The A to Z Challenge continues. Today is “F”. I am late posting today because I have been having trouble writing. My friend Lynne has gone in for surgery to get her cancer metastases removed from her liver. This surgery will determine whether she lives or not. Since Lynne wont be able to call me herself, I have been on Facebook all day waiting for an announcement from a family member. Nothing yet.
I did find something else though. I am not on my real Facebook very often, I usually use my alias for the blog. I decided to flip through some old friends I am not in touch with anymore to see what they were up to. I came across a guy I sort of went out with in middle school. Does it even count as going out at that age? Anyway, he died. Cancer. Apparently it happened really fast. For some reason I didn’t think cancer happened that quickly in your twenties. I’m kind of shocked and even more worried about Lynne now.
F is for friendship. F is for faith that Lynne will be ok. Lynne and I aren’t super close yet. She is my husband’s friend, they went to school together. Lynne has always been a bit of a workaholic too. It wasn’t until she started feeling unwell and had to take time off work that I got a chance to get to know her better. Although the circumstances suck, I am glad I got the opportunity to know her better.
Lynne and I actually bonded over mental health. She was having panic attacks at her hospital appointments and had to start seeing various mental health specialists. Since she was confiding all of this in me, I thought it was ok to tell her about my experience. We swapped stories and gave each other recommendations on who to see and what coping strategies to try for sleeping and reducing stress. This is the only time my mental health status was out before the friendship started.
If you have/had mental health problems, would you tell your friends? How do you think they would react? Do you have any friends that have confided in you about their mental health? How did you react?
It is always an internal debate, to bring it up or not? A mental health charity found that 40% of mental health service users were afraid to tell their friends of their condition. One third felt that friendships had already been strained or lost entirely due to their mental health. On the other side of things, 20-25% of people only found out a friend was having trouble after a hospitalization or a suicide attempt.
Friendship isn’t always easy to navigate when you have mental health problems. Friendships can get rocky if you over think them. They can also just fade away if you don’t have the energy to see people or call. Friendship is important though. Your friends are part of your support network. Friends reduce stress and give you more confidence. They are people you can confide in. They celebrate with you, they support you, they keep you grounded and can help you put things in perspective.
Friendship is a two-way street though. To have good friends, you have to be a good friend. Having a mental health problem doesn’t mean you are never able to support or laugh with someone else. I think it is important to put in the effort to maintain friendships, however difficult it may be.