Friends and Mental Health

As you get older, I think your circles start to get smaller and you begin to drift from people you thought you’d be friends with forever. I made big circles of friends in primary school, secondary school and college, and now I only speak to one or two people out of each of those groups. Friendships are much like relationships you start in your teens or early twenties – you either grow apart or you grow together. In school, were often thrown together with people so unlike us we wouldn’t have given each other the time of day, had it been different circumstances. As we grow up, those friends who were going to be godparents to our future children, and bridesmaids and flatmates, become acquaintances, who eventually become strangers.

While we’re drifting apart from some, though, were growing closer to others. We leave school and we have more control over who we choose to spend time with. While our circles shrink, the connection we have with people grows, and I think that’s wonderful.

I’m writing this because I spoke to a friend who has anxiety, depression and OCD. She hit a little bit of a low last week because a few people she’d invited out for her birthday cancelled at the last minute. Of course, somebody with a rational mind might be a little bit miffed and then get over it – it’s not a big deal, right? Wrong. With depression, comes a feeling of worthlessness, and with anxiety, you get paranoia.

Worthlessness + Paranoia + Flakey Friends = ‘They don’t actually care about me, I’m not worth anything to them.’ 

My friend proceeded to spend an entire evening crying to her boyfriend, devastated because she felt she had no friends and a family who didn’t care either. Of course, when it came to actually celebrating her birthday, she had a wonderful time and said that the people she cared about most were there with her. A couple of them did something really lovely for her that she had no idea about and to me, that’s what the best friends do.

I have a small circle of friends, but all of those know everything there is to know about me. I’m not ashamed of my mental illness, I’m not embarrassed about my past and I can be totally myself. The friends I’ve made – a couple from work, a couple from school and college and a handful through sheer circumstance – I can 100% trust and rely on. I know none of them will let me down, because they never have. It’s important to me to have people who understand how I am, and not make me feel like a crock of shit because of it. For example – I’ve cancelled on one friend more than once because I’m too sad to see her, another invited me out for her birthday then private messaged me to tell me I can leave whenever and don’t even have to show up if it’s difficult, and another has come round to take me out because I’ve spent too long inside, afraid to leave the house for anything other than work.

The point I’m trying to make is that quality, not quantity applies to many aspects of adult life, and it definitely applies to your friends. Only ever texting the same 3 people, or only have 6 people to invite out for your birthday, or spend more time with your cats than you do actual humans doesn’t mean you don’t have any friends; it means the relationships you have with people are more meaningful, more honest and more real.

It’s taken me a long time to realise this, but I’m finally comfortable with my little group of gal pals.

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24 year old freelance content creator

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