To the Friend I Lost to My Mental Illness
I went on a walk today in the neighborhood and noticed how the sun was unusually bright for an early February day. The air was still cool enough for an extra layer, but the sky was blue and I heard birds chirping and I realized things were changing quick. Soon it will be spring and you and I will both make that transition, separately.
Time is moving quicker than I’d like. Truthfully, I am still living in the past. I keep revisiting the last time I saw you, that Saturday before Christmas. I try and remember what I said, what I did that could have caused your decision to end our friendship after six years. I’d been depressed lately … did that offend you? I’d been anxious, I’d had mood swings … was that too much for you? I don’t understand.
When we first met, we were 14 years old and shared a love of theatre and reading. You would sing songs with me while we jumped on the trampoline in those late summer days I wished would last forever. Even then I was struggling with my mental health, having various hospitalizations and a suicide attempt already under my belt, but you told me you didn’t care. Every time I pushed you away for fear you’d hate me, you showed me instead, how you loved me. You threw me the only surprise party I’ve ever had and came to all of my productions and performances. Over time, I began to believe you, that you truly did love and care for me. I’d never believed in anyone the way I believed in you and maybe I was wrong to do that. Maybe I put too much pressure on our friendship as a way to stay afloat.
We had fun, you and I. In between my bouts of depression and panic attacks you helped talk me out of, we went on shopping trips and photo shoots, and I marveled at how you could always see the beauty in life. You opened your heart to me and showed me your world and I loved every bit of it. You invited me into your home and into your family and were the first person to tell me what I had been through in life wasn’t my fault. My father leaving, being molested, being abused and the deaths of loved ones … you helped me process it all. And when I tried to end my life again at 16, it was you who opened your arms for me to cry into. You showed me why I should continue to live. You told me you wanted to help me and you became my pillar of strength.
As we grew up and evolved, our friendship never did. Even as we entered adulthood and I moved away for work, you were still there. Phone calls and care packages and brief visits over holidays meant the world to me. As the typical woes in life occurred — breakups, job losses, big moves — I felt we were there for each other through it all. Had I been wrong? At what point did you begin to grow weary of it all?
In the email you sent to me, ending our friendship, you said you wanted to help me heal. You believed by loving me enough, my depression would go away. You said being my friend was exhausting because there was always something wrong with me.
My worst fear came true. I always feared people would leave me when they realized I was too much … so many people had left me. With you, though, I had long since abandoned that fear. You had convinced me you loved me and would stand by my side, and now, you were leaving.
After six years, my depression hadn’t gone away. I wasn’t healed, I was exhausting.
I never meant to be too much for you. I never meant for my mental illness to sabotage our friendship. Part of me is defensive, while part of me is sad. It’s not my fault I struggle with my mental health, but I am heartbroken this struggle has cost me my friend.
I don’t want to believe it. I want to go back to the days of youthful naivety where I believed you loved me and you believed you could save me. Neither of those things turned out to be true, but the ignorance was bliss.
I hope you have a good life and I regret you don’t want me to be a part of it, but I wish you nothing but the best. I wish you happiness and good health and I hope you never experience the struggles of mental illness like I have, because if you knew what it was like … I’m not sure I would even have to write this letter.
Unsplash image by Remy Loz