This has been a rocky couple of weeks for me. I’ve had a lot going on lately, so my self-care routine has kind of fallen by the wayside. The obvious result of this has been that I’ve been experiencing a super fun (not) cocktail of anxiety and depression. This is my first rough patch since moving in by myself (which I guess has only been three weeks), and it’s a whole different experience. I tend to withdraw when I’m depressed and/or anxious (like a lot of people), and that’s a whole lot easier to do when you live by yourself.
When I’m anxious, I ignore calls, texts, emails, and Facebook messages, not because I want to withdraw or isolate myself, but because the anxiety of responding — especially if I’ve been MIA for a few days — is too overwhelming. When I’m depressed, I’m already using what little energy I have to get out of bed, get dressed, and get through the work day before collapsing into bed again. When I’m anxious and depressed, I don’t have the energy to conquer the anxiety of responding, so then I go awhile without responding, which in turn makes me feel anxious because I feel like people are mad at me, and then I worry so much that I have even less energy to conquer it…well, you get the idea.
I know I’m not alone in this. So how do you maintain connections with your support system when all you really want to do is hide under a table until people leave you alone?
Send out a mass message. Whether it’s a Facebook post, a tweet, a group text, or anything else, just let people know what’s going on. You don’t need to go into detail, just let them know that you’re having a hard time and you’ll get back to them as soon as you can. Here’s what I posted on Facebook a couple of days ago:
This served two purposes: it let people know what was going on, which eased up on the guilt a little, and it encouraged people to reach out to me and tell me they loved me, which I desperately needed. I know some people might be resistant to this because it seems like a “cry for help,” but I’ve never really understood that negative knee jerk reaction to that. There’s nothing wrong with crying for help when you need help. In fact, I think it’s a great idea! Cry away.
Do a little extra self-care. First things first, if you’ve been slacking on your regular self-care routine, do your best to get back on track. Then you can try to squeeze in a few things from your “wants” and “extras.” I don’t know about you, but when I’m not doing well, the first thing to go is my self-care. Then I feel even worse, which makes it even harder to get back on track. It’s another one of those vicious cycles. If you can get back on track with your self-care, not only will it make you feel better because you’re taking care of yourself, but it will also remind you that you’re worth the time and effort required to take care of yourself.
Make plans. I know this is the absolute last thing you want to do, but it will help. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy. Pick your closest friend or family member, one you know won’t judge you if you haven’t showered or your house is a mess, and make some plans. Even if it’s just inviting them over to eat takeout on the couch with you, it will help. It’s always good to spend time with people who love you, and it will help break that endless cycle of negativity that your brain can get stuck in when you’re not doing well.
Be honest. Odds are good that if you have close friends or family who know you well, they’re going to notice when something’s wrong. When people ask me what’s wrong, I used to always respond the same way: a big fake smile and a cheery “Everything’s fine! I’m just tired.” You know who I was fooling? No one. Lying will only make you feel more isolated, and the people closest to you will probably know that you’re lying anyway. Again, you don’t have to get into the vivid details, but if someone asks you what’s going on, tell them. Just say “You know, I’m not doing well right now. Can you come over and hang out with me?” Look at that, you accomplished two things right there. Yay you!
Share your small victories. You don’t have to blast it all over social media, but if you just did something little that seemed huge, share it with someone who will understand. Here’s a text I sent to Anna last night:
I had somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 missed called and voicemails, so this was a BIG deal for me. Not to mention how stressful I find listening to voicemails. Anna knows all these things about me, so it felt super rewarding to share this little victory. Even if it’s something as small as taking a shower or putting on pants or not crying at work, share with someone who will get it! And if you don’t have anyone in your life who will get it, get some better friends, and then tweet @ftwtwblog and tell me about it! I promise to be super impressed by you.
Cut yourself some slack. It’s okay to not be doing well. It’s not your fault. Sometimes it seems like you’ll never be okay again and that everyone in your life is going to abandon you because you suck at getting back to them, but they won’t. Everything will be okay, I promise.
If you feel like you can’t talk to the people in your life, you’re more than welcome to reach out to me via e-mail at email@example.com, on Twitter and Instagram at @ftwtwblog, or post in the Facebook group. I’m a really good listener. If things are really scary and you need to talk to someone ASAP, please please PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.
Stay safe and keep your head up. People love you, and it’s all going to be okay!
**NOTE: I’m going to start posting more regularly, instead of throwing a post up whenever the spirit moves me. Now you can look for new posts every Friday! Woohoo!**
8 thoughts on “Maintaining Relationships When You’re Not Doing Well”
As always, a great post. And sometimes not even those who love you most realize you’re hurting. Was so glad you shared on FB.
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Thanks daddy. I’m working on being a little more honest about it. You guys are the best!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. . . I’m so impressed with you and with this blog. It’s not easy to open yourself up like this. You do it earnestly and with compassion and, while I know it helps you, it is also helping so many others who think they are alone. I’m very proud to have you as a friend.
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Thank you so much, Debbie. The feeling is definitely mutual.
Another great post. I struggle with this one too. I’ve actually told friends (inner circle only), after a certain point, if I’m still not responding, physically come to my house and knock on the door. But you have to set up those relationships when you’re well, and maintain them consistently enough that they’re there when you’re not. #learnedfromexperience #differentforeachofus
Absolutely! That’s such a great idea if you’re lucky enough to have people like that in your life.
Thanks for this post. I found you through Pinterest. You offered some very good suggestions. I can definitely relate to everything you said. I don’t know if I have the courage to post something similar on facebook. I may just create a new group of family and friends that I know will understand. It is so easy to fall into the isolation. I go NAMI meetings to remind me I am not alone.
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Thanks for sharing, Josie! I love the idea of creating a family and friends group to keep everyone in the loop without having to share with all of Facebook. Keep fighting the good fight — you definitely aren’t alone!