Left on Read

As an adult I’ve found it difficult to make friends and keep friendships afloat. I try my best but it doesn’t seem to be enough sometimes.

During this quarantine period I’ve made two online friends through anime Facebook groups. Both of them have been great to talk to, I’ve really appreciated having them to talk to.

The one person, her and I spoke today so we are fine, but the other I’m not sure what happened.

Her and I would chat multiple times a week about anime and read each other’s fan fiction. (Please don’t judge me for writing fan fiction, I’ve already judged myself enough for it. It’s a new hobby.) We got along really well! I enjoyed hearing from her and the conversations we had. I felt like we were actual friends.

Late last week I wrote to her asking if she had any time to proofread my story. I didn’t hear a reply that whole day so I looked back to the message to find out if she saw it.

Read

Being left on read I thought maybe she is busy, she will reply later.

She didn’t.

A couple days later I sent her my story because she had previously said she was ok with reading my work. I saw her post something to our group but I heard nothing from her so I checked the chat.

Read

She has continued to post on her Facebook and the group we are a part of so it makes me wonder what the hell I did. Our conversations had been normal, we didn’t have any drama between each other.

I feel stupid for a plethora of reasons, from letting somebody who I don’t really know get to me and asking myself why anybody would want to be my friend in the first place.

This isn’t the first time this has happened in my life.

In high school, a good friend of mine who went to a different school did the same thing to me. I would call her, text her and even wrote her a letter with no response. I still don’t know why she distanced herself from me, I probably will never know.

Why is this a pattern in my life?
Is it me?
Is it them?

During all of this I was happily reminded of the longterm friends I’ve had since university. I went to a Zoom birthday party for my friend and got to see a few other friends which was so nice! It made me feel really good to be remembered and invited.

I’ve found a lot of value in the friends I’ve had for years. Even though we live in different places and haven’t seen each other in years, I know that they are still there for me.

Have you been left on read? Have you had friendships dropped for reasons you don’t understand?

That Friend

Friendship doesn’t come naturally for me. Add a mental health diagnosis and it’s downright fraught. I tend to treat friend making like double Dutch jump rope. I watch some girls jump in, dance around and jump out. I watch for a really long time. Then I finally feel the beat, take the risk and make my move. I end up thwapped in the arm and the ropes are down around my ankles. It’s harder than it looks, apparently.

I’m the intense friend. I put a lot of effort into guessing how other people do it, this friendship thing. I crave connection and yet seem to thwart my objectives by over or under doing it. I’m enthusiastic and have a tendency to overshare. Or I anticipate rejection and clam up, revealing nothing. Where are the instructions for the middle ground?

During this pandemic, I’ve turned into the anxiety ridden friend. I recently finished my first book, a memoir. I had seven friends read it as beta readers. I’m having a hard time with feedback. It took a very long time to write the book and now that it’s complete, I could ask, “What did you think of X?” all day long. I feel pushy asking my pals for a dissertation on my work. I need their input to make final revisions and it has my laser focus right now.

I know what I should do: Relax. Easier said than done. I have bipolar affective disorder which comes with a side order of obsessive thinking. I think I’m having a revelation hangover. My truth is revealed in the book and I’ve heard both sides of feedback. You shared too much and you’re incredibly brave. I’ll have to be the final word on determining what I want to share.

Until then, I have to stop hitting “send” on emails and sitting there with a stopwatch waiting for the “Re:” response to come back. This stay at home time has allowed my clock watching to get seriously out of hand. I’m happy, okay ecstatic, the snow has finally melted where I live and May has arrived. I have to get out of my spot in front of my laptop and enjoy a nice walk in the woods. Thanks for being here, checking out my post and easing the angst of opening up, a little at a time. Maybe I’ll try jump roping again.

~CBD

 

Y’all Are Crazy, and That’s Okay

Having a mental illness is a lonely thing.

Like most people, we want at least someone with whom we can talk. We want a friend to cry with, or even laugh with. We need a deep connection with another human, to feel loved and validated.

Unfortunately, we have a few things that get in the way of socializing.

Many of us are scared. We have trust issues. When we feel hurt, we feel very deeply and wish to avoid feeling that way again. Often, we’ve had a bad experience of someone breaking a promise or shying away when we shared how we think. Heck, a lot of us have a bonafide diagnosis from a doctor that we have social anxieties.

Besides the hurt and fear, we avoid people for their own benefit. We tell ourselves that we are flawed and unsafe. We justify our anti-social behavior with statements like, “I know I’m a downer,” “No ones talks to me at parties. They can see, in my face, that I’m no fun,” and “If they really wanted to be around me, they’d talk to me.”

ethan-sykes-201047-unsplash.jpg

Those reasons and that voice are hard to work with, but our health and mental stability need to fight against them. I mean, did you know that human connections were rated the most important thing in a happy life?

