Finding contentment can be a struggle for me. I know we all struggle on some level. We are all at the mercy of the cards we’re dealt. Unfortunately, some of us end up with a crappy hand. My cards include mental and chronic illness and when those are added to the regular deck, well, it just sucks. They tend to take up a lot of space in my head. I have focused most of my blog posts on how my illnesses, my cards, affect me in a negative way so I have challenged myself to write something more positive.
Most recently I’ve been struggling with how to deal with the loss of friendships that seem to accompany mental and physical illness. I need to know and understand why this is happening. What should I be doing differently? Where did I go wrong? And because of who I am, I just can’t get this out of my mind. I’m constantly questioning myself, feeling guilty, feeling tremendous sadness, needing answers.
Many people with mental health issues participate in talk therapy, usually with a therapist and sometimes trusted friends or family. While digging through my toolbox in an attempt to find an answer to this friendship question, I decided to call my 25-year-old daughter to talk about one particular lost friend. That sweet girl of mine, she is a super star! She explained a theory that makes so much sense. An idea that neither I, in my uber-experienced life with mental illness and my degree in psychology, nor my therapist with her years of counseling and PHD, ever thought about. My sweet girl said to me,
“Momma, you have spent so many years working on yourself, figuring out what you need to be healthy, learning how to express your needs, learning how to communicate, getting strong and learning how to be honest. Other people haven’t done that.”
Consequently, my expectations of others ability to understand or communicate what seems so simple and normal to me, is like a foreign language or an alien world to them. They see my sanity as insanity.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, insinuating that I am above anyone else. The truth is, I used to live in that foreign land, but I was an alien there. I moved, out of necessity, not choice. During that move I had to put in monumental amounts of work and gained expansive reserves of self-awareness and survival skills. I can never go back to that place and survive. Survival means I stay where I am, in this new land. There is a lot more here left to explore and discover. Beauty, love, kindness and acceptance exist here too, I just have to remember to stay on the look out.
This perfect statement from my sweet girl felt like she had stopped by for a visit, brought a garbage can in, scraped a bunch of shit off my shoulders, and proceeded to haul it all off to the dump, ridding me of thousands of pounds of trash. Before we hung up the phone, she reminded me of my strength and worthiness and gave me a giant cyber-squeeze and enough “I love you-s” to last a lifetime. I cried like a baby, not from sadness, but from relief. I cried for my sweet girl’s insight, understanding and support. I cried for a perfectly plausible answer to this problem that has been plaguing me for months.
Since that conversation, I feel so much lighter. I’m not going to carry that heavy question anymore. It might not be a ‘one size fits all’ explanation for every friendship problem, but right now, I don’t care. It fits this friendship problem. It’s helping. I’m not going to agonize for hours and days about whether or not I should try to talk to the ‘friends’ that are drifting away. I don’t feel like I need a spoken answer from them anymore. My sweet girl is right. They are not going to be able to communicate with the same level of honesty, openness, understanding, self-awareness, and empathy that I have. Their actions are their words. And that tells me all I need to know. I’m okay. But we live in different worlds. And I like my world, despite the cards I hold. There are mountains to climb here, but there is also beauty, love, compassion and understanding. I think I’ll just stay right here.
Thank you My Sweet Girl, for the answer I needed to hear. From your proud Momma, I love you my dear ❤