Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.
In life, everyone loses and gains friendships and relationships — it’s inevitable.
But I found that the blow of losing someone I trusted when I was dealing with depression or relapsing in my eating disorder felt much more intense.
One of the most difficult things I’ve had to accept in my recovery from mental illness is that I’ll lose parts of my support system along the way.
Depression can make you feel lonely or like withdrawing socially. Throw a painful friend breakup on top of that and you can find yourself completely disappearing from social circles.
I’ve learned a lot about my strength by getting through these difficult losses, and I’ve also gotten a lot of clarity on which of my friends will truly be there through my worst (and best!) days.
One of the first losses I faced due to my mental illness was two friendships I had up until my senior year of high school. One girl was the first person I’d confided in about struggling with an eating disorder.
We were a close-knit group of three. Until they dropped me.
Those losses were devastating.
I struggled even seeing them in the halls at school. I felt ashamed because they decided to stop talking to me as a result of my struggles with depression. It felt like my fault.
The feeling of loss I experienced was greatly magnified because I was struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts at the time.
I isolated myself and canceled plans often due to my depression and eating disorder. I put all the energy I did have into those two friendships. Still, over time, they became closer to each other as we drifted apart.
My friends were understanding for a long time until they didn’t want to deal with my depression anymore.
After losing those friends, I felt more alone than ever.
I’d also entrusted a friend with my mental health issues, like self-harming, only to have her tell my classmates.
This was the most painful example of those kinds of “friendships.” She seemed great and so supportive when we were talking. That betrayal of trust has stayed with me for a long time.
My 23-year-old self still cries some days and still feels that immense pain because I never expressed myself or got closure when I was 15.
Instead, from that day on, I’d pretended like I didn’t struggle with self-harm. I swallowed my hurt and acted like I was fine. I didn’t allow myself to have a voice.
I also wish I’d spoken up for myself when my best friends demoted me from friend to acquaintance.
Now, I’m doing much better and I’m farther along in my journey toward recovery.
I haven’t self-harmed in well over 3 years, and in general, I can better express my feelings and needs to friends.
Speaking up and advocating for myself when things aren’t right has been instrumental in my personal recovery.
Once I learned that I could use my voice to effectively mend or end relationships, I was able to let go of some unconstructive friendships and heal.
If a friend says or does something upsetting, I speak up — but I do so kindly. I think with mending any relationship, you want to try to understand their side but still get your thoughts across so you can be heard and validated.
Along with speaking up, it’s been helpful for me to recognize that letting go of someone doesn’t mean you hate them or don’t wish them well. Every friend I’ve had I’ve loved dearly.
Sometimes relationships don’t work out, though, and two people part ways or aren’t as close as they once were.
I now focus my effort on appreciating the great memories we made together.
My recovery has shown me that even in friendships that end abruptly or badly, I can find closure, let go of a great deal of hurt that held me back, and, ultimately, find the strength to continue moving forward.
When I lose a friend I really care about, my loved ones always lift me back up.
When I’m feeling guilty about how a friendship ended, my loved ones are always there to validate that I’m a good friend and recognize that I genuinely care about people.
Sometimes “You’re better off without them” can feel redundant and simple, but it’s helped me realize that when conflicts outweigh the positives, both people are better off saying their goodbyes.
Though painful and disappointing, sometimes letting go is what’s best.
Focusing on those who remain in my life throughout the rainstorms reminds me that I’m not hopeless or broken. They’re proof that I’m not at fault for losing friendships.
And with time and healing, I’ve learned that even if the other person hurt me badly, my ex-friends aren’t completely at fault either.
Being friends with someone with mental health issues can be difficult sometimes, and I try to understand where they’re coming from, too.
And just as we can lose friends during depression, we can also make new ones by finding our voices.
Ultimately, there are many positive memories and people in my life that I celebrate every day.
Originally written April 25, 2018
Medically reviewed on April 25, 2018
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