Being friends with someone who has a mental illness is one of the hardest things that I have ever done in my nineteen years of living. They don’t always tell you what’s wrong. They aren’t always there for you. And they aren’t always the nicest people in the world. It’s frustrating, emotionally draining, and often seems not worth it. But let me tell you something, while it has been one of the hardest things in my life, it also has been one of the most rewarding.
People who have a mental illness often feel that they can’t count on many people, whatever the reason (it often varies with the person). That’s one of the reasons why it is so important to be there for them. If someone feels they have no one, and it’s all their fault, thoughts of self-harm or even suicide can form in their minds.
This is not to say that you should stay in an abusive (whether emotionally or physically) relationship simply because you feel that they will harm themselves if you leave. Find help for them (if you can) and then leave. You have to take care of yourself first before you begin to take care of others. In accordance with this, a mental illness does not excuse all behaviors, that is not my point here.
People who have a mental illness are some of the strongest people that I know. It is truly inspiring to be able to watch them grow, to watch them through all their ups and downs, and it makes me so proud to call them my friend. When I see them happy, after they have been not happy for so long (no matter how fleeting it is), my heart soars.
They have taught me empathy. They have taught me about their mental illness, whether it be depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder. They have taught me how to love.
Of course, it isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. There are dark moments too. I’ve gotten phone calls late night where there is nothing but crying on the other end. That breaks my heart. I’ve heard them say how they don’t think they want to be here anymore. That terrifies me. I’ve laid awake night, agonizing over the fact that they haven’t texted me back, terrified that when I wake up the next morning I will have a message on my phone saying that they are no longer with us. That’s my worst fear.
Despite all of this, I love them. I love them regardless of their mental illness because the fact of the matter is that if the roles were reversed, they would be there for me. And that’s all that matters.