So stop beating yourself up. Seriously. I’ll tell you why:

  • Most people are some level of crazy. They may not be certified, but they have issues. I can’t tell you how many people I talk with who have experienced some angle of what I have, if not the whole enchilada.
  • Even though you are crazy, what are you gonna do about it? I’ve tried starting over, but the person that is me always shines through. I am what I have to work with and I accept that.
  • Crazy people have options, like crazy-people doctors and crazy-people medications and crazy-people blogs. There are even …crazy people groups that meet and talk crazy together. It’s a blast.
  • You are you, and are a work in progress. Just think: are you still crawling around and stuffing car keys in your mouth? NO! You did that as a baby, silly. Now you are older and know better. You are knowing better every day.
  • The future will be better. The future will be even betterer if you keep moving forward -even if all you can manage is a shuffle.
  • If all else fails, there is chocolate.
anita-austvika-1175340-unsplash.jpg

I have a few friends. Of those, a few have mental health challenges. Some struggle with depression and social anxiety like I do. One has panic attacks. Another is schizophrenic. A mutual acquaintance is bipolar.

Sometimes when I try to plan a get-together, a friend flakes and doesn’t show up. Sometimes I have a terrible week and have to cancel on one of them. Since we are all in this not-sea-worthy-at-all boat together, however, we get it. If not, we talk about it. We hug. We pull out the chocolate.

I need people. I need understanding. I need connection. So do you. Plus, your challenges and perspectives mean that you are more understanding and empathetic than other people.

I mean, we may all be crazy, but that’s okay. We’re as human as the next person and our needs are just as valid.

You are worth it. I promise.

Become a Patron!https://c6.patreon.com/becomePatronButton.bundle.js

Photo Credits:
Sayo Garcia
Ethan Sykes
Anita Austvika

When illness is invisible, take more initiative in checking up on the friends who look healthy

I scrolled through my instagram today, and watched a video of me singing with a ukulele (very original, I know) from almost a year ago and reading the slew of comments – compliments, hearts, recognition for how cool people thought I was – was really hard for me.

At the time, my immune system was too weak to fight off hemorrhagic laryngitis (it’s like normal laryngitis except all the blood vessels in your throat burst, super terrible), and I developed an anti-biotic resistant infection. My doctors (multiple in this case) kept saying  all I had to do was stay relaxed, not increase my heart rate, and reduce stress so that my body could fight the infection.

Except that I suffer from anxiety – and as the year increased in stress levels, so did my anxiety. My immune system couldn’t keep up. My body and mind have always been too sensitive and too connected to avoid physical illness when my mind was in a rough patch.

I battled with recurring debilitating fevers, flare ups, sore throats and a consistent effort to keep it under control for almost an entire year.

But it made my singing voice sound super cool in the video for Instragram, so…

kev-costello-548721-unsplash

It’s not as though this was the only health problem I’ve dealt with because of my anxiety. I began to suffer from symptoms of PTSD (after a traumatically abusive relationship) and I developed a nightmare disorder.

In fact, yesterday I was at the doctor for problems with my spleen and ovarian cysts – a result of chronic anxiety and stress.

What I’m really trying to talk about, though, is that feeling about the comments under a video made at a time that I knew I was struggling to face each day with the constant, never ending battle for health I couldn’t seem to win.

It makes me feel alone. I can be right there, in front of people, some I consider close friends, and this huge part of my life is hidden from them, because my illnesses are invisible. It’s surreal, realizing when I post pictures of me receiving awards, everyone thinks, ‘wow, she’s killing it,’ even on days where I feel like my body and mind are killing me. 

So, while recycled and aged, please don’t judge people from what you can see on the outside – even people you consider close friends. When you ask someone how they are, really mean it. If a few more people had taken the time to check up on me instead of congratulating me for achievements at university or complimenting me on my clothes and ukulele playing, I would have felt a lot less like the ground was constantly falling out from under me for a majority of the days last year, and worrying that I would seem ungrateful if I spoke out about it. fabrizio-verrecchia-228667-unsplash

I’m not saying you should pry, or that you should assume every girl on Instagram with a ukulele is mentally ill, but I am saying that even when someone doesn’t reach out or start a conversation about things they’re going through, if they matter to you, take initiative.

It would have made the WORLD of difference if someone had seen another instagram post of me busy at some or other activity and texted me, “hey, so glad to see you’re achieving so much. I’m sure it must take a toll though, how are you doing?

