To my friends,
I’ve been distancing myself from you all, and from ordinary life. I wanted to take the opportunity to explain and apologise for this. I think all of you are aware of my mental illness. I’ve always had this illness, so it’s nothing new. But having said that it has not been this bad since long before you knew me. This has been a steady, slow-building problem, but predominantly worsened by the events of last year. The combination of family troubles, my first loss and my struggles at therapy have dragged me down lower than I can remember. Ever since I had my breakdown during the therapy group in week three, my life has changed. I am under the control of self-harm again, and although I had been harming before that happened, I had control over it, not the other way around.
My depression has worsened. This has changed me into a person I no longer recognise. I feel ashamed. I feel hopeless. My self-esteem is under 6 feet of earthworms. The depression I feel has triggered off the worst parts of my BPD. It has convinced me that you all hate me, you’re sick of my negativity, you’re all going to leave me (stop talking to me), that I’m an awful friend, an awful person, and nobody cares. This in turn made me defensive. This made me push you away, to force what I saw as a done deal.
I tried reaching out in the earlier stages of this, but I went unnoticed. I took this as proof that nobody cared, and that I’m as irrelevant and worthless as I feel. Before I pulled away from everyone I went through the first anniversary of the loss of my granddad. I posted about this a few times, and I’ll admit I am upset that none of you commented, messaged me or anything, to show support. I guess having not personally gone through this experience before, I expected that’s what people do, as I’d seen them do with other people. Perhaps I’m wrong. That’s what upset me though. It felt like nobody had my back, which triggered a whole wave of memories for me. It also felt like nobody saw the value of my granddad. I now realise it doesn’t matter, because I know his value, and my family do. It just would have been nice to feel supported at that difficult time – the first I’d experienced.
It made me ‘split’ on you all. It made me think you were ‘bad friends’. And I’m sorry for that. I haven’t reconciled it with the truth yet, as I’ve still not spoken to any of you. But you’re not bad friends. This was just unfortunate. People get busy, and have their own issues. I know I’m not that important in life. And to some I’m probably viewed as ‘an acquaintance’ more than I am ‘a friend’. So I’m expecting more from people than is reasonable, based on that fact.
I didn’t come off of Facebook to make people care, or get attention. I did it, because being on there, feeling invisible and still resentful that nobody supported me, and seeing everyone chatting to each other while I felt ignored, was making me feel worthless. It was like a dull stab in the heart every time I logged in. So I had to protect myself from that feeling. I found refuge on Twitter and on my blog, because my voice felt more heard there. I didn’t feel as irrelevant as I felt on Facebook. My blog became my outlet for my emotions, as I tried to not be taken over by self-harm. It’s saved me on several occasions… but in the process I fear it may have damaged relationships with some of you. This has made me scared to come back, and to talk to you again. As I’m in a paranoid and guilty state, I detect things like a change in ‘tone’, or I notice things that aren’t said. I make assumptions that you’re upset with me. Or that you’re despairing of me. And it makes me shut down, as I don’t know what to say in response. I don’t know what to say to you. I’m not ignoring you because I’m mad with you. I’m not ignoring you to upset you. I’m ignoring you because I can’t see a way out of this mess I’ve created in my head. I haven’t found the right opening yet, to free me from this mental prison. I need reassurance, care and warmth – but I feel undeserving of it at the same time, for the way I’ve been these past weeks.
I came off to protect myself, and avoid negative emotions. But there hasn’t been a lack of negative emotions… because unfortunately nobody seemed to notice or care that I’d gone. Nobody checked in to see if I was okay. I understand by coming off Facebook I made that harder, but there were other ways to get in touch. And the resounding silence was shocking. One person asked if I was okay on my old Facebook account. That meant a lot. And another I’ve also had contact with on Twitter. So thank you to those people for noticing my pain when nobody else did. Anything else feels too little too late. I know my motto should be ‘better late than never’, but it’s hard to know how to respond to anyone once you reach that point of no-return. For anyone interested, I’ve not spoken to anybody about what’s wrong. Even those who did reach out to me – I was unable to put it into words. I’ve been in shutdown mode. Like I said, the only outlet I’ve had has been the occasional tweet, and my blog. It’s been the only way to organise my thoughts and state them. I don’t talk to my family about any of this. So I have had to cope with a heavy burden totally alone. I’m not asking for sympathy here, I’m just saying it’s hard to know the right thing to do when you have no sounding board. When you have nobody to validate your feelings and challenge your beliefs, it’s hard to know what to do, how to cope and what to say. So I don’t always make the best choices when left alone in my head for so long.
