The Kindest Thing My Friend Said When I Was Struggling With My Mental Health
One of the kindest things I’ve been told this year was this: “Whether you stop feeling sad today or tomorrow or never, I liked the you I met in creative writing class last year, and I like the you you are now. With your illness, without it. And if you can’t make it to class, this week or ever, I will still be here.”
When I initially heard those words from my dearest friend Emily, I teared up. Her words were so powerful and they were exactly what I needed to hear at the time.
When I was sick, I felt like such a waste of space. I felt like no one wanted to be around me. I felt like a burden to my friends and family. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be alive, and believed everyone would be better off without me. I felt like nobody would even notice if I was gone, and I was convinced I wouldn’t be remembered.
To this day, her words resonate inside my head whenever I’m having a bad mental health day. They echo inside my mind and act as a reminder that no matter how depressed or irritated or sad I feel, my loved ones will never leave me.
So often in life, our first instinct to other people’s struggles are a desperate attempt to fix the problem for them. We want to alleviate the pain, but the truth is, sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we can’t “fix” the other person’s issues, even though we want to. Especially for parents, I can’t imagine how hard it must be for them to watch their child struggle and feeling powerless to do anything about it. It must be a horrible feeling.
I was lucky. In the midst of my illness, I had friends like Emily. I had friends who valued vulnerability and empathy. They told me over and over again I wasn’t a burden to anyone even though my brain kept trying to convince me otherwise.
People like my friend Emily are special, because they “get it.” They understand that listening usually does more good than talking, and they value the power of skilled and empathetic listening. I think some people in this world are simply gifted with the ability to read between the lines, and hear what isn’t being said.
When I was deeply depressed, I wasn’t looking for well-intended guidance. Emily understood that. All along, what I wanted and needed was for someone else to give me their full, undivided and caring attention. Emily did just that, because she understood that perhaps when we’re hurting, all we really want and need is to feel deeply seen.
I believe human relationships are the best medicine we’ve got, and I wish every single person on earth had their very own version of my friend Emily.
It took me a long time to understand, but I get it now. We are all worthy of love and belonging. When I was sick, I was blessed enough to have a friend like Emily. And you, dear reader, wherever you are on your journey, you deserve a friend like her, too.
You deserve the kind of friend who will let you crash on their couch in a sleeping bag when you feel like a danger to yourself and can’t trust yourself to be left alone.
You deserve the kind of friend who will provide you with a safe space when you’re in crisis, and who will walk with you to the hospital then sing you “Happy Birthday” in the emergency room.
You deserve the kind of friend who will visit you in the hospital every day with their dog and who will bring red velvet cupcakes.
You deserve the kind of friend who will cook you homemade meals when you don’t have enough energy to feed yourself, who will drag you out of the house despite your numerous complaints.
You deserve the kind of friend who will send you flowers and cards and balloons in the mail.
You deserve the kind of friend who will listen to you when you talk, and who will support you no matter what.
You deserve the kind of friend who will nod and empathize and validate your point of view.
You deserve the kind of friend who will respect and love you with or without your illness.
You deserve the kind of friend who will fight for your health and your happiness even when you are unable to do so, and who will never give up on you.
I am blessed to have those kind of friends, and I hope you are too.
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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Unsplash photo via Brook Cagle.