Whenever my fiends saw me, they’d say things like, “I am so proud of you, you’re doing so much, it’s so impressive, you’re amazing, you’re so strong, I don’t know how you do it!” It felt IMPOSSIBLE in the face of those sentiments to say, “actually, all things aside, I’m not coping.” 

When I did, I’d get horrible advice about stress management, which I’ve covered in this blog post on how to correctly respond to loved ones’ anxiety.

harli-marten-135841-unsplashWhen someone is important to you, going that little extra mile to let them know you recognize that things might be challenging or difficult for them can be incredibly appreciated – and needed.

It seems a bit weird at first, but if you know someone has struggled with invisible illness in the past, chances are they’d appreciate even just letting them know you recognize their rough situation. It might even give that person the courage to take initiative themselves.

Trust me, it could mean the world of difference to them.

When I Was Not Enough: Death of A Friendship

Seeing a friendship that was once vibrant with life and laughter die in front of your eyes can be a sad sight. As it takes its final breath, I have to remind myself that it could not be saved.

This friend tried to control me and when I did not do as she demanded, she would get angry with me. Looking back, I now see that I was not enough in her eyes and I’m alright with that.

My former friend and I were best friends since 2013 when we were roommates in university. I felt like I could tell her anything, that she would always be my right-hand woman on Team Megan.

Until 2016.

From then on our friendship began to die.

She did not approve of the man I started dating that year which brought distance between us. After my now ex-boyfriend left for Army basic training, she said that I had to either dump him or marry him immediately.

Those words furiously buzzed in my brain, I was so upset by them that they induced my first panic attack.

After that she and I didn’t spend time together for months until the guy dumped me.

She was present until I began my downward spiral of suicidal thoughts, severe depression, almost daily self-harming and intense anxiety. She refused to listen to my struggles, she couldn’t understand so she closed her ears.

From there I began to distance myself even more from her.

In June 2017 she asked if I would move in with her. I told her no because I just started a new job in April and did not want to leave my boyfriend that I started dating in January. Neither of these things she approved of in the first place.

She was angry with me. She was irritated that I did not drop everything for her. She wanted me to follow the path she was trying to establish for me.

The final straw for me was when she came up to visit me this May. She bought me coffee at my favorite local coffeeshop, sat me down and came for my throat. Figuratively.

She told me how she missed “college Megan” and that she could help me get “back on track” with my career. She began listing off mutual friends saying, “They are doing so well for themselves.”

I understood that as, they are doing great while I’m a loser.

I on the verge of bursting into tears. I couldn’t believe the person who was supposed to be my best friend was saying such hurtful words.

Once she finally left later that afternoon, I laid in my bed and cried.

The next day I texted her, I knew if I called I would cry. I told her she upset me with everything she said and that she made me feel like a failure.

She pulled a Kanye West! She said, “I’m sorry but…” My jaw dropped as she began to justify why she said those hurtful things. She was not sorry at all.

I was not enough for her.

My anxiety tells me that I’ve made a horrible mistake in losing her as a friend. That “if I only listened to her” I would somehow be better off.

My rational self says that I am doing fine without her.

Thank u, next.

Depression for Dummies

Hi. I’m Chelsea, and I am married to a wonderful, talented, intelligent man who is pretty dumb when it comes to mental illness.

Perhaps you know someone like this. Your bright, helpful person may be a friend, parent, brother, sister, or boss. As well-meaning as he or she might pretend to be, this acquaintance just doesn’t get it. Worse, he or she is often so inept that whenever effort is made, you feel he or she constantly places a clumsy finger right on a fresh bruise and pushes.

confused-2681507_1920 (1)

But our friends and family don’t have to be idiots. Honestly, we really need love and support for our mental health and we can be tough nuts to crack.

In light of that, I’ve developed a helpful guide. I call it The Depressive Feelings/Better Responses Guide (of Science). Just whip this puppy out whenever you want to whip them upside the head and you’ll both feel better:

  1. When someone says that he is feeling depressed, a cheery life aphorism like, “Life isn’t all bad,” “Don’t worry; be happy,” or “The sun’ll come out tomorrow” isn’t helpful. At all.
    Instead, try, “I understand that you are feeling depressed.” This may easily be followed by, “I’d like to help alleviate some of your stress. Can I clean your whole kitchen for you?,” or “…I happen to know that chocolate is half-off at the store. I’ll be right back with a pound or two.”
  2. If a depressed person says she feels hopeless; that everything in life is hard: the incorrect response is to point out how easy her life is. Please oh please do not say, “But you don’t have any serious issues like cancer or your arms falling off.”
    A better answer? “Let’s address your concerns one at a time. Maybe you could write a list, then we can come up with a solution for each one.”
    Or simply listen, without criticism. Some people just really need an ear to dump in.
  3. How about fatigue? Do you tell someone with depression that he shouldn’t be tired? That he should get to bed earlier? No, silly. He knows he should get to bed earlier; worrying about how he needs to sleep is one of the things that kept him up.
    Validate the feelings of the tired person. A passable idea might be to describe a cool idea you read recently -about writing all of one’s concerns on a paper by the side of the bed at night. Maybe you have a really boring book you could lend him.
    book-girl-indoors-1294284
  4. Let’s say she is feeling poorly about herself. Her self-esteem is in the toilet of the deep, dark dungeon of the evil underworld troll king’s nephew. Do not advise a person with depressive tendencies that, “You’re a great person,” or how many talents she has and how she has the potential for so much more.
    Telling a depressed person of wasted potential will bring on a crying fit. You’re just backing up the mean little voice already in her head (herself).
    One of the best things to say is that you like her, that you like a specific thing about her (say, her ability to come up with Britney Spears song lyrics at the drop of a hat). Try to turn the focus on something else, especially if that is on a happy memory.
  5. When someone with depressive tendencies withdraws from life, reach out. You need to act if he does one of the following: not answering texts, appearing less-frequently online, and even telling people, “Goodbye.”
    If you can’t go, try to get his family or other friends to physically check in. Even a vocal phone call is better than a text. A visit is better than an e-mail. A long, in-person conversation is better than a social media message.

I have a difficult time with about everything in life due to a negative perspective and very little self-motivation. I need my husband, my few friends, and my family. Theirs are the hands that reach into the cave of my mind and pull me to safety.

With specific directions like this, we can work toward loving the hand that reaches. At the very least, we won’t feel like slapping it away.

noah-buscher-642192-unsplash

Picture credits:
Pixabay
Pexels
Unsplash

Friendship, Reignited

To those of us who’ve spent the majority of our lives struggling with anxiety and depression, one of the biggest obstacles to overcome is isolation. For me personally, this wasn’t actually an issue until I became a parent, because as someone with very little family, I always felt as though I needed a barrier of friends around me for protection. Fortunate as I was to have found those people when I was younger, I came to find, after entering adulthood, that friendship wasn’t quite what it seemed before.

What was once a crutch for my fear of loneliness, has now become an a burden of sorts, for I cannot seem to get back to being the kind of person who can actually maintain friendships. I was the type of friend that was always there when you needed them, but was also the one who failed to get invitations to parties and such. I’m the person who will tell you what you need to hear, no matter how badly it’s not wanted, and while I’m conscious of it as a flaw, I still tend to categorize it as a strength.

Recently I reconnected with an old friend, someone who’s been through some of the worst moments of my life with me, someone I’ve known for 16 years. There was a time when we were inseparable, never going days let alone years without talking, but we haven’t seen each other in about a year and a half. We’re both nearing our thirties yet we live completely opposite lives – mine revolving around my husband and daughter, and her still being single and living at home with her family. While it’s difficult to relate to her now in some ways, it’s also refreshing to talk to someone with a little bit of outside perspective, because sometimes that’s exactly what we need.

The moment that I basically gave up on everyone in my life was shortly after my daughter was born, nearly no one I’ve ever called a friend has even met her, and I got tired of always hearing the same old line, “Let’s make plans soon!” or “We’ll have to get together soon!”. Eventually you just stop believing it, seeing it for what it really is, a formality to lessen their guilt over not even remotely being there for me in any way at all. I began pushing everyone away, and I can’t honestly say that I regret it very much. It seemed like the mature thing to do, just accept it was all talk, let everyone off the hook, and focus on my daughter, since no one else was interested in being part of her life.

Back to now though, I’m relieved to have someone I can talk to outside of my husband, because while he’s my best friend, sometimes a woman just needs the ear of another woman to feel heard and understood. And let’s be honest, there’s just some things that men don’t want to talk or hear about, and I try not to overburden him with all of my anxieties and stresses, as he’s carrying enough on his shoulder trying to keep food on our plates and a roof over our heads.

This time around, I’m going to try to force myself to stay in touch with her, because at least she knows the true me and has been there through some of the defining moments of my life, good and bad, and doesn’t need explanation for my feelings and thoughts. We have plans for tomorrow and I have to admit, I’m more excited than I’ve been in years. She’s genuinely thrilled to spend time with my daughter, and what could warm a mother’s heart more than an old friend bonding with your child? Right now, it feels priceless.