Poor health can shine a really harsh spotlight on relationships, and if you’re like me, you may not always like what you see.
Friendships are the tricky ones. For romantic partners, an illness is make or break time – your relationship will either get stronger or you’ll part ways. Family…well let’s face it, they have to put up with you, whether they want to or not. There’s nothing like sickness to make you appreciate your family. Friendships are more complicated – being in need certainly highlights who the good ones are, but with some people you may notice everything goes, sort of, quiet. It’s not like they’ve specifically done anything wrong, but they just become somewhat absent.
If your spouse took a step back when you were going through a tough time, you’d be forced to confront the issue and ask yourself some difficult questions about your relationship. With friendships you don’t always have the same element of responsibility towards each other, or as tightly entwined an emotional bond, so you can simply end up in a bit of a grey area when they temporarily disappear from your life, with a question mark hanging over your relationship.
Is doing nothing actually any better than doing something unhelpful? When you’re unwell and struggling in life, and your mates are aware of this, the silence you hear when they’re not checking in to see if you’re alright, is painfully magnified. I’ve had a few un-returned phone calls and texts lately and I suspect the emotional sting I’ve felt wouldn’t have been nearly as painful had I been on sturdier ground. Reaching out when you’re vulnerable is by no means easy – when the person you’re trying to connect with doesn’t offer a helping hand it just ends up compounding the pain and loneliness you might already have been feeling.
Is it the worst thing to be forced to recognise which friendships won’t stand the test of time? Should you really be investing your time in anyone who won’t be around when things become difficult? I wish I knew who penned the well-known quote ‘In life we never lose friends, we only learn who the true one are’. He or she sounds pretty darn wise.
I don’t think it ever stops hurting when people disappoint you – and unfortunately people are likely to let you down at various points throughout life, whether they mean to or not. The only thing you really need to ask yourself is whether a friendship is really one worth fighting for, or is it time to let go – without bitterness or anger – and move on.
One strange by-product of living with depression I’ve discovered is a new-found ability to let things go. I hate goodbyes. I can’t stand the thought of anything that used to be part of my life fading away into nothing. I literally have emotional problems switching mobile phone providers. Yet mental illness illuminated all that is transient, unfortunate and at times tragic in the world and gave me an acute awareness of mortality – in a funny way this seems to make it easier to accept sadness in my own life.
Suffering is part of being. People aren’t always what you need them to be. As I’ve meandered through depression it hasn’t just felt like I’ve lost part of myself, but that some of the people that once defined this previous self have faded into the background too.
When the shape of your very reality has irrevocably changed it’s always best to face the future surrounded by people you love, trust and can rely on no matter what. It’s just surprising how much it hurts when you realise that some of the very souls you pictured yourself growing old with won’t be a part of this group.