July 7, 2017: This post has been featured on The Mighty as “To the Friends I’ve Pushed Away While Working Through My Mental Illness.”
Lately, I’ve been feeling very guilty. I wish I didn’t feel that way. I wish I could easily tell myself that I’m taking care of me, and that I’m not responsible for how other people feel, or what other people are doing, or how other people react to me. But I can’t. Not yet, anyway. I’m working on my ability to separate my own feelings from others’, and as someone who has internalized others’ feelings my entire life, it isn’t an easy process.The truth is, to everyone who doesn’t know (which is most people), the past few months have been very difficult for me. Talking about it is, at times, even more difficult. I value transparency and storytelling. But I also value privacy. Most people know me as a reserved person. I don’t feel like people need to know the personal details of my life. Because I’ve struggled so much the past couple months, though, I’ve withdrawn. A lot more than usual. People who care about me haven’t heard from me. I haven’t really left my house, except to go to the appropriate medical appointments and therapy groups.
I feel an unyielding need to explain myself to my friends—even to acquaintances. I feel like I should apologize. Like I should justify my behavior. Like I’ve done something wrong. I don’t want to feel that way, so I want to share what I’ve been dealing with—to pour it all out, to let it sit in the open. So that it’s not inside me anymore, so people know. But my much, much stronger inclination is to keep it to myself. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m not ready to share everything going on in my mind and heart and body. So I won’t. Because I don’t owe that to anyone. This is my story, and I’ll tell it when I’m ready and able. No one needs to know what is going on with me if I want to keep it to myself.
But I do want my friends to know some things:
I love you. I haven’t stopped thinking about you. Our happy memories together, and thinking of future memories, are what keep me going. I wish I could reach out and be with you, and be social, and be “normal.” But my depression, my anxiety, my trauma, my illness prevents me from doing so. Some of my aversion to sharing comes from shame—I’m not too big to admit that I fall victim to stigma and fear of judgment. Some of my isolation comes from a genuine inability to explain the deep, complex, very real feelings, thoughts, and sensations that consume me day-to-day. Most of all, I want you to know that most of my withdrawal is because I’m taking care of myself right now. That I’m not ready to share with anyone. I wish I were. I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel neglected, or underappreciated. My behavior has nothing to do with you. You have done absolutely nothing wrong. I promise.
As for what you can do for me: maybe check in with me sometime soon. With a simple text, or message of support. I will be honest; if I can’t spend time with you, I won’t make up an excuse for why. I’ll say I’m feeling depressed or anxious, and need time alone. But I won’t expand on that. I need this part of my story to be mine right now. I’ll share it when I’m ready. I really appreciate your respect for my mental, emotional, and physical space. Thank you so much for your patience. I may be detached or unavailable or frustrating right now. My biggest fear is that you will give up on me. I know you won’t. But it’s something I worry about. I promise I’m just going through something right now. I haven’t given up on you. And I won’t give up. Like I said, I love you. Very much.