Isolation and Mental Illness Make Friendships Difficult
Living with a mental illness isolates us because it can 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.
We Isolate Ourselves After a Mental Illness Diagnosis
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 (our diagnosis) and we frequent our pharmacist and psychiatrist more than we would like. Our lives are suddenly different, 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.
Mental Illness, Isolation, and Forming Relationships
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 have a lot of company and we are not as different as we think.
Ending Isolation Even If You Have a Mental Illness
Sounds great, right?
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. 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?"
Champagne, N. (2012, July 23). Isolation and Mental Illness Make Friendships Difficult, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2012/07/friendship-and-mental-illness
Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne
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".
Loneliness is a hard thing to deal with. It is the one thing I can count on to always be there.
Loneliness is a painful burden to be left with. But it's the one thing I can count on to always be there.
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I understand completely. I find it's helpful to take really small steps, "baby steps" for lack of a better term, in order to make progress. Remember you are not alone in this.
Thank you for the comment,
I try to remind myself that life really is a journey and what I have now will not be what I have later, as it different in the past. I do not have to be the person my parents controlled. Try to enjoy the time you have now, even if it is not exactly how you want it to be. Or maybe you need to assess things you need to change in order to make your life more comfortable for you. I found a book on introverts: I have not read it yet, but here is something you can check out ... "QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain. Other authors I have read who have helped me are Alice Miller, Victoria Secunda and Dr. Gerald Newmark. Good Luck and Love to all of you, Kim.
I'M GRATEFUL FOR YOUR ADVICE TO HER. WANT SO MUCH FOR HER TO BE HAPPY!! YES I KNOW THAT OUR LIVES ARE NOT PERFECT...I'M HARD TO LIVE WITH AND SOMETIMES CAN BE CONTROLLING BUT I LOVE MY WIFE DEEPLY AND FIND IT PAINFUL TO WATCH HER BEAT HERSELF UP ALL THE TIME!!
MY WIFE IS MY BEST FRIEND AND I COULDN'T IMAGINE LIFE WITHOUT HER! LINDA THINKS I DON'T UNDERSTAND HER FRUSTRATIONS BUT I DO! I HANDLE THINGS DIFFERENTLY... I DO WORRY ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS.. THANKS FOR YOUR POST
I find that I really like time alone, reading and watching movies as you mention. There is nothing wrong with it. People are all so different...We all find peace in different ways. Great advice on taking up a hobby and understanding that having a mental illness does not make us defective.
Thanks for the great comment,
There are people i've been "friends" with since high school. They live less than 5 miles from my house. I constantly hear "oh we should get together", "oh you should come over sometime", "let's get together soon"... yeah right. Never happens.
I even have 28 "friends" on Facebook. You know how many message me or leave stuff on my wall? ONE. My husband. That's it. No one tries to chat with me. No one leaves me messages or cute pictures. What's the point? The only email i get is spam. The only time my phone rings it's either a computerized call from my psych clinic to confirm an appt or it's my mom.
On Friday i won't even have internet at home anymore. So i will be further isolated when i am home. But i've gotten used to the isolation. My bed, tv, stuffed bear, and my cat are my best friends. And you know what? At least THEY won't leave me. THEY won't judge me. (Yeah.. i know.. the first 3 are inanimate objects..but you get the point). I've become bitter, angry and resentful. I've given up. It's really not worth the effort anymore. It is what it is and i can't change it.
Sometimes, you are right, it's the little things---our pets, a warm bed--that make isolation a bit easier. I know it's hard not to just give up entirely but sometimes I like to think people come into our lives at important times...
Thank you for the comment,
Likewise! They always have been difficult for me as well. Sometimes, even being able to talk openly over the internet can help. I find it does.
Thanks for reading:)