Early in my career I worked as a therapist with all different types of clients. There was a common theme that was very interesting. Many spoke of feeling alone and not having friends. This was fascinating as many of the patients were attractive and successful. What were the reasons they had trouble connecting with others?
It appears that many times we feel not good enough. When we put ourselves out there to make friends there are certain risks. We become vulnerable and could be hurt if a potential friend rejects us. It is also harder to make friends when you live with depression or bipolar disorder. The reason is many of us feel as though we have problems that might stop us from being liked.
In my own journey with mental illness I have realized that I am a strong friend. I care, listen, help and encourage the friends I’ve made. I also understand that having a few friends is better than having hundreds of friends who you are not that close with. I suggest some simple tips to help you connect with others if you feel it will benefit you.
One is to start with a support group. The National Alliance on Mental Illness at http://www.nami.org has free support groups for families and individuals with mental illness. You can find on their website many local groups likely in your area. You may also enjoy The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance at http://www.dbsalliance.org. They also put together free groups to connect those of us with mental illness. I suggest to start there because when you attend everyone will be caring and not judge you for any issues you have. There are many who have been in the hospital, take medications or have had major struggles.
The second step is to work on building your confidence so you are ready to make friendships. This might mean working with a coach or identifying what your feelings are. You may call my office anytime at (213) 304-9555 and we are happy to help. I don’t think many understand how hard it is to be a young person and live with a mental illness. Most youths feel awkward and different naturally. When you add a severe health condition it is even harder. The good news is I’ve watched many blossom into adults with a bright future. There are examples of us having friends, families and being a positive part of our community. I pray this happens for you as well. If you will take some small steps you may find that this will work for you.