Bad times really show you who your true friends are. They show you which of your friends are willing to stand up for you when you need them most. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true in that the true nature of some ‘friends’ becomes clear. Having a bad period of mental health is a good – well, no it’s horrible – way to find out who your true friends are.
This turned out to be very true for me.
I thought I would share a story of something that happened a few months ago to demonstrate this. Not only did this incident show me just how good of a friend I had in someone, but it also made me think: if this friend could help me, then the excuses given by others were really nothing else but poor. Never feel like you’re a burden on your friends if you need help, whether it’s to do with mental health, physical health or otherwise.
Here is what happened.
Note – this post may be triggering.
In previous blog posts, I have already briefly alluded to what happened when I was with friends at Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford. Although my memory is still hazy from that dreadful day, I now feel more at ease to speak about what happened. For a long time, I completely avoided the topic, would avoid Westfield like the plague and would even leave a room if I heard the word “Stratford.”
Me and a few friends were having lunch at Pizza Hut, and everything seemed normal. At least, they did for everyone else – I had been hearing voices for the whole day and felt extremely suspicious of my friend who were there. Apparently one of my friend thought I wasn’t feeling right, and kept looking at me in a concerned way. I thought I would ignore the voices and try to pretend everything was OK.
Then, to my horror, outside the window of Pizza Hut, I saw something. To this day, I cannot describe what it was. All I know is that it was bloody scary. Faceless people. Threatening. Menacing. “Human but not human,” is what my psychiatrist at the time suggested they were when I explained to her, and I feel that’s probably the best definition.
I pointed out, in fear, what I was seeing to the rest of my friends. They were utterly bewildered. Not unempathetic, mind you, I seem to remember them trying their best to help. Them denying their was anything there, however, only ended up raising my suspicions at them. I was so sure that what I was seeing was real. Suddenly, I was scared of my friends too. If they were denying what I was seeing, maybe they were in on all of it?
Without warning, I stormed out.
(I would also like to add that these friends did nothing wrong either. They were only trying to help, and remain my friends who have not once judged me despite what happened).
Out in Stratford
I was literally in tears. I could see them everywhere What was going on?
For the first time in a while, I was seriously considering ending things. I can’t remember what stopped me from taking such drastic measures. My friends at Pizza Hut were clearly seriously worried – I don’t remember this now, but phone records showed afterwards that they were trying desperately to call me. I didn’t pick up, and my only suggestion for that would be that I was feeling more and more suspicious of them, and may have thought that they were only phoning me to track me down to harm me. It’s crazy what psychosis can do – these people were genuinely trying to help.
Then, it became clear I needed help. Everyone was staring at me as though I were mad. Then a name popped into my head: Smith*. Smith was a friend of mine from another university. A friend who I felt had always been there for me from the start. Thank goodness that in the state I was, I thought of phoning him. I gave him a call, explained what was happening and expected that he would stay on the phone with me, helping me out and making sure I was safe.
He went far beyond that.
“Where are you?” he asked. “I’m on my way to find you.”
*Not his real name.
Being kept safe
Smith lived on the other side of London. It therefore took him a good hour and a half to arrive from his house. I am still in awe to this day of the effort he made to try to find me. He undoubtedly had other plans that day, but decided to travel from a long way away to come and find me and keep me safe. In fact, he hadn’t had breakfast or lunch that day either and was planning to when I called. He decided to put those on hold. Eventually, he arrived, put his arm round my shoulder and walked me to a cafe where we sat for a good few hours.
What made me feel better? He simply talked to me, acknowledged how I was feeling and listened. There was no judgement. Just someone who was listening, allowing me to rant and talk about things. The voices had also diminished a lot by the time he got there, meaning that I was in a more stable state too.
Eventually, it was getting late and I needed to get back home. Smith took me all the way back to the train station – even further away from his own home – to ensure that I got the train safely. Oh, and I should add – the strain station I was going to was where Smith had memories about his ex-girlfriend. This didn’t stop him from making sure I got the train safely, however, and it was only then that he left me.
How friends can help
In this case, I had a friend who was so clearly on my side. That’s what I really needed at the time. Not only did it help me in such a horrible episode, but it also helped me later on when I was battling my depression. All he did was sit down and listen to me. I don’t buy excuses when friends say that they’re too busy or whatever – this guy literally sacrificed his whole day for me, and it’s not unreasonable to think that friends would do that for you.
Of course, some may genuinely be busy but I can’t believe that they would be so busy that they’d treat not be able to find 10 minutes for you in one day.
For other friends who feel guilty because they don’t know how to help – the fact that you’re feeling guilty about is shows that you have the potential to be a great friend. It’s clear that you want to be there for them. Just show that to them too, and listen to when they want to talk. It helps more than you think.
I think it’s fair to say that had it not been for Smith, I could have ended up seriously hurt. He genuinely saved my life that day. To my friend – I’ve said it before but no matter how many times I say it, it will never be enough: Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.