As the Christmas period has passed, and now the New Year celebrations have gone too, it sort of feels like reality has appeared once more. You know the reality of where things feel different, things aren’t being rushed to prepare for the big day, or people aren’t popping in-to seeing you to do the present drop, things are now slowing down. And you may be asking yourself what am I going to do different in 2016? For me, I aim to carry on coping with my depression and anxiety, however challenging they get. Christmas was good for me, but I think that’s only because I enjoy it and put on a happy face, but for some Christmas really is not a good time and they may be alone and isolate themselves. It is hard for them to even want to have people around, and even considering seeing the people they care for… it’s the New Year that should encourage a new start, a new start in the sense of this being understood that is.
Many people with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions will be able to relate here, when I say that a happy face may be had one day, but the next isolation and darkness is had the other day. You see mental health is very much like a maze, the corners and routes are unpredictable, and each day presents a new challenge to each of us. It makes life hard, it makes planning life even harder, and unfortunately seeing people sometimes just is not at the top of the list. Some may find this odd and ask “why is my friend not bothering with me today?” They were fine the other day! Well, again this is because life with mental health isn’t as predictable as some may assume. Life with mental health is extremely challenging especially with friends and relationships. Social relationships are tough at the best of time, keeping in touch whilst living a busy lifestyle or other priorities can make some people feel ignored, however this is not always the case when having mental health. Very often we want our friends to bother with us; we may not be able to be as sociable as they want, or even as sociable as we once were, but being there for us and wanting to make that effort even if it seems like a one-way thing is extremely important. Just because socialising is not at the top of our priorities, it certainly does not mean that we want to be ignored. Christmas should not be the only time that people see you, nor should Christmas be the only time that people are thought about. The other 364 days count as well, and these are the days where your friend or family member with a mental health illness needs your support. Your support may be in the shape of a simple phone call, or even a quick half-an-hour visit, ensuring that they are not left isolated and inside their own thoughts for a while, as the thoughts sometimes are of being left isolated and these thoughts turn to loneliness, which then turn to thinking that they are not cared about, which is not a good feeling at all.
Certainly for me, I do try to make those I care about aware of my mental health illnesses, and it does benefit me to have their understanding, understanding a friend’s mental illness will benefit both your friend and you. The awareness of why you may act or think in a certain way will be had, along with having a better understanding of why the behaviour may be different to usual. You will understand why they may not be ‘bothering with you’, or why you may feel that they are isolating themselves from almost every event or party that you and others expect them to attend. You see, the isolation sometimes seems like the best thing to do, keeping yourself away from people is easier than facing them, and the feeling of anxiousness and panic will prevail and make the concern larger than what others may even perceive this to be. Very often, it isn’t the case that we do not want to go and have fun, it is a case that having fun sometimes is hard, especially when inside you’re not having fun at all. Even wanting the fun can be tough, it can be a thought-process of wanting to go, but managing to talk yourself out of going. Continuous thoughts going around in your head questioning “do I go or don’t I go?”, these questions go on for hours, and can often make tiredness apparent and drag a person down, and this you may think happened over a small thing, but to many it’s huge, it is their life after all.
So when you’re making your New Year resolution and considering relationships, please make it one that considers understanding, understand why your friend or family member with a mental health condition may not communicate with you, and understand that it is usually that they feel they cannot despite wanting to do so, rather than they are ignoring and not wanting you around…because they may really want just that.