“I’ll be there for you” the words are seductive aren’t they, when friends say these words we conjure up images of “Friends” where no matter what they support each other through every crisis, or “Sex In The City” where yet more 30 somethings are so entwined in each others lives, where nothing is too much trouble, and support is at the end of the phone, where people drop everything to be there for you.
I’m writing this as I’ve read many blog posts where people have been let down by their friends or family, and the devastating effects it can have with your illness and recovery, we have all learned we at times we have to rely on somebody to see us through the darkest days.
I will say not everybody experiences this, and they have fantastic friends,partners,families who are there for them in every way imaginable, which of course can help when you have mental illness and associated issues arising from that.
My own thoughts are that many are afraid of mental illness, they look at your life and just cannot understand how it has become broken, even though initially they are supportive, as there is no quick fix, in time they sometimes begin to question “what is actually wrong with you”, if your hospitalised, that they get, because doctors are involved real doctors in white coats, not those who deal with the mind, you see mental illness is not something you can operate on or stitch it, or even bandage, it’s outside the sphere of everyday life.
I don’t even think they are being purposefully unkind, but they retreat if after a course of antidepressants don’t make you better in a few weeks, then you can all carry on as before, well as many of us know it doesn’t work like, you’re in it for the long haul and can take years to get yourself back into a position of recovery so you may live your life free of mental illness.
The very word Mental strikes fear into many as it conjures up images of howling men and women at an asylum, being force-fed, electric shock treatments, ice-cold baths, it did happen many years ago, but now there are treatments available, and we do all live amongst you, to be honest you can’t tell the difference.
As i’ve said many times beyond diagnoses what is required is ongoing support, not just from the medical fraternity, but our friends and families are our life line in day-to-day life.
Support doesn’t just mean listening, it’s so much more it’s about learning what you can about mental illness even if you just google it, it gives you a basic idea, it’s also about, being there to wipe away the tears, being there to talk, going to a doctor’s appointment, a daily text, once a week going for a coffee or a walk in the park, sitting with your friend in silence, what’s an hour or two out of your day to give something back.
It’s not about repaying a debt”well they were there for me once” it’s not at all about that, your there because you want to be, and unfortunately many walk on the shards of broken promises from people they thought were friends.
When you look at Facebook updates and photos and see your friends having a good time knowing as your face is pressed against the window with tears falling, you weren’t invited because of your illness, not even thinking that’s exactly what you need even if you can only stay for an hour, they don’t understand that even one hour away from what’s going on inside is a much-needed respite.
Families/partners also need respite, it’s so bloody hard to support someone all alone, and they have to learn really fast about the nature of mental illness and its different manifestions, they are the forgotten in all this, they can also lose friends, again because of fear, just imagine the fear your friend might be going through on a daily basis.
Don’t be a fair-weather friend, if your going to give your support do so, and if you haven’t already, pick up the phone and say “hi” simple but can be very effective, at least it gets the dialogue started, more so, it’s about what we can learn from each other when we show a little compassion.