I thought that deciding to seek help would be the most painful part of my mental health problems. In reality, it was actually realizing just how much my depression had damaged my social life after I began my recovery. My periods of isolation and mood changes drove many of my friends away; now one of my biggest challenges is reconnecting with them and trying to reform those bonds.
I was a bad friend. I can’t deny that during my depressive phase, I was a terrible friend to many people I deeply cared about. I flaked on social arguments, got unreasonably angry over small misunderstandings, and isolated myself. Even though I deeply regret these actions, I still have to deal with their ramifications.
I lost their trust. The most recent memories my old friends have of me is me during one of the worst periods of my life. They remember me as a short-tempered and socially withdrawn person, not as the social girl I used to be. Now, when everyone is planning events or social gatherings, my likelihood of being invited is much less of a guarantee than it used to be.
Being social takes effort. It takes a ton of effort to maintain and grow relationships, and when I wasn’t at peak mental health, maintaining relationships was one of the first things that got dropped by the wayside in order to take care of myself. While I don’t regret prioritizing self-care, the amount of work involved in rekindling relationships is a difficult hurdle to overcome. It takes more effort to make friends than it does to maintain them, and building and maintaining relationships takes a ton of time and energy that isn’t always available to me.
Trying to re-make friends is mentally draining. Keeping tabs on who I need to reconnect with or try to make connections with takes a ton of mental space and sometimes I just don’t have it to spare. Worse, on difficult days, I can barely fake my way through social interaction, let alone foster friendship. When I fake my way through social interactions, old friends can see right through me, which only sets me back even further.
I’m no longer comfortable in social scenarios. I’ve gone from a social butterfly to someone who’s always second-guessing themselves and trying to make the best impression possible in order to make up for the time I’ve lost. The constant effort I put into social occasions sometimes makes making new friends and reforming old friendships seem more like an exhausting part-time job than something I actually want to do.
I second guess myself. I’m always overanalyzing what I’m saying and how I’m acting to make sure that one of the ‘bad’ traits that manifested itself during my depressive phase doesn’t come out during conversion. I’m paying so much attention to myself in social scenarios and second-guessing myself so often that I’ve become a bad conversational partner.
Explaining my depression is difficult. It’s hard to open up, plain and simple. Rekindling old friendships almost always means explaining why I dropped off the face of the earth for so long, and that can be difficult. Even though I know they deserve to be told why I treated them the way I did, my hard times are an incredibly personal thing that I’m not comfortable sharing with just anyone.
I don’t want them to treat me differently. There’s still a stigma surrounding mental health. Even though I know that my friends are amazing people, in the back of my mind I’m always wondering if finding out the truth would make them treat me differently. I don’t want the stigma attached to mental health to be attached to my relationships, and I definitely don’t want them to worry about how I’m acting.
I don’t want to burden them. I also don’t want my friends to worry about me. I’m doing much better now, but I know that the knowledge of my depressive phase would still be a weight on their mind and that they would burden themselves with my mental health struggles.
I still have bad days. The road to recovery isn’t smooth. There are good days and there are bad days. Sometimes I worry that I’m rekindling friendships only to have a bad spell and ruin them again in the future. However, I know that if I keep making smart choices and seeking help, one day I’ll get the hang of things.
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