When Your Best Friend Has Depression Too
Depression is a monster that tries to eat me alive. It will tell me I’m alone and that nobody cares about me. Depression will tell me I’m a burden and that reaching out for help will be a waste of everyone’s time. Two of the biggest lies depression will tell me is that I am “crazy” and the only person in world who understands what’s happening in my head. But that couldn’t be any less true.
According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year. Thats roughly 43.8 million people.
So what’s it like when you realize depression lied to you? What do you do when you realize someone you love also has a mental illness? It could be your mom or dad. It could be your co-worker or best friend.
Everyone’s mental illness is different, but these are a few ways to help keep a relationship healthy if you and a loved one have a mental illness.
1. Pick who to trust.
When my depression first became an issue and I started my recovery, it was hard for me to choose when to be honest with people and when it was OK to keep my business private. I felt like I owed everyone an explanation for why I was constantly sad, angry or why I didn’t have enough energy to carry out a short conversation.
Then one day my mom started telling me, “People have to earn to hear your story. It’s not a right.” Not everyone needs or deserves to know what’s going on with you. This isn’t saying you should lie or keep to yourself, but your well-being and recovery should be your number one priority. If you feel like telling a certain person about your depression or mental illness isn’t the right thing to do, then don’t. Finding your “person” is a process, and it should be someone you know wants to help keep you safe.
2. Make boundaries clear.
Whether you have a mental illness or are loving someone who does, it can be a full-time job. Like with anything in life, we all need to have our limits. Everyone has topics they don’t like talking about or things they don’t feel comfortable doing — make those points clear.
From my personal experience, I always felt conflicted on if I wanted someone to try to understand my depression and anxiety or not. I didn’t want to feel alone, but at the same time if you understood what I was going through it means you had probably felt the same way at some point. And I would never wish my anxiety or depression on anyone. That’s why, especially when I know someone has a mental illness, I try my best to know their boundaries so I don’t trigger them.
At times, when you and a loved one both have a mental illness, your worries and issues might be more than others can handle. Seeking professional help is a great way to get a around this obstacle.
3. Everyone needs a break.
I found, especially with my depression, it’s not uncommon for just the idea of waking up tomorrow to exhaust me. This is a huge factor in my everyday life, and anybody who truly knows me understands how low my energy can be sometimes.
Because my best friend and I both have depression, this is something we regularly talk about. With that in mind, we have this understanding about our relationship. We will always love each other. We will always be there for each other. And that doesn’t change if we need a break from our friendship. Taking a break from a friendship doesn’t mean we stop being friends or feel the need to “see other people.” It’s the complete opposite. It means we’re tired and we love each other so much that we don’t want to bring the other down when we know our baggage is too much for them to handle right now. We need time to take care of ourselves and love ourselves, so we can go back to loving them.
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