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Friendship and Mental Illness: Ending Isolation Isn’t Easy

Living with  a mental illness can sometimes make us feel as if we don’t “measure-up” to other people. To people we do not know but wish to know. Or to people we know well. Mental illness can create an isolating and lonely life, void of friendship, of meaningful relationships.

Isolation and Mental Illness: What Friendships?

Mental illness can make friendships difficult and create isolation. This isn't good for anyone. Here are some ideas to help you get past the desire to isolate.When you are diagnosed with a mental illness it can feel like you have landed on a different planet: “The Land of The Mentally Ill.” Nobody really wants to arrive here– Disneyland sounds a bit better, maybe an abandoned island?–but sometimes we do and when we do we feel isolated. We feel as if we cannot be loved.

Suddenly we have a “label” and we frequent our pharmacist and psychiatrist more then we would like. Our lives are suddenly different now, they can feel alien to us, and so can our relationships with people, our friendships.

We might isolate ourselves because we fear rejection; like a bear that hibernates, we might rather be inside where it’s warm, where we feel safe.

Friendships and Mental Illness

I’ve never been very good at this one. I became an addict, in part, because I had no idea how to form relationships. My mental illness made me feel like damaged goods. As if nobody could love me—love me.

I’m still not good at this. It is confusing!

I know a lovely woman, completely accepting and understanding, who tries to coax me out of my shell. We have gone to lunch a couple of times; spent hours in Starbucks. But it’s hard. I know I like spending time with her, I feel better after, she is funny, smart and pretty. She makes me laugh. I make her laugh, but my natural inclination is to hide. And maybe that is “The Writer” in me but it is more likely that I still feel ashamed (Self-Stigma: When Mental Illness Stigma Comes From Within).

I cannot lie to you. I struggle with acceptance over ten years past my diagnosis. It’s getting better; it does for all of us.

Friendship is rarely easy for anyone who has a heartbeat, at least not at first, and getting to know someone is hard. Not just for us. We are in large company and we are not as different as we think.

Letting People Into Your Life Even If You Have a Mental Illness

Sounds great, right?

Mental illness can make friendships difficult and create isolation. This isn't good for anyone. Here are some ideas to help you get past the desire to isolate.Picture this: You are at home, in your best clothing and with a recently vacuumed carpet, when you hear a knock at the door. Rat tat tat. You walk over, look in the peep-hole and see a few people. They are smiling, bearing lovely wrapped gifts, and wearing shirts that state: “LET’S BE FRIENDS!” You let them in and it is like you have known them your entire life! Strangely, you have everything in common!

Yeah, right. If only…If only it were so easy! As mentioned, I still struggle and perhaps you do as well. How can we let people in? How can we form friendships?

A few ideas to consider…

>Remember that you are not a label. You are (insert name here) and you like certain things and have specific hobbies.

>Remember that you have a lot to offer someone else.

>You are not damaged goods, rather, you have worked hard to obtain stability.

>We all struggle, it’s the human condition, it builds character. And you have a heck of a lot of it!

>Healthy relationships are an important part of self-care. Working to find them, maintain them, builds our confidence.

And finally…you deserve friendships and those you choose to spend time with are lucky, you have a lot of offer. Just give it a shot.

Ask yourself: “What do I have to lose?”

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25 thoughts on “Friendship and Mental Illness: Ending Isolation Isn’t Easy”

  1. At this point, I have absolutely no friends. And for a long awhile, I didn’t care. When BP hit, it hit HARD. I was also having some serious physical issues too, so I was in and out of hospitals (MH and medical) for a very long time. Only visitors I had when I was in the MH hospital were my husband and son. But the worst was that nobody came to visit even when it was just a physical hosp stay, again just my husband and son. Not even my own family.

    This happened about 6 years ago. I’ve managed to stay out of the MH hospital for a year now. I feel like I’m kind of seeing some light, but I’ve become so agoraphobic that I rarely leave the house. I DO NOT want to try to find new friends. You can only take so much rejection. My walls are up and will stay up as far as I know. My only time trying to make a friend in like forever, was a fellow mom from my son’s school. We hung out a few times and it seemed OK. Then somehow my BP came up and *poof*, she was gone. Unfriended me on FB and forbade her son from playing with mine. Even told other moms. I was so shaken, but not surprised really. This is just par for the course.

