My experience has taught me that no one wants to hear me talk about it, not even a little. If I do mention something, it is usually abruptly blown off. It’s like you brought up an uncomfortable religious or political subject in an inappropriate place, like a dinner party, or a girl scout meeting. It sucks when you need to talk about whatever issues you’re having with your friend(s), and you can tell they really don’t want to go there. I wonder if that’s one of the reasons why blogging is so popular for people like us, because we can talk to people that actually listen, and we can relate to each other. These anonymous friends make us feel heard and validated, and they often offer valuable advice.
I’ve thought a great deal about the reasons friends don’t like talking about mental illness directly one on one. Of course, there’s a million reasons, but a few things stand out.
1. They don’t want to acknowledge that you have a legitimate illness. If you do mention your depression or manic symptoms, they immediately shut you down with, “That happens to me all the time.”
2. They think you could do more to control how your illness affects your life. “You need to just get out of the house and go walking or something! You just need some sunshine! You just have to make yourself!”
3. Many friends simply don’t understand to what degree mental illness effects your life. They can be ignorant of the wide range of symptoms and struggles we face on a daily basis.
4. Maybe your friend is a little bit afraid of the fact that you have a mental disorder, and their way of dealing with it is to not talk about it. They could be scared that something will happen to you, and it’s beyond their control.
5. Friends can be self-absorbed sometimes, as can we. They might not be picking up on the cues that you need to talk.
6. Some people think that others use illness as a tool for attention. Maybe you’re just talking about your bipolar disorder because you want attention.
If anyone has any other reasons why it’s hard for friends to talk to us about our mental illnesses, I’d love to hear them! It sure can hurt a gal’s feelings though.