To the Friends I've Pushed Away While Working Through My Mental Illness


Lately, I’ve been feeling guilty. I wish I didn’t feel that way. I wish I could easily believe I’m taking care of myself, and that I’m not responsible for how other people feel, what other people are doing or how they react to me. But I can’t. Not yet, anyway. I’m working on my ability to separate my own feelings and the feelings of others’, and as someone who’s internalized others’ feelings my entire life, it isn’t an easy process.

The truth is, the past few months have been very difficult for me. Talking about it is, at times, even more difficult. I value transparency and storytelling, but I also value privacy. Most people know me as a reserved person. I don’t feel like people need to know the personal details of my life. I’ve been struggling so much the past couple months and I’ve become more withdrawn than usual. People who care about me haven’t heard from me. I haven’t really left my house, except to go to medical appointments and therapy groups.

I feel an unyielding need to explain myself to my friends, and even acquaintances. I feel like I should apologize, like I should justify my behavior, like I’ve done something wrong. I don’t want to feel that way. So I want to share what I’ve been dealing with — to pour it all out and let it sit in the open, so that it’s not inside me anymore, and so that people know. But my stronger inclination is to keep it to myself. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m not ready to share everything going on in my mind, heart and body — so I won’t. Because I don’t owe that to anyone. This is my story, and I’ll tell it when I’m ready and able.

But I do want my friends to know some things:

I love you. I haven’t stopped thinking about you. Our happy memories together and thinking of future memories are what keep me going. I wish I could reach out and be with you and be social and “normal.” But my depression, anxiety, trauma and illness prevents me from doing so. Some of my aversion to sharing comes from shame. I’m not too big to admit I fall victim to stigma and fear of judgment. Some of my isolation comes from a genuine inability to explain the deep, complex and very real feelings, thoughts and sensations that consume me every day. Most of all, I want you to know my withdrawal is because I’m taking care of myself right now. I’m not ready to share with anyone. I wish I were. I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel neglected, or unappreciated. My behavior has nothing to do with you. You have done absolutely nothing wrong, I promise.

As for what you can do for me: check in with me sometime soon with a simple text or message of support. I will be honest. If I can’t spend time with you, I won’t make up an excuse for why. I’ll say I’m feeling depressed or anxious and need time alone, but I won’t expand on that. I need this part of my story to be mine right now. I’ll share it when I’m ready. I really appreciate your respect for my mental, emotional and physical space. Thank you so much for your patience when I seem detached or unavailable or frustrated right now. My biggest fear is that you will give up on me. I know you won’t, but it’s something I worry about. I promise I’m just going through something right now. I haven’t given up on you. I won’t give up. Like I said, I love you. Very much.

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Thinkstock photo via prudkov


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