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A thank you to a friend

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Dear Friend, Just a note to say thank you so much for your patience and understanding the other day. I realise that you hadn’t seen me in that state for a while (if ever) and I just wanted to let you know what it meant to me that you just listened, didn’t judge me for feeling overwhelmed or make me feel stupid for not being able to explain why.

You gave me space to talk things over if I wanted to, or to just sit and get some calm.

And you didn’t remind me that plenty others are worse off than me or ask what made me special, aren’t we all struggling right now in the middle of a pandemic?

I will never forget you just sat with me, where I was in that moment. I feel so lucky to have a friend like you. I think the best thing you did, the most helpful apart from listening, was to ask simply “how can I help?”. We both know only I can tackle the root causes of my anxiety and depression and that I am doing all I can to improve and manage my health.

But offering support not solutions shows that you realise I am not looking for you to solve anything or to burden you. Just to know someone accepts I am in pain or panic and that they still wants to show me friendship, kindness and compassion helps me massively. It removes the stigma I feel that my illness is invisible, or my fault for being weak, or the elephant in the room as no-one seems to want to talk about mental health when it goes wrong… As I answered that day...the way you could help me most as a friend is sometimes just sitting with me whilst I calm down and giving me space if I ask for it. Just because I have an anxiety disorder, it doesn’t mean that I want to talk about my problems all the time! But it helps massively to know that you don’t ignore this part of me, as if I should be somehow different, or ashamed of my feelings. I also wanted to say I am grateful that you are able to understand why I seem fine some days, even highly functioning, and other days I am more remote and can let you down or bail on social arrangements. Sometimes it’s hard to explain to other people how having ongoing anxiety and depression and taking steps to address it affects all aspects of my life. Most people only see part of the story. Without the effort required to ‘put my face on’ and pretend I am ok when I’m not, I find I have more energy to do normal things and stay connected with people.

I know that when we speak or text, I can be honest about how I am doing and that you won’t judge me for doing that. You know I don’t want attention or to use my illness as an excuse for being a bad friend. But you also know that sometimes I get into a kind of survival mode, when I need to use all my strength and energy on taking care of myself and getting the essentials done at home. When that happens and my replies are really delayed or out of character, you realise that this is not personal to you, and you will probably check in with me another day, giving me the benefit of the doubt. I am really grateful for this and I really value your friendship. Thank you for being you. Lena

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