Monday, December 7, 2015

Being Friends With Someone Who is Anxious/Depressed

I'm procrastinating on homework at school at the moment and there's a girl sitting next to me talking to her boyfriend, and she's getting really heated. The girl is extremely angry that her "best friend" is quote: "lazy, flaky, doesn't work, and doesn't go to school". She says the friend claims she's "too depressed" and has "too many anxiety attacks", and she's upset that this friend does not follow through with plans. She doesn't understand why the friend says she's going to put effort into "fixing herself" but never does. She also doesn't understand why her texts and calls go unanswered.

Please note that I'm not a specialist nor a professional in this field, but I feel the need to comment because I have a few friends who are struggling through similar issues, so these are my personal thoughts on the matter.

The thing this girl cannot understand is that her friend struggles with mental health issues. She can't switch her anxiety/depression on and off. She can't get better in the same way neurotypical people can. For some, behavior displayed by people with depression and anxiety is incredibly hard to understand. It's natural to think, why can't this person just buckle up and get over it? Apply for jobs? Take some classes? If everyone else can do it, why can't they? But to those with depression/anxiety these regular tasks may seem like the absolute most challenging things in the world. It's not a sign of laziness, what they're experiencing is more like a mix of fear and helplessness.

Instead of responding to a depressed and anxious person with anger and confusion, the appropriate thing is to be supportive. Especially if this person is your best friend, it's important to acknowledge that, at this moment in time, they need you more than you need them. If it means sending a quick text to make sure they're doing okay or offering to pick them up when you have plans to hang out, then as a friend I think it's important for YOU to buckle up and do these things. The friendship may not seem reciprocal at the moment, but getting your friend out of their downtrodden routine will be super helpful to them, even though it may seem hopeless to you. I feel like it's important to be persistent and to ensure that your friend knows that you're there for them. In some cases, if you give up on the friendship, not only are you losing a friend, but THEY are losing a potential lifeline and perhaps one of the few sources of happiness in their life.

We're taught that relationships require balance and equal effort on behalf of both parties, but I really believe this is one case that this theory doesn't apply to. Unless your own mental health is at-risk by supporting your friend, then I think putting that extra effort into your friendship is worth it. Continue to encourage them to improve themselves, and even though it may seem fruitless at first, the moment you stop insisting is the moment they give up, too. I know you may be dealing with your own set of struggles and issues, but you're mentally strong enough to overcome them. Your friend isn't. Also, and here's the harsh truth in this case: it's not about you and your needs at the moment. It's about them.

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