I know that I overvalue people. I give them more importance than they give me. It’s wrong of me to assume I mean as much to you as you mean to me. At this point I wouldn’t blame you for having the thought ‘I mean something to you?? Doesn’t feel that way!’… I agree. I’ve been a rubbish friend lately. And here’s the honest bit – I’m probably going to continue to be a rubbish friend for quite a while yet. I don’t enjoy it. I promise you I beat myself up for it constantly. But I’m not coping very well.
It’s been so long since I’ve been this unwell mentally (the physical illness isn’t helping much at the moment either!)… I’ve forgotten how to cope with life when feeling this bad. I’ve forgotten how to pull myself out of such a bleak depressed state. The last time I did this I think I had professional support, and I had my support network – my group of friends. So I’m struggling to do this alone. In fact that’s a lie. I’m not struggling. Struggling would imply effort to do something. I have given up. I know that on my own I can’t beat this. So after pulling away from everyone, I’ve given up on life. I now just sit in the deep black hole I fell into. I just sit there twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the end. I’ve given up fighting.
I know that you must feel frustrated with me. You must feel helpless. You must have no clue how to help me. Just know that I feel the same. I’m so utterly frustrated with myself. I don’t know how anyone can help me. I’m not actually asking for you to fix this. I’m asking you to tolerate me at the very least. I’m asking you to, if you can – love me, care about me, and stick by me, giving me the support, validation and reassurance I need, to make me feel safe and secure, and like there’s some hope left for me. I have people on Twitter and on my blog who tell me I’m not a lost cause… they validate my feelings…. they are consistently there, noticing my existence, comforting me with kind words. This has been invaluable to me in the last few weeks. But I need this from my friends. I need this from you. Please. I know I’m unbearable at the moment. I’ve given up on myself. What I need is for you to not give up on me too. I need reminding of what I mean to you, and why. I need reminding of who I am. I need reminding of what matters. I’m not fishing for compliments. I’m not digging around for attention, or trying to inflate my ego. I’m asking for help to feel better about myself and about life. I’m having to ask for this, because it’s lacking in my life. I’m not someone constantly in need of praise. I’m not egotistical and lapping up admiration. I’m feeling neglected, and I’m asking for that to change. It’s not meant as a criticism. It’s just me trying a more constructive way of asking for what I need. If that makes me too demanding then so be it, but at least I tried.
I am sorry that even if a month ago you said something nice to me, and made me feel like I had a friend, sometimes life happens, my depression gets worse, my doubts creep in, my low self-esteem strikes and I forget what you said. I forget you care. I forget that you are a good friend. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good friend. It simply means I have a mental illness and it plays tricks on my mind. But the best thing to do when you can see this happening, is stop it from escalating to the point of no-return. Remind me of what you said to me. Remind me of your friendship. Remind me that you care. To me this is bog-standard thinking. If I saw my friend spiralling out of control, hating herself, feeling she had no friends, feeling suicidal, and thinking nobody would care if she disappeared for good…. I can’t imagine sitting back and hating her. I can’t imagine staying silent and confirming her belief that I don’t care. I can’t imagine denying her the reassurance, validation and caring that she needs. That is neglect. That is what many people with BPD experienced as a child. They didn’t have their emotional needs met. I’m not talking about my upbringing here, because that was not the case for me. But denying someone the emotional care they require is abuse at the worst, and neglect at the very least. I may not have been denied what I’ve needed. It could be people didn’t know what I needed. It could be I have offended you, and therefore my punishment is to not have those needs met, as I don’t deserve it. I accept this. But with my depression and my paranoia towards everyone right now, I feel I have been deliberately denied support… warmth… compassion. And that puts me on edge when people do eventually talk to me. I don’t believe they really wish the best for me. I don’t believe they actually want to talk to me.
