Tag Archives: Honesty

I Wish My Friends Knew…

Last week, Kyle Swartz – a primary school teacher from Colorado – set a fairly innocuous-seeming piece of homework for her class of eight and nine year-olds; to complete the sentence, ‘I wish my teacher knew…’. The responses were a heartbreaking window into the worries and struggles of childhood life and have proved a thought-provoking hit on social media around the world.

After reading the story, blogger @depressednotsad (AKA ‘Little Blue Fish’, interviewed here) wondered what she’d have written when she was child and – perhaps more pertinently – what she’d write now. The result was #IWishMyFriendsKnew, and her replies are a brave and desperately moving insight into the thoughts and worries of both an ordinary mum with depression and a survivor of child abuse.

Inspired by @depressednotsad‘s bravery and honesty, there have since been hundreds of tweets completing the same sentence, ‘I wish my friends knew…’. It’s a poignant account of the secret fears, thoughts and feelings of people with mental health problems, and I’ve collected just a few of them here. Tissues at the ready! [EDIT: I’ve had to type these out because embedding the tweets made the webpage load too slowly]

I wish my friends knew…That I am sorry for letting them down over and over again (@flathooves

I wish my friends knew…how worthless I feel all the time (@ActivistBlues)

I wish my friends knew…that I’m really lonely on the psychiatric ward and I’d love a visit- someone to make me laugh or listen to music with me (@mentalbattle)

I wish my friends knew…that I’m so grateful for the people who have stuck by me through the tough times. I love you. (@depressednotsad

I wish my friends knew…that it’s scarier for me to talk about feeling suicidal than it is for them to hear about it. (@TBad33

iWishMyFriends

I wish my friends knew…when I hide myself away it’s not because I don’t want to see them, it’s because I want to spare them from being with me. (@tweety123pie)

I wish my friends knew…that I blame myself for my #depression & every time I get ill, I feel like a failure #SelfStigma (@bdogrunner)

I wish my friends knew…i dont mean to be a constant let down its just the demons in my head are stronger than me (@lozmariegreen)

I wish my friends knew…that I envy them for being able to feel excited and challenged by things while I’m at home, low & exhausted again. (@drinksinthedark)

I wish my friends knew…just how much they mean to me 🙂 (@LifeOfAPanicPix)

I wish my friends knew…that’s it’s ok to feel awkward about asking about my mental health, but ask anyway, you may learn something (@jonnyward21)

I wish my friends knew…that even though I look ok at dinner with them I often spend the following night crying (@DepressedPhD)

I wish my friends knew…that is much easier to answer “I’m Fine” when you ask how I am, as the alternative is way too complicated. (@depressednotsad)

I wish my friends knew…sometimes shutting down and keeping everyone at arm’s length is the only way I can cope when I feel depression coming on (@ZodiacEclipse)

I wish my friends knew… just how thankful I am for their unwavering love and support; no matter much I want to give up, they remind to hold on x (@Justdreamingof)

I wish my friends knew…that I’m scared to go outside or do anything enjoyable when I’m off sick with #Depression in case they think I’m faking (@bdogrunner)

I wish my friends knew…that I’m jealous of their lives (@depressednotsad

I wish my friends knew…how much effort goes into getting out of bed in the mornings when #depressed let alone in getting to work (@Katcopley)

I wish my friends knew…that I feel so lonely all the time even when I’m surrounded by people (@run4yourMind)

I wish my friends knew…how grateful I am for everything they do; for staying up all night keeping me safe, for not giving up, for accepting me. (@laurahanc_)

I wish my friends knew…that #mentalillness is not contagious, and that they can come see me in the psych ward and not worry. (@IAmMichaelCrook)

(Trigger warning for suicide) I wish my friends knew…that I’ve been scared to go to the beach recently as I don’t trust myself not to drown myself (@depressednotsad)

I wish my friends knew…how much I appreciate all the things & kind words they do & say! (@mrspiglet07

I wish my friends knew…what it is like never to have a day off; never a moment without anxiety. #exhausting (@sherbetlemon1

I wish my friends knew…how bitter I feel that my abuser has a marriage, good job, big house and money, and my life is in a mess. (@depressednotsad

I wish my friends knew…how exhausting it sometimes is to try to keep going (@learningtofloat

I wish my friends knew…that my emotions are so intense they physically hurt. Yet I’m expected to react in a way that seems ‘normal’ (@fortitude321

I wish my friends knew…Just how much I wish I could ask for their help, but I feel I would become an irritating burden. (@flathooves

I wish my friends knew…how much effort & energy is required for me to do ordinary things that they’d never need to think about (@bdogrunner

I wish my friends knew…how much a hug would me to me and how much I want them to give me one. (@DepressedPhD

I wish my friends knew…that I constantly worry about my friends abandoning me because I have no idea why they’d want to be friends with me. (@Violet_Emily_

I wish my friends knew…how much it hurts not to be able to help them when they are in pain and how much I wish I could change that so I could x (@g3reth

I wish my friends knew…that I can’t see them because I am scared that I’m boring and that I have nothing to say (@Lababup

I wish my friends knew…that I put off telling people when I have bad days in case they get fed up with me (@Katcopley

