Living with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder  

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Deborah Wiig
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With a little help from my friends

Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief.-- Swedish proverb


 

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Life's more fun when you can share it with friends. And it helps to have someone along on the ride when you're going through a hard time: dealing with a problem, living through loss, or experiencing depression or anxiety.

Good friends accept you as you are without judgment. Little things, like talking over a cup of coffee, can make you feel connected to them.

A friend is someone who you like, respect, and trust, and who likes, respects and trusts you. He/she is someone who gives you good advice when you ask for it and works with you in difficult situations to figure out what to do next.

Often, if you're struggling with depression, you don't want to see people or go out, but that could be just what you need to do to feel better.

"When I'm feeling down," says Suzanne M. "I don't want my friends to see me that way and I don't want to ruin their fun. I turn down a lot of invitations. Then I feel lonely, sorry for myself and even more depressed," she says. "But, when I do join them, I usually have a good time and feel refreshed for days afterward."

How can I make new friends?

  • Try something new. Take a class where you'll meet others who share your interests. Join a local gym or walking group.
  • Chat with folks at the dog park (but take a dog.)
  • Say yes. Accept invitations to social gatherings even if you're feeling anxious. You can stay only as long as you're feeling comfortable.
  • Be bold. Invite someone you'd like to get to know better for coffee, lunch or another activity. "I'm going to that street fair next weekend. Would you like to join me?"
  • Volunteer. Pitch in on a fundraising event, help serve meals at a shelter or serve on a committee. It's a rewarding way to meet people and feel good about doing good.
  • Beware. Support groups can be good places to meet people, but be cautious about people who have problems that can add to your own.

 

Two friends talkingWhat makes a good friend?
Make new friends who aren't just like you. You'll find that people whose age, interests and views are different from yours are interesting and energizing. And you'll learn and grow.

Choose friends who have a positive attitude and enjoy life. It's contagious.

Work on having several friends so that someone is always available when you would like companionship or support. Try not to become dependent on one or two friends.

How can I keep friendships going?

  • Stay in touch with old friends and new. Plan your next meeting. But take your cues from them about how often you should call.
  • Be a good listener. Offer supportive feedback, with comments such as, "I knew you could do it," or "I bet you wish it had happened some other way." Give advice only if they ask for it.
  • Be positive. Talk often about how you're working on improving your life rather than focusing on your problems.
  • Learn to recognize an unhealthy relationship. If it isn't mutually satisfying, the time you devote may be better spent cultivating a new one.

What will you do this week to nurture a friendship?
How about

  • calling one friend or someone you know well.
  • doing something nice for someone else.
  • going somewhere where you might meet new people.

Related articles
How to help someone with a mental illness
Moods and misunderstandings
Take time out for you
More articles

Sources
Mayo Clinic
US Dept of Health & Human Service
Mental Health Foundation (UK)

Page updated September 1, 2010