Despite having a major mental illness most of my life, I’m not your typical mentally ill person who might be socially awkward. I don’t present as mentally ill. I’m also an introvert, which people who do not know we we’ll find hard to believe. I am pretty socially adept, and don’t have any issues standing to the side, just watching. In typically introvert fashion, however, a day of active socializing usually requires another day of total alone time.
Yesterday, I spent most of my day in social situations. Birthday parties, school festivals, and ladies game night meant being “on” for twelve straight hours.
But it was okay. Because my friends are an amazing group of women I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know and love. Most are moms, who I learn so much from. Most are a bit older than me, and I consider them not just friends, but wise confidants and people who I trust to give good advice. They also give practical help — picking up a kid when I can’t, hosting play dates.
They know about my illness and they love me anyway. They give me the the kind of understanding that true friends give — the illness is never the lens through which they see me, but they also know to ask me how I’m doing and how I’m feeling and how they can help. When I mess up or do something unkind or when I’m in an episode, they comfort me and forgive me. It helps, I think, that as my illness has gotten more under control, I mess up less. But I do believe their love is enduring.
Everyone needs that, but folks who are suffering from these invisible conditions need it more. We need to know we are not just our illness, and that people see us and not a disease. We need to know that even when we feel like crap, we can still go and be around our friends just because we need to get out of the house, even when we look a mess and might even smell a bit. We need to know that we don’t have to pretend that we’re feeling good. We need to be allowed to simply be. And with people who choose to be our friends, unlike family. We need to feel chosen.
I don’t know where I’d be without my friends. I wish we would think more often to take some selfies together, cause I’d love for y’all to see the beautiful women in my life. Instead I leave you with this:
(One of these days I’ll tell you about my love for music and how it’s so often helped to heal my soul.)