The Trouble With Making New Friends When You Have Anxiety and Depression
I have anxiety and depression.
In other words, I have mastered the skills of overthinking everything and assuming the worst in every situation.
She’s definitely judging the sweatpants you’re wearing out of the dorm. He thinks you’re so “fat” for eating this cheeseburger and french fries. I’m positive they’re just your friends because they pity you and they’re always talking behind your back.
Welcome to the conversations between anxiety and depression that have been happening in my head since my freshman year of college started exactly 10 days ago.
When entering this new found territory of college, I wasn’t worried about the academics. I could learn how to get my professors to like me and how to study efficiently before a test. The one thing I was worried about was how on Earth I was going to make new friends. For the last six years of my life, I have been able to maintain the same small, happy group of friends I had grown to call my family.
How then was I supposed to leave them and make new friends? Had the process one takes to make friends changed since I was 10? Had I changed too much to make new friends? When do I explain these mental illnesses I have that eat away at my brain? Do I use it as an icebreaker? Hi, I’m Danielle and I have been struggling with anxiety and depression for more than a year. My favorite color is purple. That doesn’t exactly seem to welcome people in.
Despite the nerves, I entered college with my head held high and carried as much fake confidence as I could muster. I managed to survive. At the start of the second week, I was already having mental breakdowns. I crossed lines I didn’t know existed in friendships I had just made and I was yearning to return to my purple walled bedroom with my favorite stuffed animals and my parents just a floor below me. Maybe the process of making friends hadn’t changed, but I was sure I had.
In sixth grade, I was assigned a partner to study the moon landing with and she quickly became my best friend. Now, I have to leave my dorm room and make friends on my own. The idea of stepping foot down the hallway toward an open door caused my stomach to drop. I don’t know how to make friends. I don’t know the difference between the things I can say to my friends back home and the things I can say to my new friends here. If someone is talking bad about another, then do I share the information with the one who is being hurt? Do I explain things to people the same way I would want them to be explained to me if I were in their position, or do I let them figure everything out on their own? I knew the minute I said one thing wrong, any friendship I had worked so hard to form would be over.
It’s not fair. It’s not fair I don’t know how to handle things. It’s not fair my anxiety means I can’t think properly when I’m under pressure. It’s not fair my depression means I feel like I need to please everyone and do the right thing for every party. Often times, what I think is the right thing for every party isn’t right and I end up on the hurt end, screaming, crying and throwing my shoes against the cement walls of my jail cell like dorm. It’s not fair I have to explain this all like it’s an excuse for my mistakes. It’s not an excuse. It’s just a part of who I am. It’s not fair. It’s not fair. It’s not fair.
Making new friends when you live with a mental illness can be hard. Anxiety sits in one corner of your mind and tells you no one will like you. Yet, depression is yelling from the other corner that everyone needs to like you. Meanwhile, logic is running around frantically trying to keep the other two locked up in their cages, all while trying to assure you everything is fine and you will survive. You try to listen to logic, but she can’t keep anxiety and depression locked away, and their shouts are often the loudest.
The minute you screw up, anxiety starts mumbling I told you so’s. Depression is crying because she should’ve known everything would go wrong. Meanwhile, logic is flipping switches and pressing buttons to go back in time and figure out where it all went wrong, but she can’t find anything. She can’t find where you made your mistake because, sometimes, even logic fails.
So, the new week starts and you’re faced with a choice. You can either let anxiety and depression win the battle, you can let sadness take over or you can hold your head up high because a bump in the first week is now in the past. When you hit a pothole, you’re not going to turn back around just to hit it again. It’s gone and now you’re faced with more open road. You might hit some more potholes or speed bumps again, and that’s OK.
With time though, maybe that first pothole will be filled and things will feel good again, but you can’t pull over and wait for it to happen. You have to move on and trust the construction workers will work where and when it’s needed. All you can do is fill up your gas tank and buckle anxiety and depression up because they’re tagging along on this journey too. And sure, they might fight to share the front seat with your new friends. Eventually, you’re going to find the right people who know how to push your mental illnesses to the back seat. And that’s when you’ll know you’ve won.
Image via Thinkstock.