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22 Ways My Friends Accommodate My Mental Health Conditions

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Many of us with disabilities may struggle to maintain relationships with others. It can be exhausting and scary for us to try to meet society’s expectations. Society pressures us to expend a certain amount of energy on engaging with our friends every day or multiple times a week. We are expected to be available to respond to texts quickly and be overly flexible or accepting. We are told that we should keep in touch with as many people as possible, and we are looked down upon when we choose to cut people off. We are also made to feel guilty when we want to say “no.” If we can’t meet these expectations, we are told that people will abandon us or reject us. We are taught that people will become exhausted with us if we are unable to keep up with these expectations.

This isn’t to say that relationships are not a necessity or a vital part of our wellbeing. We all need human connection. In reality, healthy relationships depend on things like respecting boundaries, being honest, being compassionate, being open to change, and having good communication. However, I think society — especially the media — fails to teach us that. We’re taught to be available, to share our things and give physical affection to family members, and to accept toxic traits like “teasing” or “gaslighting” because it’s “different” with a friend or family. But sometimes being “kind” to others means we are being unkind to ourselves.

Thankfully, it’s possible to find people who are willing to work with us to develop healthy relationships. It can be difficult to find new friends, but I have personally found friends on the internet who treat me with dignity and respect. I also think it’s possible to change our current relationships for the better if we can find it in ourselves to be vulnerable and self-advocate. It can be scary, but it’s definitely possible.

In fact, here are some examples of how my friends have learned to accommodate me and invest in healthy relationships with me over the years:

Respecting My Boundaries:

1. My friends let me communicate in the ways that make me feel comfortable at the moment.

At times, I selectively mute, and my friends are patient with me when I would rather text or type than speak.

2. My friends give me extra time to think things through.

Sometimes I struggle with executive functioning. During those times, I might need to be left alone, or I might need help. No matter how I feel, my friends respect my decisions.

3. My friends adjust social events to make me more comfortable.

If I need to avoid public environments, my friends will spend time with me in a safe place. A lot of times we order takeout. One of my best friends often brings homemade meals for us to try.

4. My friends text instead of calling.

Like many people, I struggle with answering the phone. My friends always try to contact me any other way if possible.

5. My friends are kind and understanding if I need a break.

When I get overwhelmed, sometimes I need to go take a nap. My friends are usually OK with just hanging out with each other while I do that.

6. My friends let me bring a “safe person.”

My husband is always with me. He is my safe person — and our friends respect that.

Showing Empathy:

1. My friends are very patient with me when bipolar disorder changes my mood.

Because I have bipolar disorder, I can get irritable or experience uneven moods. My friends take it in stride.

2. My friends keep me company when I am having anxiety in public.

We use the “buddy system.”

3. My friends choose environments that help lessen my anxiety.

For instance, we try to play games online instead of in person.

4. My friends try to push me in ways that help me.

It doesn’t always fully help me, but I love that they want to help me broaden my experiences.

5. My friends and husband are willing to speak for me when I am unable to speak.

Due to my extreme anxiety, I am sometimes selectively mute, and my husband and friends understand and let me work through it.

6. My friends do their best to help me feel safe.

They give me silent company, an environment that feels manageable, and words of encouragement.

Having Good Communication:

1. My friends tell me if they think I’m being unhealthy.

When my bipolar disorder is getting the better of me, they gently let me know if they think I am being unhealthy and may need to reset.

2. My friends check in with me.

They notice when I seem to be withdrawing more than usual and check in.

3. My friends let me know if they have a conflict with me.

They let me know if something I’m doing is bothering them, and we try our best to work out the conflict maturely.

4. My friends tell me when they see me changing.

For instance, they let me know if they see my moods changing or notice I am not sleeping.

5. My friends gently ask me to reciprocate.

They let me know if I am not reciprocating in a way that doesn’t “guilt” me or make me feel angry.

Being Open to Growth:

1. My friends use positive, reassuring phrases to help me feel like less of a “burden” with my anxiety.

This helps me when I am having a panic attack or am otherwise struggling.

2. My friends are open to learning about my disabilities.

They are also willing to talk to me about my health.

3. My friends encourage me to become more self-aware.

They do this by trying to become more aware too.

4. My friends share their ideas, thoughts, and lessons with me.

It’s helped give me a new perspective on life.

5. My friends hold me accountable.

This helps me reach my goals.

I was afraid to talk about the things I needed and to ask if my friends would be willing to help me, but once I did, they were very willing to accommodate me. It’s easier to fight the doubts and shame when I can see that my friends want to spend time with me. Now I feel seen and heard, and I am motivated to make sure I am also changing and growing. My friends make it easier to push myself and cultivate internal motivation. I want to do the same for them — reciprocate and be just as good of a friend as my friends are to me.  I never want them to feel like their relationship with me is one-sided, so I do my best  to be there for my friends.

I think this is what a good support team looks like. It takes time, effort, and vulnerability, but it is incredibly worth it, and — dare I say — vital. We can all learn what healthy relationships look like, and we can all try to accommodate our friends in ways that benefit both them and ourselves.

I know I am incredibly fortunate to have friends and family like this. Many people survive toxic, abusive relationships and feel stuck. Please know that healthy relationships are possible, and that you are deserving of one. It is my hope that everyone finds someone who is willing to change and grow with them — either online or in person. If there is at least one person who might be willing to make the change in your life, I think it’s worth it to open up and try to create a relationship with them if you can.

Getty image by MStudioImages.

Originally published: April 14, 2022
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