I wish my friends knew…that sometimes faking a smile is much easier to do than explaining why I feel depressed (@mksimpson92

I wish my friends knew…that I feel guilty for having depression & feel it’s the least I deserve in life! (@mrspiglet07

I wish my friends knew…that even a lovely day with people I love doesn’t take away my depression(@depressednotsad)

I wish my friends knew…that I can’t be honest about my mood, because I worry they’ll lose patience with the fact I’m *still* depressed (@bdogrunner

I wish my friends knew…that I’m ashamed of the mess my life is in. (@KarenKts11

I wish my friends knew…that I can’t believe a compliment, but every criticism is added to my mental folder of ‘proof’ that I’m an awful person (@bdogrunner)

I wish my friends knew…that I struggle every second of every day, and can’t remember what it’s like not to feel tired. (@ElspethVanDHole

I wish my friends knew…how scared I am that things will never get better and I will never be well enough to work (@fortitude321

I wish my friends knew…how special they are to me & thankyou to my virtual friends to BIG HUGS (@lesleylyness)

If you’d like to read more, head over to the Twitter hashtag #IWishMyFriendsKnew

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How are you?

One of the most difficult aspects of living in the UK is the bizarre mix of box-ticking politeness with genuine emotional reserve.

In other words, while almost everyone will ask, ‘how are you?’, the only acceptable answer is ‘fine thank you, how are you?’

Perhaps we should just invert the meaning of ‘fine’ ? (Image by DestinyBlue – a supremely talented artist specialising in cartoons and comics. The original can be found here)

On a black dog day, this presents a problem. Either you break social convention and cause widespread panic:

‘Oh, the usual mix of abject misery and thoughts of self-harm, how about you?

Or, you lie.

In the short term, lying seems like the obvious option. For one thing, it creates less paperwork. I once made the mistake of being brutally honest with a colleague about my desires to end my life. Within a few hours I was being invited (that’s the British for ‘ordered’) to have a chat with both human resources and occupational health. Oddly enough, this didn’t help me to feel any better. I just felt like a troublemaker who needed processing to avoid any awkward legal ramifications.

Unfortunately, lying isn’t necessarily the easier option. For one thing, it’s very tiring. Among other things, the lie has to be convincing, else you risk being bombarded with increasingly probing questions. More questions means more chances for the mask to fall off until – BOOM – you’re in social faux pas territory.

Someone recently asked how I was, following up quite reasonably when my reply proved unconvincing. I responded like any cool and emotionally well-adjusted person, and burst into tears. They looked terrified. I’m not sure why. I was producing gentle whimpering sounds whilst leaking salt water from my tear glands. I was not wielding an axe. And they call me the crazy one! Anyway, the point is, for the lie to work, you really have to nail that first line. Since most people aren’t fooled by words alone, this means a smile or, at least, a jolly tone is essential.

‘I’m fine thank you, how are you?’

Sound simple enough? Well it isn’t. When you’re in the clutches of depression, it requires an enormous amount of energy. Many a day I’ve gone to work, said nothing except a couple of ‘fine thank yous’ , and come home utterly exhausted. Which has a knock-on effect on my ability to do it all over again the next day.

But there’s another problem – a more insidious problem – with lying. Every time you tell someone you are ‘fine’ – when you’re not – you buy into the belief that it’s not acceptable to be depressed. In other words, the act of concealing your true mood, sends a subconscious message that it needs concealing, that it’s something to be ashamed of.

It’s a very sad indictment of our emotionally-illiterate society that those or us who are suffering the most have to hide our feelings to protect the sensibilities of everyone else. One in four of the seven billion human beings on this earth will experience poor mental health at some point in their life. That’s 1.75 billion people. And over 10 billion in the history of humankind. The only shame would be if all those people lived their lives feeling ashamed of something that is clearly such a common part of the human experience.

So what are we to do if neither lying nor the truth are realistic options? Well, one of my favourite options is the deflection. To think like a politician and answer an entirely different question.

‘Oooo, I’ve been experimenting with blogging. Although it is meant to be anonymous, so I’m afraid I can’t send you the link. Or even tell you what it’s about. You?’

I’ve also come up with an answer that I can say with a genuine sense of belief (and positivity), but which isn’t a lie,

‘I’m still here, you?’

When you’re struggling with depression, the definition of a ‘good day’ sometimes has to be set a bit more generously (Image by Allie Brosh, author of Hyperbole and a Half – one of the world’s most talented mental health bloggers. The original appeared in a post called, I’m Definitely Not Dead)

Depending on the time and the person, however, I think there is a better approach; sugar-coated honesty. To answer in a way that reflects the troubles you’re going through, that openly admits your poor mental health, but perhaps leaves out some of the grim details:

‘I’ve been struggling with poor mental health, which can make it hard to achieve much, but I’m hanging in there and I’ve just been put on some new medication, so I’m hoping that’ll help’

Not everyone will respond appropriately. Some might even say something laughably unhelpful. But the vulnerable honesty can be surprisingly empowering. And, if you’re lucky, you might even get a bit of empathy and kindness.

So, ladies, gentlemen and other black dog owners: ‘How are you today!?’