To Friends Who Get Uncomfortable When I Talk About My Mental Illness
Nobody likes to be around a “Negative Nancy” or a “Picky Vicky.” Sure, our friends are supposed to be there to support us when we need support or when we need to vent, but I know that it can sometimes be a hard, especially when it’s an uncomfortable topic.
I am very open about my illnesses — from my anxiety and depression, to my history with fighting eating disorders, and to a certain extent the fact that I’ve now twice tried to take my own life. These are things that are important to me and I talk about them because these were, are and will continue to be things that shape me into the person I am.
But these topics make people uncomfortable — even my friends. Even my boyfriend. I know they are trying to be supportive; I don’t think they know how. Maybe it’s because they experience it themselves, or maybe they don’t know how to respond because they’ve never experienced anything like it. They don’t know how to react… so they don’t. Maybe they’re scared they’ll say the wrong thing and trigger me. But what they don’t know is that silence is the worst response.
Silence means that my mind will automatically lead me to think the worst possibilities. My anxiety will yell at me, “This is it! You’ve overshared! You’re pushing them away and they’re scared of you.” My depression will whisper, incessantly whisper, “This is why you will be alone. You will have no support. This is why you deserve to be by yourself forever.” And whether these are their thoughts or not, this is what I think they are thinking.
But, my dear friends, I talk about these things with you because I trust you. And yes, it might make you uncomfortable. But it’s also part of a larger conversation. It’s the active effort to reduce stigma and raise awareness and show that yes, these are debilitating illnesses but behind each illness, there are human beings with souls and stories, and we are more than our illnesses. We are more than the sadness and the despair and the anxiety and the depression.
We need to have these conversations because we need to have them until they’re not uncomfortable anymore. We need to talk about mental health until we’re not afraid to ask for help. And if we can’t talk to our nearest and dearest friends, how can we expect anyone to reach out to strangers, even if their life depends on it?
So please, talk with me and to each other. And let’s have uncomfortable, but extremely important and necessary, conversations about mental health until we’re not longer afraid to speak up and speak out.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo via oneinchpunch