F is for Friendship

F

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.

zentangle owls friendship

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.

DLP4: Friendship

The Original Documented Life Project – Journal (2015)
For more details on this week’s challenge, visit the gals at Art to the 5th.

Week 4:
Art Challenge – Writing
Prompt – Words with friends

It was nice to be able to think about my friends this week. Being an introvert, I don’t have huge amounts of friends. Also, I do best one-on-one. None of them really know each other. My friends are forever friends. It doesn’t matter how far apart we are or how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other. We just pick up right where we left off, like nothing has changed. It’s really great. This was my line of thinking for my art journal page this week. Also, I had just gotten the Steampunk set of gelatos and wanted to go with a time theme.

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I started with a white gesso background. Gelatos move around your surface better when it is gesso’d. I scribbled the gelatos on and left them dry. I smudged them all over the page with my finger. I don’t recommend this, my finger was kind of sore afterwards.

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I added some steampunk washi tape. One of them was gears and the other clocks. I also added a magazine cut out of a friendship tattoo. I stenciled some gears in using a MIX-ables stencil and brown acrylic paint.

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This spread was a lesson in layering. I used distressed ink from Tim Holtz to stamp in some gears and clocks which just smudged off, even after drying. Note to self: Ink and gesso don’t work together. I later found out gesso is used as a resist when working with distress inks…woops. To remedy this, I painted the whole spread with gel medium, dried it and tried stamping again. This time the ink took.

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The challenge was to use writing, so I wrote a couple sentences on what I thought true friendship was about. I wanted the words to be in elongated cursive. This didn’t work out very well. My handwriting is naturally quite backhand, so trying to stretch it out was difficult. I used a Fude pen for this.

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At this point, I still had a lot of empty space. I decided to add a compass. I had lots of clocks and gears to represent time, but needed something for distance. A compass did the job. I used a silver Sharpie paint pen and a distress ink pen. I used the same Sharpie paint pen to colour in some stenciled gears too. There is still a lot of empty space, but I’m out of ideas for now.

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Seeing Old Friends

I’m still feeling like rubbish, perhaps a bit worse, but I’m still working my way down my comfort list. Another list item is nostalgia. I like to remember good things, or good times in life. I need to remind myself that I’ve had them once, so I will have them again, no matter how bleak the future looks. Today I am thinking about my friends, my forever friends.

There are four of us who have been friends since elementary school. We’re close, like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, despite them living in Toronto and me in Montreal. I see them a few times a year. Part of me looks forward to seeing them while part of me dreads it. I get anxious about seeing people I haven’t seen in a while. Once we get together, everything is fine and we pick up right where we left off, but until we meet, I’m nervous.

I had one of those experiences recently. Before seeing them, I was nervous and wanted to back out. I was in Toronto and had forgotten to bring my meds. Brilliant! It had been four days without them and I was starting to feel like hell. Would I be able to muster up enough enthusiasm? Would they notice the weight I’ve gained? Would they see through my “I’m fine.” exterior and feel sorry for me? Would they see that I’m no further along in life, that I’m stagnating?

Robin is the one I’m closest to, which is a little funny because our lives are quite different from one another. I guess it’s because I admire her. She is the single mom of a seven year old. It hasn’t been easy for her, but she has handled everything remarkable well. Her daughter is really sweet and bright and Robin is a great mom. Being a mom terrifies me and she does it like she was born to. Robin is well established in life. She has a good job, a home, lots of friends and is dating a nice man. I feel like I’m still trying to get my life started.

Melissa just had a baby boy and she is over the moon to be starting a family. Melissa has always known what she wanted and went for it. She went to school to be a physiotherapist and got a job right out of school. She married her first boyfriend and they live in a nice big house in the same neighbourhood she grew up in.

Natasha and I are probably the most alike. We’re both working on our doctoral degrees in science. For some reason the stress is making her beautifully thin and making me horrendously fat. I’m envious. She is finishing up her data collection and has already scored a post-doc position while I am still stuck in ethics.

I am happy for my friends and proud of them. I’m just ashamed of myself for being so far behind. I try not to let this get in the way though. They are my friends, my real friends. They will love me whether I weigh 100lbs or 3 times that. They wont treat me differently because I’m going through a slow patch in life and they’ll encourage me to keep working for the things I want, the things that are good for me.

It’s important to learn who your real friends are and not let them go. It’s hard not to compare yourself to them and get anxious when you don’t have any good news to share. Don’t let things like weight gain or life set backs get in the way of seeing them and talking to them. There are enough people in life who just want to bring you down. You need to keep the ones that lift you up close.

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