This week is Mental Health Awareness Week which is a campaign set up by the Mental Health Foundation. This year the theme is relationships, so we're going to be posting comics we feel are helpful on our Social Media and will also be discussing and sharing our experiences with mental health and relationships.
Lize is the illustrator at Sad Ghost (amongst many, many other things). Here's her experiences around mental health, well-being and friendships.
Since I was young I've never really had a hard time making friends. When I was growing up my wonderful Grandma always signed me up for courses and activities over the holidays which, with hindsight, I think really helped. Arriving at these events I was thrown in at the deep end and had to make conversation with other children. I think this was really beneficial for me in terms of creating new friendships. The thing I've had trouble with, however, has been knowing how to maintain, and end, those friendships.I find it really easy to spend time with people and be their friend when I'm with them, but as soon as I leave they're just gone from my brain. This is obviously pretty tricky when you're a hermit who prefers staying inside than going out.
Growing up I found it really hard saying "no" to the people I called my friends, I felt I had to do everything they asked for fear of being a 'bad friend'. I was so focused on working hard and working all the time that I had to say no to a lot of events and I always felt guilty about it. I thought the entire fault was with me. This just meant that I was missing a lot of events, feeling guilty about it, and then avoiding the friends I thought I'd let down. This turned into a vicious cycle which resulting in me constantly feeling as though I had something to prove to friends that I had let down.
This mind frame can lead to being walked over and there are a lot of negative situations I found myself in that wouldn't have happened had I just been able to say "no". It took me a long time to learn I could say no to my friends. Making new friends, ones who were understanding, really highlighted how toxic some of my past relationships had become and how they had affected me. I had begun to view my own self-worth in the same way that other people did, and because all my friends thought I was a flake who didn't care about them, my view of myself became pretty negative.
Looking back I wish I had been more frank and told them how I was feeling instead of making up excuses. As I am getting older I have no qualms telling people that I don't want to socialise because I'm working, or because I feel like I can't leave my room. As I began to be able to do this I felt pretty lonely, working all the time and never seeing anyone. As much as I felt like that was what I wanted, I still missed being invited to stuff, and going when I felt I was able. As time went on though I found solace in like-minded friends who understood and had their own things going on. I slowly cut out the people who only ever made me feel negative and invested my energy in the people who built me up and respected my decisions, especially regarding work. It's hard feeling like you're missing out, and I spent a lot of time torn between working or socialising, especially a few years ago when my job wasn't really what I wanted it to be. I felt like I'd made all this sacrifice for nothing. That was a pretty low point for me. But I persevered and my job actually did turn into what I wanted, and for that I am so thankful and very lucky, and I do not regret one decision I made. Letting go of the friendships that only ever made me feel bad has completely improved my mind-set and I no longer feel an overhanging guilt for not being as good as other people expected me to be.
If you want to share your story or explore more around relationships and mental health, search #MHAW16