This is an interaction I had with one of my close friends recently. I had made plans to go to a party at her house but when the time came, I just couldn’t make myself go. I was too anxious to face all those people and the question about where I’ve been lately. I’m usually quite social so when my anxiety rears up and I start retreating to my house, it raises eyebrows in my social circle.
I’ve learned that sometimes with my anxiety, I do need to step back from my social life for short periods. I need that time to regroup and heal before I face groups of people. I’ve also learned that the best way to take that step back is be clear and honest. When I’m having trouble with my mental illness, I strip away all pretense and niceties and just tell my friends and family how I’m feeling. It’s uncomfortable certainly, but the benefits outweigh the temporary discomfort of being blatant about my anxiety.
First, my social circle gets an uncomplicated view of how I’m doing. They know where I’m at and they can be understanding because I’ve been honest. If I’m constantly making excuses, I run the risk of looking like a flake. Plus, people get tired of friends who constantly cancel plans. At least if they understand my reason and the fact that I can’t help or control my mental illness, they can cut me some slack, (and pretty much everyone does.) I’m pretty good at hiding my anxiety so I can’t assume they know something is wrong unless I tell them.
Also, being this honest allows me to forgo making excuses or lying about where I’ve been lately. I’m not a good fibber, even with little white lies. When I’m anxious, I’m already very uncomfortable. I don’t need to add the discomfort of keeping track of the white lies I’ve told people. It’s easier on my brain to be honest.
Although uncomfortable, there is also something liberating about being honest about my anxiety. I like treating it as a chemical imbalance I’m working to fix, rather than some sort of failure that prevents me from living my best life. It makes my mood disorder more manageable. Plus, by being this honest I can worry less about how people will react. I’ve told them the truth and either they’ll understand or they won’t.
I won’t lie; it has made my friend group smaller because some people don’t want to maintain a relationship with some they view as ‘unstable,’ but the friends who stick it out with me are dearer to me than ever. As for my friend from the text message, she offered her support and we made plans to have tea the next day, just the two of us. I kept those plans and it made me really happy.