"Finding a mental illness community"
Depression is a very lonely place to be. I know that maintaining social connections is the “right” thing to do, so I used to push myself to overcome the desire to isolate. It was hard, but I did it. It felt exhausting to be around people. Even though I knew they were trying to be supportive, it was clear they didn't understand, and sometimes they just made me feel worse. It was also hard for me to connect with others because I felt so far removed from being a "normal" person with a "normal" life. For me, a good day might be a day that I had a shower and brushed my teeth. I felt like I had nothing in common with people who didn’t have to give the least bit of thought to such basic functions. I didn't have the emotional energy to actually tackle the issue head-on, so I ghosted. As much as I hate myself for doing that to people, in the moment it's often all I can come up with. As a result, my illness has destroyed friendships and severely damaged my relationships with my family.
Fear of invalidation is a major barrier that depression has thrown up between me and those around me. Every time someone tries to put a positive spin on things and says something like “everything will turn out ok” or “you’ll be fine”, it feels like it knocks the floor out from underneath me. When I’m feeling like things won’t be ok and I won’t be fine, for someone to dismiss those feelings makes it feel like they’re also dismissing both my illness and me as a person. It’s hard to explain to someone why trying to be positive can end up having the exact opposite effect.
My current episode of depression has been particularly difficult when it comes to interpersonal relationships, and I've cut most people out of my life. But just when I was starting to feel completely alone, I began blogging. At first, I thought blogging could be therapeutic mostly as a way to express my feelings. I was completely unprepared for the sense of community that would come along with it. There were people who just got it, and with every like or comment I felt like I had spread out little roots of connection. It also felt good to be able to support others with what they were going through. There has been a sense of not only mutual support but mutual learning. I found a community in a way I just can’t access any other way.
I don’t know when I’ll feel ready to start forging friendships again in my “real life”, but I do know that I want to remain connected to the blogosphere, and continue learning and growing in that circle of support.
Ashley Peterson, Canada