Mental health and Unhealthy Friendships

friendship-broken

Being friends with someone who also has mental health issues can be great because they understand how you feel. Having a mental health disorder can make you feel lonely because you think “normal” people don’t understand you so finding someone who is going through the same thing can be a wonderful thing. You can both support each other and encourage each other to get better.

But it also can be incredibly detrimental for both parties. From personal experience, every friend I had who is also struggling with mental health issues, I lost. I have problems keeping friends in general due to my Borderline Personality Disorder but I have noticed it is more difficult to keep the friends I met at hospital and online with mental illnesses. It’s nice to relate to someone but sometimes, forming a close friendship with that person can make both parties worse. It can become unhealthy.

“Triggering” each other is one factor. Even if both have different conditions, there are ways we can unintentionally say or do something that can set each other off, causing each other to act on destructive behaviours. However, this is more common if both have the same illness such as an eating disorder or are struggling with self harm. I may be at a different stage in my eating disorder recovery and the other person may at a completely different stage. I may be in a relapse and the other person may find that hard to be around. I have had friends who openly said they cannot be friends with me because I am triggering them due to my behaviours and weight loss. I completely understand that as I don’t want to be the cause of someone relapsing. Ending that friendship can be the healthiest option for both.

Constantly comparing each other is another factor why a friendship won’t work. Mental illness isn’t and shouldn’t be a competition but it can unfortunately become one. Comparisons such as…

  • “They seem to be coping better than me but they have the same illness as me.”
  • “How can they manage a career, but I can’t?”
  • “She is in eating disorder recovery too, but why is she still skinny and I gained so much weight?”

I have come across people with chronic illnesses who constantly compare themselves with others with the same condition. “It’s not fair. She can do so much but I can barely get up in the morning.” It can send a negative vibe and it isn’t nice to be around.

There have been people who try to put me down because I can hold down a challenging job whilst struggling with mental health issues but they can’t. It can almost seem rather selfish. It’s like both of you are trying to drag each other down, not lifting each other up.

However, sometimes we can compare in a different way. Competing to see who is the most sickest. Trying to prove to each other that one of you is more sicker than the other by saying things like “Look, I have more diagnoses than you. I have attempted suicide more times than you. I have more pains than you. You don’t know the half of it.” That doesn’t mean the other person hasn’t had it hard. You cannot compare such things.

Everyone’s illness and journey is different and it is silly to compare. Everyone copes differently and have different experiences because our illnesses affect us differently and our lives are different because of this. But, unfortunately when it puts a strain in your friendship, when it gets extreme and competitive, maybe it is time to end it for each other’s own sake.

Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on Someone With Mental Health Problems

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If you are a friend or a loved one of someone with a mental health condition, you would know that it is not easy. You may have tried many times to help them but you seem to be failing each time. As worried as you are for them, you feel frustrated and hopeless. You may feel you cannot deal with them. So you give up and attempt to cut all ties and leave them. If you are friend or a loved one with a mental health condition reading this now, please do not give up on them.

People who have a condition such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) will most certainly have issues maintaining relationships which can make it hard to stay with them at times. Though not their intention of trying to make your life hard with the threats and rage – it is actually a cry for help.

Please bear in mind that this person did not choose to have a mental illness. It is not their fault, nor your fault. However hard it is to deal with this person, if you care enough for them, you should be there for them, no matter what. Leaving them is their biggest fear. In fact, the things they may do is their way of holding on to you because of the fear of losing you. They don’t know how to express this, so it often comes out in anger and rage. This often goes back to the sufferers past where they experienced this before or may have always been very alone, and because suddenly someone finally comes into their life and actually cares, it feels like a determination to make sure they never leave so they don’t feel like they did before.

This is coming from a person who suffers with various disorders including BPD. Love and care has been something I have always looked for but rarely found and if I did, it would not last for long. Constantly being disappointed by people leaving because my condition is hard to deal with. To me, the sufferer, it feels like people use me and then leave me like I mean nothing to them. It feels like the only person who you thought you could trust, who you love, who you care for, hates you. Giving up on this person can ultimately make them give up on themselves. Bearing in mind, they are already feeling low. By giving up, you may have just pushed them over the edge, as guilt-ridden as that sounds. This person does not need that along with what they are already feeling and you don’t need that on your conscience.

If you are a friend or loved one of someone with mental illness and finding it hard to cope with their problems, before even thinking of giving up on them, calmly talk to them. Get them to seek help. Listen to them. Try not to be divisive or judgmental and most certainly, be weary of blaming them. They already feel like they are to blame. Find another way to help them if what you tried is not working. Sometimes, the sufferer just wants to be heard or even just wants a simple hug. I can tell you that a person who has been deprived of love and finally gets the attention they so desperately need – it is a powerful feeling.

If all else fails and you just don’t understand how else you can help them, please go to therapy with them. Family therapy may help. Couples therapy may help. There are also carers groups where you can meet other carers in the same situation so you don’t feel alone. There is so much out there to help you both.

Whatever you decide to do, please hold on to them. There is hope.

This post was published in The Huffington Post.