Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.- Mark Twain
While fruitful friendships and relationships are incredibly important in living long, nourished and fulfilled lives, some of us find the process of meeting people and sustaining friendships rather more difficult than others. For today’s post, I wanted to provide an insight into my experiences and share a number of things I’ve learned along the way. Let’s just say not everything has been plain sailing!
During my primary school years, I have many pleasant memories of playing sports, going over to friends’ houses for tea, enjoying lessons at school and generally just being quite confident. Very little seemed to faze me and I would go into almost everything with a smile across my face having a laugh. I was having fun. I was happy. I or the people around me probably would’ve never anticipated how things would change in the future.
As I progressed into high school, entering a completely alien environment, that’s where my issues started to develop. Having found the transition from a small primary school to a much bigger secondary extremely challenging, I began to feel regularly anxious. Walking into the dining hall, past groups of people or even speaking in lessons were very daunting and all I wanted to do was isolate myself. Taking myself away from people and spending lots of time in the library and IT suites felt like the only way of protecting myself from danger. Looking back I know it wasn’t healthy but I had no idea that these feelings were abnormal at the time.
I’d got some friends from primary that attended the same high school but they were more accustomed to forming new friendships. Despite hanging around with them and their new friends for the majority of the 5 years, I always felt like the odd one out. Like I was very different and didn’t fit in. This then unrecognised mental illness had a massive part to play in that.
Particularly as we progressed into years 10 and 11 and activities such as going to parties, drinking alcohol etc. became more popular, it made things so much harder. I wasn’t like most people my age. I simply didn’t feel comfortable in those sort of surroundings but I could never muster the courage to tell friends how I truly felt. Countless excuses were made. Almost all of my time was spent alone and naturally over time I began to drift from people. When high school finally ended in June 2016, I felt a massive relief that it was over. A new chapter awaited me!
Unfortunately, following on into sixth form my problems escalated. A large environment turned into an enormous one, the pressures I felt were growing and I identified (pretty much) from the start that I couldn’t remain there. Once again I very much struggled to make friends and after just three months at college, I departed. People that I thought cared didn’t give the support I expected and made little effort. It was incredibly tough but I had to cut those people off. With time and space to think, I realised that I deserved better. I deserved people that would listen. And people who would be there for me- no matter what!
Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.- Woodrow T. Wilson
Particularly since starting campaigning in the field of mental health, I’ve been fortunate enough to so many brilliant, like-minded people and formed some great friendships along the way.
Rather than the usual judgments, stigma and stereotypes, people have gotten to know me as an individual, understanding that what I’ve gone through doesn’t define me, nor does it make me a bad person. They’ve treated me as that they would anybody else- allowing some wonderful connections to blossom. Never in my life before had I had genuine friendships, therefore having that now feels immensely satisfying.
When your self-worth is low and you enter some dark places, it’s very easy to settle for less than you deserve. Have people in your life who take advantage- people who you believe are friends but aren’t really. What I would advise is only accept people who enrich or make your world happier, not people who bring you down and jeopardise your wellbeing. Life’s too short!
Finally, to Alice, Katy, Heidi, Rebecca and the many others I don’t have time to mention, I want to say thank you. Without you all, I wouldn’t be where I am today and I’m extremely grateful to have you in my life. I couldn’t ask for better mates!
Thanks for reading,
7 thoughts on “Life as an Introvert: Making Friends With A Mental Illness”
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