbing, but what about the first time you confide in them about your mental health?

In my experience it seemed to be that no matter how close I was to my friends, it still didn’t make me feel any better about admitting I was suffering with depression and anorexia. My friends had been there for all the trials and tribulations that life had thrown at me throughout school and the start of university but the idea of sharing a secret such as this with them, was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever experienced.

All I remember going through my mind was a continuous string of ‘what ifs’: what if my friend reacts badly, what if they judge me for it, what if they don’t see me as being me anymore and instead just this weak, moaning 20 year old? It took a long time to gather up the courage to say anything. I had kept things hidden for as long as I could until it became obvious to my friends that something wasn’t right. I was no longer the fun-loving, socialising girl that they knew so well. It was at this point that I told myself to grit my teeth and be honest.

I had planned in my mind to tell my two closest friends at the time.

I had planned in my mind to tell my two closest friends at the time. One who had been my best friend at sixth form and another who was a close friend and also a colleague from where I was currently working part time.

Whilst I had initially thought about planning what I was going to say, in the end I decided not to overthink it and just went with the flow of calmly explaining that things weren’t good at the moment and that I was feeling very unwell and low. I explained that I been to see my GP where I was diagnosed and immediately given medication and started talking therapy.

Both my friends immediately showed concern and worry for me

Both my friends immediately showed concern and worry for me, stressing that I should look after myself and that they would be there if I needed them. It was like the whole world had just been lifted off my shoulders. There was a sense of feeling within me that things were going to be ok after all, that nothing would change between my friends and I and soon I’d be back to normal and we’d all forget about my illness.

However this hope of mine was unfortunately short-lived with one of my friends. The girl, who was also my work colleague, whilst initially seeming supportive suddenly began to distance herself from me and no longer wanted to discuss my issues. This was in spite having told me I could talk to her.

she told me she couldn’t deal with me being unwell and no longer wanted to be friends

Eventually things got to the point where she asked me not to discuss any aspect of my illnesses with her at all because she decided she couldn’t do anything to help and therefore didn’t want to hear about it. Things went even further when eventually she told me she couldn’t deal with me being unwell and no longer wanted to be friends and even asked that we specifically didn’t work the same shifts together any more.

To say I was devastated is an understatement. Having been so frightened of being honest and admitting that I was really unwell and needed someone more than ever, it was heart breaking to then have my worst fears come true. She no longer saw me as the friend she once knew so well. Instead she now saw me as someone who to her was ‘troublesome’ and wasn’t the kind of friend she wanted in her life anymore.

It was so gut-wrenching to hear that [she]... refused to have anything to do with me

It was so gut-wrenching to hear that someone who I had been so close to for the last four years and thought would be there for me, suddenly hit a switch on a friendship and refused to have anything to do with me. I tried so many times to show her that I was still there underneath my illnesses; I was still the same fun-loving girl only I was hidden by a mask that needed to be ripped off.

Unfortunately the loss of my friend left me so empty and devastated I ended up trying to take my own life and as a result ended up spending a month in hospital, to help me recover.

My best friend from sixth form, who I also confided in at the same time, remained my rock

Despite this heart ache, there was light at the end of my dark tunnel. My best friend from sixth form, who I also confided in at the same time, remained my rock. She made me feel like there was nothing different or strange about me and that our friendship didn’t change despite her now knowing that I was, in my mind, a freak.

She consistently asked me how I was doing, how therapy was going and if I was ever having a bad day. She was always there on the phone or would drop everything to come see me. She came to see me whilst I was in hospital and never once got bored by the amount of times that I cried. Naturally, it wasn’t a completely easy ride for her. I could tell there were times when it was very distressing for her to watch me go through sheer hell and I know she deeply missed seeing me laughing and being so carefree. But she did what any friend could in such a difficult situation. She was simply there. And she distracted me from dark thoughts by treating me normally and getting us involved socially with other people.

I am so glad I confided in her because it made me realise that having a friend’s support can make a huge difference to your recovery

For this, I will always be eternally grateful. I am so glad I confided in her because it made me realise that having a friend’s support can make a huge difference to your recovery. It also helped me to develop my confidence and come to the realisation that if someone chooses to walk away from me because of mental health issues, then that’s their problem, not mine. I find it very sad that some people feel the need to do that but I can’t help being unwell. I didn’t choose it and I didn’t want it so why should I be left feeling like it’s my fault and that it must mean I’m an unlovable freak? I now know that I’m not.

Someone who chooses to end their friendship with me because of my illnesses wasn’t a true friend in the first place. And that’s ok because I know that there’s far more to me than my mental health issues and there are plenty of great friends out there who can also see that.

It is because of her that I am still here today, living my life to the full; proof that a friend really can save your life

Now I’m in recovery and my friend and I are still very close, though a little further apart because we are away at different universities. But I know she’s always there at the end of the phone. It is because of her that I am still here today, living my life to the full; proof that a friend really can save your life.

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