I just wanted to explain the process that goes on in my head at times like this. It’s a vicious circle, and if I did what I learnt in therapy, I would try to break that circle, but like I said, with nobody to help me it’s been difficult. I guess this is me trying to break the circle by approaching it differently. Ideally I’d speak directly to people, but I’m not ready for that. I need to give you all the chance to understand me better first. So that you know where I’m coming from.
I’ll understand if you’re all done with me now. I would be too. I know I’m toxic right now. I know I’m draining. I know I’m a burden and don’t have a lot to offer you just now. I can’t promise when I’m going to be back to my old self. I’ve not felt this awful for at least ten years, I don’t know the way out. It feels an impossible climb right now. I don’t see an end to it.
I’m not good at replying. I’m not good at socialising at the moment. I won’t reach out and ask you if you want to meet up, because I’ve done that with people over the past year or two, and it never happened – it was empty words of ‘we should catch up’, without substance, so eventually I stopped asking. So if you want to see me, then I need you to ask me. I might not be able to meet, but I still want to feel included. This is important to me, because of what I experienced as a child at school. I was socially excluded and isolated, and this damaged me more than words can explain. It’s probably the reason I am how I am now. It’s that thing whereby someone wants to be alone, but they don’t want to feel lonely. And they want to stay at home, but still want to be invited. If I turn down meeting up, it’s either because I’m busy, or more likely because I’m scared. I have no confidence at the moment. I don’t like going out and being around people. If you can help with this fear then great – if you can meet me off the bus, or we can go somewhere quiet, or anything else you can think of that might help, I’d really appreciate it. Going outside the house is a huge deal at the moment. It’s been years since I’ve been such a hermit, and ‘socialising’ terrifies me right now. I want to feel safe and protected. Sorry if that makes me sound pathetic at my age. I’ve taken huge steps back in my recovery, and my anxiety is getting worse now too. I don’t do social gatherings that involve eating food, as I have social anxiety which makes me feel uncomfortable eating in front of other people, unless I know them well and feel comfortable. Drinks are okay. I have to use public transport, and doing so on my own at night fills me with dread, as it’s been so long since I’ve done that – besides, the public transport here at night is non-existent. Group meet-ups are overwhelming for me at the moment. But one-on-one meetings would be nice. Same with discussions – group ones overwhelm me. Private ones are welcome.
It might seem like a rollercoaster with me – one day I’m chatting and laughing with you, a couple of days later I’m talking about not having any friends. This is most likely a series of events that happened inside my mind. And depression has a way of lying to you. A few days ago I felt angry that I had to explain this concept to you – I’m ill, why should I have to tell you that my illness tricks me into thinking things that aren’t true?? You should read up about these things, and KNOW it. If I wasn’t so self-aware people would understand it more! Why do I have to explain myself when I’m too ill to give a crap?! – But in the process of writing this letter, I realise that if you don’t understand mental illness and depression, then you’re seriously not going to understand that it’s like having a bully by your side 24/7. I don’t hear ‘voices’, but I do have a voice inside of me, that masquerades as my friend but is my enemy. It’s a part of me that’s intent on self-destruction and self-sabotage. If you don’t have that part, you’re lucky, but you’ll also never understand someone like me. It’s constantly there, telling me nobody cares, I’m worthless, I mess everything up, I deserve to be as alone as I feel, I’ll never be loved, I’ll never succeed, people would be happy if I killed myself. This isn’t a separate being telling me these things. This is me. It’s the ill part of me. And when I’m not so ill it’s easier to challenge these thoughts, and feel happier feelings to balance it out. But when I’m as ill as I am now, those thoughts are facts. And those are the times I NEED my friends…. to make me see they’re not facts, and to counter those beliefs with the truth, in the form of care and appreciation.
What has happened here is that voice in me has won. And by having nobody fight against it, and you all leaving me in silence, it’s given power to that voice. It’s made me believe what it says must be true, as ‘where are all my friends??’ It honestly made me believe you’d all be happier if I was dead. And if that’s not true for instance, then I need you to tell me that. I need you to tell me how you’d feel if I WAS dead. I need you to tell me what I bring to your life that you’d lose if I wasn’t here anymore. The things you appreciate about me. I don’t want to have to ask for this. I shouldn’t have to ask for it. And I believe I’m not worth the effort it takes to say nice things to me. But if you’re my friend and you care about me, I need you to prove me wrong. Prove I’m worth the effort. Prove I’m not a lost cause. Prove I matter. Because at this moment in time I’ve never felt more hopeless or worthless.