    I wish I could meet some of you guys! It’s so refreshing to be able to talk to people that really “get it”.

  2. Friendship is important part of our social life, it make our personal statement it construct oneself happiness and destroy our wellbeing , as well. So, it ought to make effort in order to seek, create and maintain friendship everywhere and at any time. It is primary need and necessity in daily life. Against the fact that the world is overloaded with interpersonal problems and misunderstandings, it is our crucial duty to find out friends and develops relationship as much as it possible. Social network gives opportunity to this goal, but it is our personal chose to accomplish this useful social benefit. First and most prerequisite approach to this tendency is pro-social attitude and tendency during global life functioning. The second one is to cleansing oneself from any negative prejudice and take away from our personality each intentional rear. These and many other friendship tendencies may to develop and maintain if we cultivate the sense of regret and empathy, as well. It doesn’t mean to be naive and sacrificial along interpersonal relation. In contrary the main motive in the world with many antisocial and bad-aimed activities should be the bid “ego”, without violent thoughts and tendencies, as well. The same is value for people with mental disorder, whereas their social statement is more overloaded with social perch and prejudice. In this direction antistigma campaign indicates great help on resocialization and rehabilitation of psychiatric patients.

  3. I struggle with BPDO I was told this 3 year’s ago and have been in a relationship that’s been off and on for 5 of those years today I was told she’s not in love with me anymore cause of the things I do and say when I get mad I can’t seem to do anything right now I’m going to be living with my 2dogs in the van again. I can’t believe I have worked so hard to just fuck up it’s a never ending circle that’s killing my will to try I just wanted to be and act normal with out the angry burst I don’t seem to have control of. I destroyed the only thing I truly cared about. I’ve always put the pain somewhere else but now I am messed up and hate everything about myself I need help and can’t get the help I need

  4. I had to take care of my sister with mental illness up to I was 16 years old. Later as adult, I would eventually learn about the mental illnesses I have of my own. I’ve always had to deal with the loneliness from this or being left alone for most of my life. I’ve always struggled making friends or when I finally do connect with someone, they end up moving away. When I’m in between dating relationships, my cell phone hardly rings, except for a couple of people who call to see how I’m doing. I am very familiar with the superficial “hey how’re doing” and making plans to get together. A then…nothing. Unless I was the one making the calls and chasing after perspective friendships that didn’t pan out. Now that I’m older, I just focus on the few people who want to be a part of my life instead of running after those who want to be with the friends they rather to be with.
    Loneliness is a hard thing to deal with. It is the one thing I can count on to always be there.

  5. I’ve had to deal and care for a sibling with mental illness the first 16 years of my life. My personal battles especially within close relationships lead me to eventually find out that I have mental illnesses of my own. I have never had a friend consistent in my life or if I do finally connect with someone, they move away. If I’m not in a dating relationship, my phone hardly rings except for a couple of people who checks up on me to see how I’m doing. I’ve always been alone or left alone most of my life. I can definitely relate to people being superficial and suggesting to get together at first. Then…nothing. Or I’m doing the calling or chasing to get things going with still no results. Now that I’m older, I have gotten tired of that and just make the best of the few people that are willing to be in some part of my life instead of “willing” the same from others who just have their preferences of who they make the effort to spend time with.
    Loneliness is a painful burden to be left with. But it’s the one thing I can count on to always be there.

  6. I have always been a loner, but I have made one friend in most of the many places I have lived. I find it more difficult to make even one friend and right now don’t have any. It’s sad for me. I have unconditional love from my dog and I welcome that with a heart wide open. I isolate, but it is the only way I can keep myself emotionally healthy right now. The article provides hope. Thank you.

  7. My experience has been that I make friends, good friends. Then after several episodes of my slipping into utter despair these “good friends” just seem to disappear. They initially say they will always be there for me but when they find out how ugly the depression really is they abandon me. I’ve been hurt so many times I just can’t get close to anyone. So now I live a life of isolation. I can’t handle the betrayal and abandonment anymore.

  8. It’s the best time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be happy.

    I have read this post and if I could I want to suggest you some interesting things
    or suggestions. Maybe you can write next articles referring to this article.
    I wish to read more things about it!

  9. I have said this many times – I like people – individually, but not in groups. I have always thought this. At one moment in my life, I questioned the validity of this. I thought maybe I am wrong. But I am not.

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