Why I Feel My Mental Illness Makes Friendship Difficult
For most people, making friends comes second nature. Most of us don’t even have to try — it just happens. We start new jobs, meet people through others or bump into someone we instantly connect with and a friendship is born.
I used to be like that.
Now, I just don’t seem to know how. It’s not that people don’t try and be my friend because they do … I just don’t know how to accept their friendship these days.
I get confused, and worried, and overthink the entire thing to the point where it’s just easier not to get close to anyone. I have a few close family and friends whom I adore. My husband is my rock and knows me inside and out. I am not lonely, but having friends is not my “normal” anymore.
It’s not that I don’t want more people in my life; I just struggle with forming meaningful relationships — ones built on trust, respect and honesty.
So, why do I think this is?
Well, what if they get to know me and realize how “ridiculous” I am?
What if I’m too needy?
What if they are too needy, and I can’t cope with it?
What if they invite me out somewhere, and I have to meet more people? I might embarrass them, I might get anxious and have to leave early, then they will all be talking about me, won’t they?
Yeah, I don’t need any more friends. I’m OK as I am, aren’t I … but wouldn’t it be nice to go out on girly nights, and see people and make memories? But that all sounds a bit scary to me … fuck it, I’m fine as I am I don’t need anyone. People suck anyway.
I am fully aware most of that is utter bollocks, but that doesn’t make the fears and worries I have about making new friends feel any less real.
For the most part, I am an incredibly logical and rational individual, which is why even I can’t understand myself sometimes. Being this irrational confuses me terribly.
So, if I can’t understand myself, how can I expect anyone else to?
I struggle with fear of abandonment. My mind works in a way that if someone hasn’t contacted me, or replied to a message, or answered their phone, I automatically jump to the worst possible conclusion. This can range from me thinking they are pissed off with me to thinking they have died in a horrible accident.
For example, my husband has to text me every morning when he gets to work. If he doesn’t, my brain goes into overdrive and starts asking the dreaded “what if” questions. What if he’s been involved in an accident and can’t get to his phone? What if he’s had an accident and he’s just lying at the side of a road somewhere? What if he’s dead?
The rational side of my brain knows he’s probably just got caught in traffic, or someone’s collared him getting out of the car and he’s just got caught up talking, but the next thing I know I’m checking Facebook and news sites for accidents on the motorway. I know how irrational that might sound to most of you — it sounds irrational to myself — but it’s the way I am.
My only defense is I care deeply, and the thought of losing someone I care about that much terrifies me.
I can also be a very cynical person. I often assume people are only being nice to me because they want something from me. It takes so much for me to completely trust people. I have, like most people, been hurt and let down by others in the past. Most people understand this is just part of life, and not everyone we meet will be out to get us. My brain doesn’t believe that sometimes.
If I meet someone and they invite me out somewhere, my first thought is usually, “Why would they want to invite me out?” I sometimes fail to see the positives in myself, so assume no one else can either.
I have the appearance of someone who doesn’t care what others think. I’m heavily tattooed, have my own style, wear clothes I love regardless of fashion, model part-time and have always walked my own path. People assume I’m cool and confident, and that couldn’t be further from the truth at times. I am constantly seeking approval in my own way. I find it difficult to accept that someone would want to spend time with me for no other reason than they enjoy my company. I always assume there’s an ulterior motive.
My “normal” is probably different to yours. I get that most people don’t think the same way I do, so this is one of the main things that causes me to withdraw when someone is attempting to start a friendship with me. It’s all fine and dandy when you first meet. I don’t have to tell then what goes on in my head. I don’t have to let them see my “ridiculousness.” I can hide it all exceptionally well, but what happens further down the line? I can’t pretend to be a different person for the rest of my life. Surely it also invalidates the friendship, if I’m not the person they think I am?
I am incredibly honest about my mental health struggles. I refuse to be embarrassed by it or ashamed of it — it is part of me — but, that doesn’t mean I reveal all of my secrets to everyone I meet.
Most people I know in real life know I struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, but there are very few people who really know what goes on in my head.
Which is why I wanted to write this article. I want people to know me, warts and all. I want to share it all with you. Why? There are a few reasons. Let me explain.
Firstly, sometimes feeling the way I do can suck, but I know I am not the only person in the world who feels like this. I’m hoping, by me putting all this out there, it will help others realize they aren’t alone. I do not have any answers on how to change this, but I’m hoping maybe we can just figure it all out together along the way.
The other reason I am writing this is because I hope it will help the people who know me already to understand me a little bit better. I know you may be sat there thinking I must be hard work to know, or maybe you think having a friend like me must be exhausting, ut I can assure you it isn’t. I am one of the most caring, kind, empathic people you will meet. I love deeply and openly. I try my utmost not to judge. I will listen to your problems, and help you in any way I can.
Knowing me can be confusing — I get that — but please, if you have read this far and still want to be my friend, I love you. Please don’t stop trying with me. Please keep inviting me out, even if I decline the offer. Please tell me it is OK to be how I am. Please just understand this is hard for me. And please — above all else — let me be me with all my flaws, and I promise you: you will have a friend for life.
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Thinkstock photo via lolostock