I might not be very giving at this time. But once upon a time I was. I used to put in so much effort to friendships. I was always a very giving person, until a time came where I realised my friendships weren’t balanced. People took me for granted, and since then I started holding back more. And then of course I was hit by this wave of mental illness, and now I feel incapable of giving, as I’m running on empty. I hope in time I will be able to give back, but I hope you will be patient with me and be willing to accept whatever I have to offer for now, even if it’s only my company. I realise I’ve become selfish. Part of that is feeling like nobody cares about me, so I have to care about me – but the thing is even then I still have that half of me (more than half actually), that doesn’t care about me either.
I’m insecure nowadays. People backstabbing me, letting me down, standing me up, playing with my feelings, abandoning me, crushing my heart and overall being arseholes, has led to me being uncertain of people’s intentions. I don’t trust. But if I appear to have any trust at all in you you’re lucky. My paranoia is a troublemaker for me at the moment. It causes conflict in relationships, because it makes assumptions about what you’re thinking – what you think of me, what you’re saying about me. I hate it. And it’s not something that’s really featured in my past with mental illness. It’s relatively new. So it’s hard to know how to cope with it. Keeping away from people tends to be the best way. But even then my mind doesn’t shut down. It continues overthinking things.
The bottom line is – if you notice I’ve disappeared, or I sound like something’s really up, then please say something to me. Don’t ignore me. Don’t leave me to stew in my own thoughts. Don’t leave me alone in my head for too long…. if left alone too long I will end up in a place I can’t escape from. Like right now. This could have been stopped if one person said enough, early enough. The turning point was nobody saying anything on the anniversary of my granddad’s passing…. or for a further week after that. That’s when I decided nobody cared. There were warning signs, and I wish someone could have noticed them and said something before it became too late. I only hope it’s not too late to salvage friendships now.
I’ve never felt so alone, and I hope to never experience this level of isolation again. Although I felt abandoned at a time I needed my friends, and I was hurt, a lot of this has been in my head. So ‘my fault’. But that’s mental illness for you. That’s why I’m opening up in this way and explaining to you all that this will happen sometimes, and saying what I need from you if it does happen. I can’t blame you for not knowing what’s going on in my head. I can’t be mad at you for not being mind-readers, even if I did suggest I wasn’t okay, you wouldn’t know the full extent of the chaos in my head. I can’t blame you for not understanding a mental illness you likely don’t have. Although I wish people would just learn about these things and I didn’t have to explain it, ultimately if I want the support then I have to make my friends understand what support I need and why. I’ve not been good at communicating my needs, and I hope this is at least a small improvement.
I apologise for the ways I’ve handled things in this difficult time. I was upset, and unable to express that in the right way. I couldn’t reach out directly to any of you, as there’s a block there. I struggle with conversation right now. My paranoia tells me I’m an outsider, a nobody, an unwelcome freak. It’s hard to fight those thoughts. My inner voice stops me talking to you all. And I find communication quite stressful so I just avoid it if possible. But I do care about you. Life has just become too much to bear. I’m sorry that my inability to cope with life may impact on you and on our friendship. I was doing the best I could. But believe me, I know it’s not enough. If you can forgive me and give me another chance, I will try harder, but I will need your help. In order to preserve our friendship you may need to learn more about my mental illness, to understand that I’m not trying to be ‘difficult’, I’m finding life difficult, and hopefully a good chat will explain what you can do to help me in the future.
If this helps make sense of what’s happened, and you’re prepared to help me going forward, you know where I am, and what I need. If there’s too much water under the bridge, then so be it. Mental illness is an endless, tiring, draining experience – for those who suffer with it, and those who support them. Nobody chooses to have a mental illness. But you can choose whether to support me or not. And there’s nothing to say you have to. It’s not easy. But I will always remember the ones who did. The ones who never gave up on me. The ones determined to help me see the sunshine again.