Why I Struggle Maintaining Relationships With Anxiety and Depression
Maintaining relationships as an adult is much more difficult than maintaining relationships as a child. In school, you are surrounded by your peers and almost limitless opportunities to socialize. You do not need to seek out friendship because often, friendships seek out you. While we were unaware at the time, childhood was the golden age of our social life.
Once you enter adulthood, however, maintaining relationships becomes more difficult. People move away, some fade away for seemingly no reason and everyone is always so busy. Trying to plan out a lunch date requires two-day planners and three weeks notice. Our best pals become parents and understandably they have to take a step back from their social life for a while. The people we work with are no longer our peers and many aren’t interested in seeking out friendships with their colleague anyway. If you do not work, you are left isolated with your only social life being a wave hello to your neighbor as you pick up the morning paper. As an adult, relationships require effort. You have to go out of your way to get in contact, schedule a time to see that person or make frequent phone calls if they live far away.
If you live with a mental illness, maintaining relationships can be extremely difficult. The effort required to maintain the relationships in your life can sometimes be too much. When the depression creeps in, simply texting can be exhausting. The anxiety can kill any idea of a romantic relationship and panic attacks can leave a person a recluse. Our symptoms can be mistaken for neglect or carelessness and even our closest friends can blame us for what is beyond our control.
Like many, I have had the painful experience of losing friends as a result of my mental illness. It’s a complicated situation because one part of me wants to be angry with myself, but the other part of me wants to be angry with the person for their ignorance. I wanted so badly to explain it to them but I knew that no matter what words I used, they still wouldn’t understand and they likely never would.
My off and on depression makes maintaining relationships difficult. Sometimes, I can barely focus enough to follow along in the conversation and sometimes responding is simply yes or no. I receive supportive messages from friends and family and I want to respond, but I am too drained to tell them how important their words are to me. They are there for me when I need them most, but I can’t tell them that because all I can do is stare at the message and cry. The anxiety makes meeting new people painful. I feel anxious in almost every social situation, even if I am simply talking to my spouse. Socializing terrifies me and it is a basic standard for all relationships, acquaintance or spouse.
A friend calls but I am too depressed to talk. A family member texts but I am too hypomanic to respond. I meet a new person but I am too anxious to interact effectively so the potential relationship dies before it even starts. A friend waits patiently for a year for me to get the courage to drive across town by myself and go visit her. I cancel a coffee date (again) because I am too anxious to go out in public. I make grand plans when I am up, and cancel when I am down.
Thankfully, the people in my life understand. I may not respond to their text message, but they know what I mean to say. A canceled plan is met with shrugged shoulders and assurance that we can just reschedule for another time. My friendships are still intact even though I will go months without seeing them and my family reaches out to me when I am noticeably absent from a gathering. The people by my side today are the people who offer me the one thing I need the most: support. In order to be my friend, in order to be in my life, you have to support me. You have to check on me and reassure me you love me because sometimes my brain tells me you don’t. You have to be patient and understanding, loving and caring. Being in my life can be a lot of work, I know. My mental illness can make it downright exhausting.
I can appear clingy because sometimes I am desperately insecure and unsure of myself. I come off as flaky as I cancel plans, yet again. My paranoia makes me seem scary, untrustworthy and “weird.” I seem like a terrible friend when in reality I am trying my best to be a good partner and friend. I want to be a good daughter and mother; I am trying. The symptoms of schizoaffective-bipolar tell the world that I am weird, irresponsible, boring and I lack emotions. Having a relationship with me requires effort that is typically not required. However, I love deeply, I am passionate and forever loyal.
I have friends who are now strangers, because of my mental illness. I have family members whom I pretend to love and care for just to keep the peace, because of my mental illness. But I also have friends who will wait for me to be ready to go out, no matter how long it takes. I have friends who check on me daily and let me know that they love me. I have a husband who has been nothing but supportive and I have parents who have gone out of their way a thousand times to accommodate me.
While I may have lost a few people in my life, I have gained people who truly love me. I have people in my life who will go to the ends of the earth for me and they support me in everything I do. While it is unfortunate to lose friends and to have hateful family members say awful things, it is best to focus on the good relationships — the people who will be there, every time, every day, dark or light, no matter what.
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