Over the past couple of months, the process of talking to my partner, seeking professional help and starting this blog has increased my confidence about talking to my friends.
The friend from my tweet, C, was aware I was experiencing low mood from a brief conversation we had back in August. She’d said that she’d also been feeling low, but neither of us had spoken about it since. Even though she’d disclosed, to me she always seems strong and able to cope and I felt embarrassed to tell her that I wasn’t coping.
C has been away for a few weeks and during that time I’d finally disclosed my mental health problems to a mutual friend, S. I didn’t ask her to, but I knew S would probably tell C.
On Wednesday evening, I’d just left my last meeting and was heading back to the office. C rang my mobile and I ignored the call. In the office, a colleague mentioned that C had popped by to say hi. Again, I ignored it. I was supposed to be going to an event but decided I couldn’t face seeing people and headed home. Halfway home, C texted that she had another commitment but would be coming for the end of the event and did I want to go for a cup of tea after? I started typing that I wasn’t going, but then told myself that I need my friends, forced myself to change my mind and texted back to say that would be perfect.
The event was inspiring, but most of all, a cup of tea with C afterwards was exactly what I needed. She gave me the space to talk, but left it open for me to make the decision as to whether I wanted to.
C: So how have you been?
Me: I’ve been okay. Have you spoken to S?
And then she just waited and let me speak. And when I eventually moved onto another topic, she didn’t press it, but moved on with me and we had a laugh and a chat like we normally do.
C had sent me two emails earlier in the week that I’d ignored, and I later realised she’d messaged me on Skype too. I also found out that she wasn’t planning to go to the event at all, but my colleague had said I’d be there, so she went specifically to see me. I’d ignored her several times and yet she persisted. I feel lucky to have a friend who is secure enough in herself to not take it personally, and who cares enough about me to push the issue.
Which brings me back to #TimetoTalk. There’s a similar campaign in Australia, called R U OK?, which I’ve always disliked. People have asked whether I’m okay before and it always makes me defensive. It makes me feel that it’s obvious that I’m not coping. When someone asks, “Are you okay?”, what I hear is, “What’s wrong?”, and that’s never a helpful question.
Time to Change have created some films for the #TimetoTalk campaign. I particularly like this one, Isaac and Aronda. Aronda says, “I’d say, get the kettle on. Create a space where you can just focus on that person and ask how they’re feeling.” That’s exactly what C did for me, and it worked.