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Why My Friends With Mental Illness Are Helpful — Not Harmful — to My Own Recovery

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I struggle with a variety of mental health issues, as do many of my friends. Together, we make a lovely little collection of mental illnesses. And although this may seem odd that we all collected together, it is a benefit to no end that we can all empathize so much with each other. I’ve never met a nicer, more understanding group of people, and I am truly blessed to know them. 

Unfortunately, my parents don’t see them in such a positive light. My parents view my friends as a weight on my health, and many a conversation I have with them ends with a saying along the lines of, “Well if you insist on talking to them then you’re just digging yourself deeper into this hole.” But they have it wrong. My friends are a blessing when it comes to my own mental health issues, not a curse.

Yes, sometimes dealing with a range of peoples’ problems isn’t always a positive thing for one’s own health, but it is not all one-sided. We are all helping each other in times of need, and we are all learning what not only helps others, but what also can help ourselves. What works for one person may not work for others — mental health is an individual journey — but we learn together what works and what doesn’t. Even if one technique someone tries to help me with doesn’t work, I can use that to help someone else, and vice versa. It’s all one big learning curve, and one that we are helping each other across.

My parents are convinced all of my “issues” can lay blame with those I find myself with at college. This is simply not true. Those I talk to at college all help me, as I hope I do for them. Never, not even once, have I thought I would be better off without my friends. Not once have I thought they could be the reason I sometimes find myself a little more hurt than normal. Because they are not to blame. No one is to blame for my mental health.

Mental health can be explained by a number of factors — genetics, upbringing, trauma, circumstances — and yes, sometimes who you are surrounded by can impact a deterioration in one’s mental health. But, to myself and many others, having people you can be honest with without fear of judgment because you are all going through similar tough times, is one of the best things there is. I thank my friends who have helped me to stop cutting, and I thank you for the years of friendship — I owe you my life. Thank you.

Getty Images photo via Youngoldman

Originally published: April 20, 2017
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