I have never spoken much about what goes on inside when I am going through a rough wave of depression or anxiety. A few months ago, I decided that I might try confiding in one of my best friends, thinking it would help. The reaction I received from her was one I was very familiar with. She told me that my sadness was all in my mind and that I should pray more. I told her that while prayer can be comforting for those who are religious, it is not a cure.
I decided to try to educate her a bit about clinical depression and anxiety so that maybe if someone might confide in her again one day, she wouldn’t respond in such a way that would hurt the other person. She then expressed that she could not be around someone who felt “hopeless,” so she cut me from her life. It was extremely painful because I thought that we would be friends forever, I hated that the reason we were ending our friendship was because she refused to comprehend my mental health issues.
She chose to view me as hopeless, it was not something I had ever expressed before.
It’s so easy to get lost in other people’s ideas of specific mental illnesses because there are stereotypes associated with every single one of them. Having depression does not mean that I am just hopelessly sad, just like having social anxiety does not mean that I am shy. I admit I suffer from these things and have accepted the fact that I have to live with them, but I do not allow them to deter me from my life’s purpose. I know how strong and fearless I am and while it’s harder for me to get out bed some days or immerse myself in social situations, I still push myself to do so.
For those of you that struggle with mental illness, I understand how difficult it can be to open up to somebody about your illness, but it’s so important to know that their reaction or perception even, especially if negative, does not define your illness. You aren’t lazy because sometimes you just can’t make it out of the house and you aren’t crazy just because there are fears that linger in your mind when in a social environment.
Your mental illness does not have to rule your life but a lot of times all you can do is let it run its course. To my ex-friend and every other person who might have made the person that opened up to them feel worse, I hope that you have learned or will learn how important it is to have an open and optimistic point of view when responding to someone’s revelation. You never know when someone else is about to reach their breaking point, them confiding in you could be their last attempt at getting some sort of help.
Depression and anxiety aren’t made up mental illnesses and people who suffer from them aren’t enjoying it, it is a burden but that does not mean that they stop anyone from being great.
Anxiety and depression, or any mental health issue for that matter, do not equate to hopelessness.