My friends don’t understand the mental health challenges I am currently facing. This isn’t their fault as if you have never experienced it yourself then it can be difficult to recognise the behavioural patterns, so I want to somehow explain it to them. The only thing stopping me is that I don’t know how is best to do it.
Currently I am experiencing periods of depression – this is something the doctor is working with me to overcome which is by in large going well, however I of course still get dips which affect my daily life. The classic symptoms rear their ugly head during these periods: I am so emotionally drained that I feel physically tired and want to do nothing but stay in bed and hide from the world; I get voices in my head telling me that nobody likes or loves me, that nobody would care if I died and that my friends would all prefer it if I weren’t around; I have no motivation to do anything and I get anxious in social situations so end up staying at home by myself.
Like I said, I am working with the doctor on getting through these symptoms, but I need my friends to understand that when I’m acting like this that it isn’t because I’m flaky or that I don’t like them anymore, it’s that I am going through a mental struggle which one day I will overcome. I just need them to be patient with me in the interim.
You’re probably thinking: “Why doesn’t she just talk to them in person?” but put in that situation I’d clam up and not get my words out properly. I’m tempted to put together a Whats’app group of the friends that I want to give my explanation and message this to them, but do you think this is appropriate? I don’t want them to think I’m looking for pity or anything like that – I just want them to understand.
What do you think?
Looking forward to your response and thanks in advance. I love reading your Dear Donna responses!
Thank you for your letter and for sharing your situation with me. Seeking advice on how to tell people about your mental health is a very good first step to easing the difficulties you’re facing!
Having read your letter, the first thoughts that came to mind were: what a positive outlook you have on your condition; and that you are taking all the right steps in order to help yourself cope better. The work you are doing with your GP is testament of that, well done.
Trying to talk to anyone about a mental health or physical medical situation is, as you know, tough. Unless others are experiencing the same symptoms as you, there is often difficulty in making them understand.
In order to make the communication of the information more comfortable for you, I would advise that you select your natural form of contact with your friends. If WhatsApp is how you normally communicate and is what feels natural, then there is nothing wrong with using this app.
Decide which friends you want to share the information with. It is not a given that everyone in your friendship group should know. This decision is yours to make.
Make notes on exactly what you want your friends to know. You do not have to write every single detail, just a list of the most important factors you want to share. You might even want to write the list, then come back to it in a day or so in case there is something you’ve thought of in the interim or if there is something you missed out originally. Whichever method of communication you choose to advise your friends, refer to your notes. They are there to help you get your feelings across.
To start the conversation, ask your friends if they know anyone that suffers from depression. You will be able to gauge by their responses how you wish to continue with the conversation. If a friend does know someone with this condition, ask the friend how they felt about it and ask then if they were able to identify any symptoms. This will open the door for you to reveal that you are suffering from the same or similar symptoms and then you can proceed to explain how depression is affecting you.
Alternatively, simply ask them if they know what depression is. You can then continue the conversation by elaborating on one of the main symptoms that you experience and which will have affected your friendships. For example, those occasions that you feel that you want to hide and the subsequent lack of contact with your friends. Again, refer to your notes to help you.
Remember, the people you are choosing to talk to are your friends. A true friend’s reaction will be a wanting to understand and support you. They will not judge you but will respect you and appreciate how difficult it was for you to tell them about it. Your friends will also be grateful to you as they would have had concerns that there was something amiss.
Once your friends are aware, they may choose to act differently towards you. Some will want to wrap you up in cotton wool, some will not want to dwell on it. However, they will all want to give you encouragement, especially at those time when the symptoms ‘rear their ugly heads’. The burden of worrying what they are thinking will be eased. If there are friends who do not respond as you would hope, instead choosing to distance themselves or refusing to try to understand, then you need to ask whether these are actually people you need in your tribe. I could tell you what my answer would be, but that’s something for you to decide yourself…
Thank you again for sharing your challenges with me. I hope this has helped and all the best with the work you are doing to cope with your symptoms.