Alison blogs about opening up about her mental health to her best friend.
My best friend was calling again. I let the phone ring out. It was the fifth call I hadn't answered over the past two weeks, but I couldn’t talk to them when I was feeling like this. How could I get my words out?
"I was at rock bottom. Everything had crashed down and I felt like I was drowning in black goo."
I felt like the only sounds that would come out of me were awkward grunts as though a morose seal had answered the phone.
Then they text: “Hey, is everything okay? I haven’t been able to get hold of you, I’m worried….x”
Me: “Hey, I’m so sorry, everything’s fine, just that work is crazy – you just wouldn’t believe. I will be in touch soon for a call and explain everything x"
"I put on a front. I struggled each day. I made excuses."
Amongst my friends I was known as the ‘strong’ one. I usually dealt with my problems myself. In my mind my friends had always drawn from my strength and I secretly thrived off feeling unshakable.
But It’s funny how you can consider yourself a resilient person, but stuff builds up (for me, a series of traumatic events) before *bang*, your mind says enough. I can’t cope any more. I’m forcing you to deal with stuff, and you’re going to feel crap, really crap for a while, and you also may not be able to function properly for some time (gee, thanks).
"I didn’t talk to anyone about what I was feeling because I was so scared of what the reaction might be. Depression and anxiety can be isolating."
How could I let my friends see me when I was feeling like this? So I didn’t tell anyone about what I was going through for two months. I put on a front. I struggled each day. I made excuses. I smiled. I got signed off work for a short time. I got really acquainted with the walls of my bedroom, living room - and my couch.
In my mind I was preserving what I thought was my identity. I didn’t talk to anyone about what I was feeling because I was so scared of what the reaction might be. Depression and anxiety can be isolating. And I helped them along.
"After months of struggling, avoidance and missed calls I got a knock on the door."
After months of struggling, avoidance, missed calls, short conversations, conversations where I just didn’t sound like me, I got a knock on the door.
"I’ve been so worried about you. I had to come and see you. What’s been happening? Is everything okay?”
“Of course everything is fine. Come inside. Do you want a tea?”
I made some tea. We started to drink it. I skirted around it. I euphemised. I danced around it. Then I cried. We both cried. We hugged.
“I’ve been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Honestly, I’ve been really struggling, but I was so scared to talk to you about it because I didn’t know how you would react.”
“Why didn’t you tell me? You know I'm always here for you.”
I opened up about the darkest period in my life, the traumatic events that got me to this point, how I had been feeling. How alone I felt, and how scared I was to open up about how it because I felt like no one would understand.
I started to feel a sense of relief. I felt lighter. Thanks to my friend recognising that something was wrong and reaching out to me, and me finding the courage to talk about it, I took one of the first steps on a new path to getting better.
"I wish I had opened up sooner. It was hard, but when I did, it helped alot."
I started telling more of my friends about what was happening. They were all so supportive. Well most of them. One of my friends asked me if was due to genetics and then quickly changed the subject, but I saw it as an opportunity to educate.
I wish I had opened up sooner. It was hard, but when I did, it helped. Why didn’t I reach out sooner? Partly it was my ego; that I thought I had to be the strong one all the time, and maybe because of my upbringing I was taught that it’s negative to talk about emotions, and that even in this day and age, that sort of idea still clings on to you.
But if there was more of a culture of talking about mental health, then things would be easier for all of us. There’d be more understanding and maybe people wouldn’t suffer in silence like I did.
"Knowing that I can talk about how I feel, about what’s going on, and that it’s OK to do so, makes managing easier."
After CBT, and some counselling, and getting back into exercise (exercise really helped), and being open with those close to me, I feel like I’ve come out the other side.
I’m lucky to have people close to me that I can talk to about my mental health. Knowing that I can talk about how I feel, about what’s going on, and that it’s OK to do so, makes managing easier. Now I don’t need to lie in my text messages - and there are no missed calls.
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