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What I Really Wish I Could Say to Friends When Social Interaction Is Exhausting

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For people who struggle with depression and/or anxiety, conversations with other people can be exhausting. Trying to explain our daily struggles to people who don’t understand can feel utterly impossible. Many times, it’s easier to give generic answers than actually attempting to explain our emotional turmoils. Here are some real-life examples of answers I’ve given to common questions asked by family/friends, as well as what I really wished I could say. 

1. Friend: “How’s everything going lately?”

Me: “Oh, the usual… work, kids, trying to keep my house presentable. *Nervous laugh* 

What I wished I could say: “Without prescribed medication and caffeine immediately upon waking, I can barely overcome the bone-crushing fatigue I feel. I’m constantly worrying if my kids are happy and praying they don’t notice how disengaged I am on some days. The house is presentable roughly one day every two weeks, when I pay a cleaning lady to clean my home because I’ve lost the ability to do it on my own anymore.”

2. Friend: “How are you and your boyfriend doing?”

Me: “Great, I can’t believe it’s been a year and a half already!”

What I wish I could say: “I live in constant fear my boyfriend is going to leave me because of my mental illness. It’s hard for him to understand why I am so mean sometimes when I’m anxious. He doesn’t understand how I can be sad without a firm reason to be sad. He doesn’t understand when tears randomly start falling from my face for no reason. He doesn’t understand why I can’t sit at home all day and just relax on the couch, as my mind has to be constantly occupied to avoid overthinking everything.

3. Friend: “How are the kids doing?”

Me: “Sassy and growing like crazy, I wish they would slow down! Can’t believe Lydia starts kindergarten and Emilie starts preschool this fall!”

What I wish I could say: “Good, I think? I hope? Sometimes I’m too tired to play with them like they deserve. Sometimes my anxiety causes me to yell and have a short fuse. I’m not as patient as I should be on some days. I worry if they are happy and if they will look back on our time spent together as good times. I hope they remember a mom who tried, a mom who loved them with every fiber of her being, and a mom who wasn’t perfect but did the best she could. 

On the other hand, having a conversation with one of “your people” is like a breath of fresh air. It’s so refreshing to hear phrases like “I know exactly what you mean, that happens to me, too.” Or, “I worry about those things too, you’re not alone.” Unfortunately for me, and I’m sure many others, finding a person or people you can be completely transparent with is like finding a diamond in the rough.

Maintaining friendships can be difficult and exhausting. Anxiety causes me to constantly overthink everything and always imagine the worst possible scenario, which 95 percent of the time doesn’t end up being the case. Unfortunately, anxiety doesn’t care about logic and will imagine these things 100 percent of the time.

Some advice based on my own personal experience: save casual conversations for your good days. On your bad days, reserve your conversations for people you trust sharing your true feelings. Trying to make everything seem fine when it’s not is mentally and physically exhausting. Sometimes this means an unanswered text or a missed call. The friends and family who truly love and care about you will be there when you’re ready to talk. 

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

Originally published: June 21, 2018
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