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Having Friends With Mental Illness Can Be Good For Your Recovery

July 2, 2015 Tracey Lloyd

Having friends with mental illness can be good for your recovery. However, when you have a mental illness it can be hard to choose the right friends to involve in your mental illness recovery. One way to choose a good person is to seek out friends who also have mental illness to help you through your recovery. Having a friend who understands about living with your disease can coach you through difficult times as well as provide company through the good times.

Friends With Mental Illness Can Share In Your Recovery

Having friends with mental illness can aid your recovery by sharing similar experiences. Consider choosing mentally ill friends who can support you.

One of the people that I speak to every day is my friend Nicole. We went to college together and didn't really know each other but we connected recently through social media. Because I am very open about my bipolar diagnosis and bouts of depression, Nicole shared with me her long history with severe depression and anxiety. At first, our friendship stayed in the realm of social media, but as we learned more about each other we found that we were at similar phases in our mental illness recovery, and had similar experiences during our treatments.

Having similar diagnoses and similar experiences enabled Nicole and I to establish a routine of checking in on each other every day. We both experience our depression as lethargy and social withdrawal, so we encourage each other to leave our apartments or do some housework to combat our depression symptoms. It is also good to talk with someone who understands my struggles, whether they be clinical or social, and knows not to say the wrong thing when trying to encourage me to get better. I'm certain that I can have a similar check-in with my other friends, but so-called "healthy" people have accused me of hiding behind or over-identifying with my mental illness. That kind of wording makes me loathe to share more with my friends who don't suffer as I do.

Sometimes Friends With Mental Illness Can Damage Your Recovery

Not all relationships between people with mental illness are healthy for both parties. I used to have a friend, Aaron, who suffered from a diagnosis that featured psychosis and delusions. We met during a hospital stay and connected socially due to similar backgrounds and experiences. While on the inpatient unit we didn't share diagnoses, just emotional support and coping strategies, so I never knew about Aaron's disease. When we were discharged, we shared contact information and began communicating back and forth.

Unfortunately, I didn't realize that Aaron discontinued his medication once he left the hospital, so his symptoms returned. He also stopped going to therapy because he didn't want people to label him according to his disease. I understood Aaron's desire not to be pigeonholed, but I didn't understand why he wouldn't continue treatments that abated his symptoms and made him better. Though I had my own mental illness recovery to consider, I found myself overly invested in my friend's prognosis. I thought that I could help him get better by providing the right kind of support. Even though my own recovery was slow, I talked to Aaron every day to talk him out of doing dangerous things. I listened to his increasingly far-fetched stories. At a certain point, I realized that Aaron's decline triggered my depression and anxiety. I felt useless because nothing I said ever had an effect. And I was scared that Aaron would hurt himself and that I would feel guilty for not helping more. Eventually I had to break off my friendship with Aaron so that I could focus on my disease rather than be distracted by his.

Choose Sympathetic and Supportive Friends that Are Good for Your Recovery

Whether or not your friends have a mental illness, it is good for your recovery to surround yourself with caring people who can support you when you need it. Friends can provide distraction, emotional support and social activity, all of which are needed during a mental illness recovery. Whether you deal with friends, family, support group participants or coworkers, the people that surround you during your mental illness recovery will make an impact.

Find Tracey on Twitter, Facebook, and her personal blog.

APA Reference
Lloyd, T. (2015, July 2). Having Friends With Mental Illness Can Be Good For Your Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/relationshipsandmentalillness/2015/07/having-friends-with-mental-illness-can-be-good-for-your-recovery



Author: Tracey Lloyd

Yanglish
October, 10 2017 at 12:38 am

Friends are relatives you make for yourself. This is a great article.
Thanks.

Renita
July, 2 2015 at 4:37 am

Great article! In or out of hospital patients/friends suffering/coping with a mental illness can be an invaluable source of mutual support at times because they generally understand firsthand what it's like to try and live with a mental illness much better than those who don't, including the professionals who only have the head knowledge

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