It’s just not something I’m comfortable with.
This article was originally published with The Odyssey on June 27, 2017.
When I am having a major depressive episode, anxious meltdown, or drowning in my mental illness, don’t expect me to come to you. When I have a breakdown, I feel as if the entire world is resting on my shoulders, but my shoulders are weak and could give out any minute. I feel as if I am paralyzed; I cannot stand up. I cannot stop crying. I am frozen. I won’t ever reach out to you when I’m feeling like this. It’s not personal. it’s not a cry for help. I just can’t function like that. Let me help you understand.
It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been friends. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve come to me with your problems. It definitely doesn’t matter if we’re in the same proximity. When I am breaking down, I will not reach out to you for help because I don’t think I need help. My first instinct is to doubt myself – I automatically think that my trigger was self-inflicted, or I was being too sensitive. My second instinct is to hide my feelings. I shouldn’t bother anyone else with my problems. People have problems of their own, and I’m freaking out over nothing. My third instinct is to push it down, far away and act like it never happened. I should be stronger than this.
When I don’t come to you, don’t take it as an insult. Don’t think that I’m avoiding you, or that I’ve been speaking to someone else over you. Don’t be upset with me because I wasn’t able to express myself. I’ve never been very good at expressing my feelings. It’s hard to explain why I was fine a second ago, and now I can’t stop shaking. It’s even more difficult to let myself be so vulnerable. When my mental illness strikes, I’m as raw as it can be. There are no shields, gates or guards up; I am completely naked and surrounded by darkness. It’s terrifying.
I’ve tried coping mechanisms, but personally, I’ve found that riding it out is the best way for me to handle a breakdown. When I open up to others while breaking down, I feel it is often harder to calm down because I feel like I have to prove or explain myself. I don’t always know the reasons for why I become upset. I rarely have the answers.
When I’m breaking down, don’t expect me to reach out to you. Don’t expect me to come to you when I’m letting my anxiety and depression get the best of me for an unexpected amount of time. Don’t ask me to talk to you while I’m crying, don’t ask me why I’m shaking, and don’t ask others what is ‘wrong’ with me.
I know that people aren’t so great at handling grief, depression, or mental illness in general. It can be hard to reach someone, especially when they have a mindset like mine. It can be even harder to know what to say and what not to say. A trigger could disguise itself as a compliment; you never know what weapons you’re expelling when you speak. It’s a difficult situation. I choose not to back others into the corner that is mental breakdowns because I don’t want anything to become worse. When I’m at my lowest and most vulnerable, I can’t chance anything going wrong. I don’t have it in me to handle mistakes when I’m down like that. When I’m down, I’m not feeling very strong at all.
What I will do is come to you after a breakdown. I’ll text you, call you, or return to our hang out after I’ve cried my eyes out and calmed myself down. I might tell you about it if I’m feeling a bit stronger, or I may wait until I’ve got my feet planted firmly. I’ll talk to you about why it happened, and maybe we can discuss ways to maybe soften the blow the next time.
I will reach out to you when I feel I am strong enough to. Please understand that you have done nothing wrong. I will reach for your hand when I feel safe inside myself enough to do so. Let me return to my strength before we can be strong together.