Last night I ended up in hospital for one of those all night adventures whose of us with mental health illness grow familiar with as time goes on. I’m not going to go into detail of the circumstances that got me there, it’s much of the same old story. Words like overwhelmed play prominence in that story and I don’t feel that rehashing it is a good thing for me to do today when it’s still so raw.
My poor Husband and Brother sat by my bedside all night, both supposed to be in work today and both still sat in those chairs at 6am waiting for me to be discharged.
During my mental health assessment with the on-call Psychiatrist and Crisis Team Nurse we talked about the usual things, what lead me to this point, what came of my CPN assessment in the week etc.
Then one of the questions dissolved me into a blubbering mess, after asking about my family they asked about friends and I felt my newly built up façade fade as my eyes filled with tears and I had to admit I don’t have friends. Well not friends I can just call round for a cup of tea and a chat anyway.
I have four friends you see:
- One friend used to be my “I need some company friend” but recently her partner got a fantastic job opportunity and they moved to London. I know, I know London isn’t that far. But when you are suffering, ill and need of someone it may aswell be the other side of the moon.
- One friend I was inseparable from for a few years, she’s several years older than me, and she never seemed to be phased by my erratic moods, and took me as I came. But in 2004 she moved back to Dallas, and whilst we talk and stay in touch at least weekly, again it’s not the same.
- One friend I have never met in person, I was one of her writers on a music zine she owned and edited several years ago. After she sold the zine we went on to become firm friends and now write letters despite living literally a world apart with her in Australia. She is one of the most understanding people I have ever met and I wish every day I could find a friend with her kind of philisophical and empathetic outlook on life to call up for that cup of tea.
- Finally, there is the girl I consider my best friend. We met via our blogs in 2003/2004, and she ended up marrying one of the guys I worked with! Yes it’s true! I honestly couldn’t ask for a better friend than her, we differ in so many ways yet our friendship gets stronger by the day. We talk about having tea together and how it would be good for our souls, but she lives in California which makes this a little awkward!
There are people who consider themselves my friends, but I see themselves distancing themselves from me. Around Christmas time I invited 3-4 older friends for dinner in the new year, trying to overcome my anxiety and to rebuild some bridges. They all said yes, and they would arrange dates. It’s now April and I’ve not heard anything from any of them.
When I ditched Facebook I emailed all my “friends” from there to tell them why I had done it (it was rather a traumatic experience) and giving them my non-Facebook contact details. Excluding those mentioned above, one person responded, one of the older friends who I invited for dinner recently…well that went well.
I find I attract two types of people in the real world as friends.
Fairweather Friends – Happy to be your friend espeically if you’re manic and up for anything, but when the illness starts to rear it’s ugly side they disappear never to be seen again.
Charity Adopters – Those friends who want a charity case, someone to show their ‘real’ friends that they do care for the underprivileged and people with mental illness. The problem with these is that they will be your friend for a long time, as long as you tow the line. Do what they want when they want. Accept the hand me down gifts they offer. Be on display as their token friend. And this gets wearing as the two-way part in friendship like this is lost.
Last night I was asked how I find friends, I explained that when I was working I would befriend people that way, but generally relationships didn’t last. My Social Anxiety is a real force for bad in this area. I don’t have the confidence to find true friends and make appropriate ‘moves’ to turn someone from an acquaintance into a friend.
They have suggested a few self help groups which may help, but again, how do you make that first move. Walk through the door into a room full of people you don’t know and even worse, speak?!