I’ve already discussed the way anxiety and depression creates a seemingly never ending cycle with poor physical health, and a messy house. This week I have to talk about something that is a HUGE one for me. That is the cycle between mental health and friendships.
I had originally planned on putting this one off, but a real life event happened recently that made me decide today is the day. What happened? I received a Facebook message from a neighbor who was striking up a friendly conversation about a picture I had posted to my page of my bearded dragon, Spryo. Yep, a friendly message almost sent me into a panic attack. Neighbor, if you’re reading this, thank you and I’m sorry for waiting so long to respond! My mind just goes a bit crazy sometimes.
Longing For Friendships, But Afraid to Pursue Them
I don’t know about you, but I want to have some friends. Movies, TV shows, and social media show friendships as being one of the most magical, crucial things in life. But I truly don’t have any, except for my family. The lack of friendship causes me to think I am not worthy of friends. I find myself thinking that no one wants to be around me or even that I’m a horrible person.
But, when people reach out to me, like my friendly neighbor recently, my anxiety takes hold and prevents me from pursing that friendship. I begin overthinking what their motives are. Do they want something from me? Are they going to make fun of me? At the same time, I am afraid I will make myself look stupid and they won’t want to reach out to me again.
So to make the long story short, the mental health and friendship cycle is that of this: You have a strong desire for friendship but your level of fear (of rejection, of disappointment, or of being perceived as awkward or strange) prevents you from pursuing it. It’s an extremely difficult situation to be in.
Is Friendship Important?
Sometimes, I find myself saying, “Who needs friends? You don’t need them anyways.” But I’m lying to myself. I do need friends. Maybe some people don’t, but I have found the majority truly do. Humans, in general, are designed to be social creatures. We need to be connected to others. We need to hear what they have to say, so we can learn from them. And we need to share our experiences and help others to grow as well. All of that being said, if you are truly happy without friends, that’s totally your right. But personally, my lack of friendships makes me more and more unhappy which means that I do need friends.
How To Break the Mental Health and Friendships Cycle
As I said before, this is a HUGE struggle for me so I am far from an expert. But that being said, I have been trying very hard to do better in regards to making new acquaintances in hopes that I may be able to form some new friendships. If you also are struggling with making or maintaining friendships, let me give you a few suggestions that I am also working on.
1. Get Out in Public
You can’t make friends if you never leave your house. You have to be around people to get to know people. So find a group of people that meet regularly and join them. This could be in the form of a church, a club, or even a group of moms who meet weekly for playdates at the park. But find people to be around.
2. Put Your Cell Phone Down
Cell phones are destroying friendships. A lot of people have forgotten how to talk to other human beings. Break that cycle by leaving your phone in the car or even at home when you go out in public. If you’re not staring at a little box in your hand, you seem more approachable.
3. Reach Back
When someone does reach out to you (as my neighbor did through her Facebook message) take that as a sign that they are trying to pursue a friendship with you. Don’t over analyze. Yes, they may have ulterior motives. But maybe they are just as afraid to reach out as you are. Don’t shut them down and make them feel rejected. Instead, reach back out to them, even if that’s just through a quick text back or a smile and a nod. But don’t ignore someone when they reach out to you. Hopefully you can push yourself a little farther and actively engage in a conversation.
4. Instigate A One-On-One Encounter
This is where I say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” This is a HUGE goal for me right now, but it’s not one I’m able to achieve yet. My inability to drive as well as my messy house brings up so much anxiety that I am not quite sure how to move forward with this step. So prior to reaching this step, I am trying desperately to fix the other two situations first.
That being said, this is the most important step. Friendships are hard to make in groups. It’s hard to push yourself into cliques that are already formed. Rather, the next step to making friends despite mental health would be to invite someone for an one-on-one meeting. This could be a play-date at a local park, a barbecue in your backyard, dinner, or even just a cup of coffee and some Krispy Kreme doughnuts. But this step is when I truly believe friendships will be formed.
Does mental health make it more difficult for you to form new friendships? Tell me about it in the comments below!
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