The topic for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is relationships. Here I look at different relationships and the impact my mental illnesses have had on them.
The main relationships I am focussing on are my friendships. I am lucky to have quite a few good friendships, but this has not always been the case. When I was at school I found friendships hard to make and even harder to maintain. I had friends but I found myself feeling like an outsider among them. This, I believe, was made worse by the fact that I was already beginning to suffer with a mental illness, that led to me feeling completely isolated.
As I have got older my friendships have changed. I have friends who I went to university with who have only ever known me with mental illness and I think this has had an impact on our friendship. They accept me for the person I am, not the person I once had to pretend to be. They are truly understanding of me. I feel very lucky to have these friendships.
Other friendships that I hold dear have arisen from having a mental illness. These are other people I know because we share the fact we have a mental illness. I have met them either through friends or via peer support networks. They are friendships that again mean the world to me as these people understand without explanation just what is happening in my head. They are friends I can turn to in the bad times who will not judge or dismiss me (I’m lucky that some of my university friends are like this too). They make up a great proportion of my support network.
These relationships are hugely important to me. They are like an extension of my family. But for me they can be difficult to maintain. Having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) comes with difficulty maintaining stable relationships. Therefore I have to work twice as hard (or so it feels) at looking after these friendships. I can become very intense and feel paranoid in a relationship and so have to control these emotions in myself in order to maintain a healthy friendship. I’m lucky to have friends who appear to understand that sometimes I need more reassurance surrounding a friendship.
Overall I think friendships are hugely important in my life and in maintaining better mental health. Friendships can be stressful for someone with BPD or any mental illness, in my opinion, but they are also very worthwhile. I’d like to say a big thank you to all my friends for being so great.