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I'm Not a Bad Person, but Mental Illness Has Made Me a Bad Friend

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I wasn’t sure I wanted to write this. I’m not sure anyone wants to think about what makes them unlikable, and I doubt anyone wants to think about the times they have been party at fault in the break up of a friendship.

I know I’ve spent a fair bit of time convincing myself of the opposite, that as the wounded party I can’t possibly be the one at fault. But that’s not true. As much as I would like to be blameless, I’m not.

I’ve had depression and anxiety for over half of my life; it’s been with me through two cross-country moves, high school and university, the beginning of my career and now into my marriage.

And it’s shaped me. It’s taught me things like the importance of asking for help and respecting my limitations. It’s made me stronger, more empathetic and more self-aware.

It’s also at times made me a very bad friend.

It’s made me selfish. After all, it can be hard to focus on someone else’s life when your own feels so broken.

It’s made me hard to get along with and exhausting. It’s hard to be friends with someone who is a drain on your patience and energy.

And at times it’s made me mean. My depression can lead me to say vicious things out of bitterness or in an effort to hurt someone else before they hurt me. My anxiety can be triggered in social situations causing me to blurt things out without thinking.

I can be a tornado, unexpected, unpredictable and shattering everything in my path. I’m not a bad person, most of those close to me would say I’m caring to a fault (and I’m learning to extend that same level of caring to myself.) I’m not a bad person, but I have been a bad friend.

And I’ve lost friendships because of it, I’ve damaged friendships (some beyond repair) and I’ve hurt some of the people I care deeply about.

I’m not trying to excuse my actions away because of my illness, nor am I trying to villainize the friends I’ve lost. They aren’t bad people. In most cases they are the best people. The same way I’ve needed to learn to be forgiving of myself I’ve needed to learn to be forgiving of others. Sure it’s nice to say that someone who can’t withstand your worst isn’t worth your best. But is it really fair to expect people to go through my worst over and over again?

Probably not.

So while I’m endlessly grateful for the friends who have stood by me through everything, I’m also grateful for the ones who did everything they could, and I’m sorry to them that I couldn’t always be the kind of friend they deserved.

I forgive them for needing to walk away, the same way I forgive myself for causing them to need to walk away.

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Getty image via Mary Jirovaya

Originally published: February 7, 2018
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