Making Friends When You Have Mental Illness

I have a hard time making friends.

To my credit though and to the credit of my chronic mental illness, it’s hard to trust anyone that much when you think everyone is making fun of you.

This anxiety isn’t the only facet of schizophrenia that I live with, there are also the delusions of grandeur, the psychosis that the TV is sending you secret messages and the constant aching knowledge that you’re crazy. At it’s worst, it’s hard to even manage getting out of bed in the morning but with meds and a lot of work on myself those things don’t bother me that much anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re all still there but I don’t pay much attention to them anymore.

Schizophrenia is the devil on your shoulder that keeps whispering in your ear and no matter what you try, the little fucker won’t stop. He hasn’t stopped in the almost nine years I’ve lived with the illness and he’s not about to stop now. He’s just quieted down a bit. I’d call him my companion but that would imply a degree of friendship and there’s no way in hell I’m the little devil’s friend.

My point here is that with him sitting on my shoulder, and saying the things he does, getting to know people to the degree of calling them a friend takes a lot of work.

Getting to the point of being vulnerable with people and letting them into my world is like climbing a vertical rock wall with no ropes, it takes a degree of thrill-seeking, it takes guts and it takes a good deal of risk. If someone wants to be my friend, they have to accept that I’m crazy and getting to the point of even telling them that is a chore when all you hear is the devil’s whispering that they’re making fun of you or making snap judgments about you or will be going back to their real friends and laughing about you.

In essence, there has to be a good deal of trust on my part to get to anything resembling a friendship. You learn this when you have a good deal of paranoia.

There are those who I do trust though, those who have made it into the inner circle simply by always being there or by always listening or by proving themselves time and time again to me when things have gotten hairy.

These people I can most assuredly count on two hands but that’s ok. Though these people are mostly family there are a few that despite our not being related, have basically become my brothers and sisters. They stick by through thick and thin and I’d be nothing without their ever-constant ear or their, sometimes, dark humor that can bring a smile to my face when I want nothing else but to curl up in bed.

I have plenty of acquaintances, I have a couple hundred “friends” on Facebook, but real friends are one in a billion.

I’m happy for those few out of the thousands of people I’ve met though, because without them there’s a good chance I’d still be out in the streets thinking I was a prophet and saying strange things about aliens and the coming apocalypse.

Making these good friends has been a process, an amalgam of proximity, lack of judgment, years of listening and smiles that never faded. Even now I’m not quite sure how I managed to keep them around but I’m glad I did. I guess it’s a process.

These people listen to me ramble, they give me the advice that I need to hear and they weather the storms with me and for that I’m grateful.

You only really need one or two good friends anyway.

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Comments

  1. You are rite. You only need a few good friends anyway. Friends are great, but friends can be “over-rated”. Have u noticed they can complicate things? Same with a gf. Isolation is bad, oversocializing is stressful.Finding the “balance” is fab. I am sure we all know this, but just wanted to say it…. Thank you for the great article, Mike. Any tips for making new friends? Tips for dealing with them? Maybe this obvious, but not to all of us.

  2. You could try meetup.com, see if there are any groups in your area. It’s helped me find people where before I could not.

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