#Depression #Relapse #Friendship
Four weeks ago, I had a week of accomplishments: running my first half marathon and graduating with a university degree. Two goals that once upon a time seemed close to impossible. Then, just like that, everything was over and I had no idea where I was headed next. So my depression jumped at the opportunity to take control and pull me into my third relapse.
It’s been four weeks.
Four weeks of feeling far from myself - something that is noticeable to my entire support system. I feel sad and empty. Although, the exhaustion is the worst. It's as though my depression allows for one hour of fun per day and then forces my whole body to shut down in an attempt to allow sadness to take over.
If you were to ask me how I was doing, I would be guilty of saying the standard response, “I am fine.” But if you pried a little further and got me talking, I would most definitely breakdown right there, right in front of you.
A few weeks ago, I shared some knowledge regarding the vicious cycle of relapse and remission in mental illness. It was incredibly comforting how many people showed their support but it was also alarming how many people didn't understand.
I was certainly wrong to assume that bearing my darkest times on a silver platter would solve my problems. Yet, I was still hopeful it would help others help me.
For me, it was hard to hear “congratulations” instead of “are you okay?”
Sharing one’s story so publicly has come with a cost. For me, that cost has been friendship. The world warns us that when you enter your twenties, your circle gets smaller but it also gets stronger - a notion which I am slowly learning to be true. Unfortunately, reading an article or following someone’s life through a blog does not replace one’s duties as a friend. A friendship is a two-sided relationship, a balance of give and take. It’s not about being there for each other all the time, it’s about simply staying present through the good, but also the bad.
It can be challenging to be a friend to someone who is suffering from a mental illness, but it is one of the kindest, noblest and best things you will ever do. So please, do not give up on them and stay present in their life.
How can you show your support to someone suffering from a mental health relapse?
Constant check-ups. “Hi, how are you feeling today? How’s your mental health?” Let them do the talking. Listen and respect their emotions. Remember, empathy not sympathy, is the key to listening.
Constant love and support. Let them know you are there. It can be as simple as a text saying “Hi, I’m here. Use me if you need.” or “Hi, I’m here. How can I help?”
Respect their emotions and thus, choices. They are the only ones who know what they are feeling. If they are too tired for an evening out, let them know they will be missed but accept their decision.
Refrain from negative phrases such as “calm down,” “get over it” or “snap out of it”. This only makes matters worse.
Never compare illnesses or experiences. Until you have lived in someone else’s shoes, you have no way of knowing the extent of pain someone else may be feeling.
P.S. Relapses aren't a simple fix and I am grateful to all the people in my life who understand and accept this. Thank you for showing me your patience, continually checking up on me, comforting me when I want to give up and most importantly, teaching me how to embrace uncertainty and the unknown