Making Friends With Anxiety

B friend sofa

Making friends is hard, I know this, I’ve got my own confidence issues that make it seem like a herculean task to “chat” to someone I don’t know, especially being the first person to say something. In theory, because we now live back where I went to school I should be surrounded by friends and it should all be easy-peasy. However, because I moved away for over a decade I don’t really “know” anyone anymore, so I’m surrounded by people I used to know, but I am afraid to try and properly connect with them.

I’d love to be able to simply message someone and invite them over, or arrange to go out, but the fear of doing that is simply too much to be honest. I see people in the shop and say hi, but always leave wishing I’d said more to them. I worry that they won’t be interested, that they’ve already got their friends and so I would be unnecessary and that at the end of the day they won’t like me anyway so I won’t bother. Occasionally, I’m not sure if they’re the person I think they are and I don’t want to seem like the crazy stranger mistaking them for someone else! Being a non-drinker makes this worse for my brain too, as I get worried that they’ll think the easiest thing would be going out for a drink to break the ice, unfortunately I’d often feel more uncomfortable in a pub than anywhere else. 

On top of all the general worry, the trouble is I would have to try and find time to go out, visit them, or entertain them at home. All of which are complicated not only by standard ‘work’ and ‘having a 4 year old’ things, but also by B having her mental health issues. I know part of that is probably me making excuses, but it doesn’t stop it also actually being true.

I’d never feel comfortable inviting someone round, or making any plans to go out without asking B first, so spur of the moment invites/arrangements are out of the question. It’s not that she wouldn’t want me to go, far from it, she’d probably think it was great that I was doing something. It’s just that it would have to be on a day where she’s feeling really good and I’d be worried that she wouldn’t be okay “on the day” or that the pressure of trying to be okay would end up actually making her worse. I’d then have to explain why I couldn’t make it and as typically I wouldn’t have time to actually explain to them, I would just end up saying “B is ill”. I then worry that they’d think this was just an excuse.

All this might be a bit easier now that B’s mental health issues are “out” on Facebook, so I won’t mind mentioning them quite a much. However, it’s still something you don’t want to get into when chatting with someone casually stood in the shop… perhaps I can just hand them a card with the website on and stand there when they have a read!

All that worry is just me making a friend or even reconnecting with a friend as a carer! Making friends when you’ve actually got a mental health condition such as B can seem almost impossible. All those same doubts that I’ve mentioned above are also going to be shared by B and hers are going to be 10 times worse and joined by their friends too. (Even B’s thoughts have more friends than us, even if they are monsters!)

Lego B's Mental Health Monsters

B doesn’t have any friends, at least she doesn’t feel she has any friends. She’s got a couple of people she went to school with on her Facebook profile, one of whom has actually recently tried to reconnect, which did make B happy. There are a couple of people who B see’s as my friends that she has spent time with as I’ve already mentioned. Which does raise the question as to when does being a “friend of a friend” change to just being “a friend”… there are complex graphics and academic papers on this, I kid you not!

To be honest, I’ve not got many close friends either. I’ve got some who live a couple of hours away that I met at uni, and I’ve got one I met through work. I’d love to visit the long distance ones more often but being a few hours away makes it quite tricky especially when worrying about how B will cope. Even if B is in a good place and we could go, they’ve got three kids so syncing up them all being available at the same time as us being available at the same time and finding someone to check in on R is really quite difficult (One of them is allergic to dogs, so taking R isn’t a possibility). They managed to visit us at one point and make sure they brought some allergy relief! Although given R’s greetings full hazmat suits might have been more appropriate! The girls are also not keen on dogs… or at least they weren’t. They went from not wanting R in the same room as them, to wanting to be the one who was giving her the most strokes and cuddles in the few hours they were here. I also managed a visit with X to see them earlier in the year which was really nice. B wasn’t able to come at she wasn’t travelling by car at that point due to some of her thoughts making her unable to do so. This meant that although it was great for me to see them again, she didn’t get to see them so missed out on “Friend” stuff because of her brain.

We have eaten out with, and visited the home of some friends very near where we live. I went to school with one of them and coincidentally lived next door to the other when I was very small (The place with live is that kind of place). B enjoyed us all going out for something to eat which was a big deal in itself and was even able to see the school friend on her own a couple of times. This was actually great and we’ve love to carry on doing more but B then had her incident. It then became almost impossible for us to think about getting out and about or contacting people. A couple of years ago we could of said to people we could go to the cinema with them but B is finding is hard to concentrate on films at the moment so it’s hard to find “Things” we’d be able to actually do with people.

B friend sofa

It’s also very difficult for B to contact someone to say she wants to meet up in the first place. She ends up convincing herself that the other person wouldn’t want to see her, and that they’re better off with their other friends. It’s also hard because group events are almost impossible for her. This also means the idea of meeting new friends via existing friends doesn’t work all that well because anything other than 1-to-1 meet ups are a massive source of anxiety so would be avoided. It also then makes her feel bad for not being able to accept invitations to do things.

Some people have suggested that we’ll get to know people through X and dropping/picking him up from school. This is great in theory, except at the moment I still need to go in with B to pick up and drop off X. This means we are generally chatting which I imagine makes it harder for anyone to come over and say hello. We have had a couple of people who have introduced themselves via their children when we’ve been waiting to go in which has been really nice. We are hoping that this develops a bit more and we really can “use” X in order to get to know some different people. I’m also hoping that when B is ready to go and drop X off and pick him up on her own people will try and make conversation as she’ll be stood on her own.

Lego X School Dropoff

I would ask that if you currently have a friend who constantly cancels, or seems to pick and choose when they see you it might not be their fault. We don’t know what’s going on in other people lives so try and give people a bit more of a chance.

If you have got a friend who suffers from anxiety or depression or any other mental health condition please remember it is not in their control. If their brain decides to stop them being able to go, they likely feel even worse than you for not being able to. Please, please, please keep inviting them to things, the next time you invite them might be the day they can actually get enough control to go! But make sure they know that although you’d love them to go, you won’t think any less of them if they can’t.

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