Being a friend to someone who struggles with their mental health is often a worrying position to be in. The first time my friend told me she was having problems I was completely shocked, although I did try my best to hide it. She seemed like the most bubbly, happy-go-lucky person I knew. I didn’t know her that long, we became friends through another friend and clicked. The girl I thought was as happy as me, was in fact, not. I found myself trying to understand the feelings she described to me, imagining what it would be like to be in her position or at least trying to. The truth is unless you have felt this way yourself it is impossible to know what someone else is going through.
So I went along, not really knowing if I was saying or doing the right thing. And then a major blow – she was in hospital. My lovely friend, such a warm and loving person was in a desperate place and needed help that only hospital could give. I couldn’t go to visit her for various reasons, something I still feel guilt over, but I messaged her daily and sent her little parcels and treats. And eventually she came home.
This girl has to be one of the strongest people that I know. She has taught me so much, and still does. Her kindness to everyone around her astounds me, even in her darkest moments she thinks of others. I have learned that there is nothing I can do to make everything right or make her feel better, except to be there when she needs to talk or even to cry. And equally as important to be there to laugh and enjoy life. Sometimes life gets in the way – job, kid, appointments – and it’s hard to align the schedules to meet as often as I would like but when we do meet it is heartening to see how happy she is to see me.
Being a friend to this girl makes me think about how I can be a better person. Less selfish when we talk (even though I still talk for Ireland about myself), I do try to be a better listener. I have learned that when I listen properly, sometimes there are little clues as to how she is really feeling and this has helped to me to recognize when things are great with her or not so great.
This friendship has give me so many great times to look back on….dressing up for nights out, laughter, nights in, advice and the comfort to be ourselves – no matter what – with each other. I am proud she has allowed me to be her friend, that she has confided in me and has trusted me to be her friend through her tough days and great days. So I say to anybody who has a friend that is struggling with their mental health – don’t be afraid, stay and support them, learn from that friend and try to be the best person you can be for them!