“It can be hard to keep asking and inviting your friend or family member who struggles with mental illness. I get it. I really don’t blame you.
At first, when things started to spiral, you might have asked A LOT.
How are you doing? What can I do to help? Is anything getting any better?
And you probably got a lot of the same vague, emotionless answers.
I’m fine. We’re hanging in there. I’m not really sure. Don’t worry about me.
You probably wondered why you bothered. You might have even thought you were bothering them. Sure, maybe they felt overwhelmed. But most likely it wasn’t with you, just life. They probably didn’t know how to respond. Maybe they didn’t want to burden you with the truth, or disappoint you with the lack of ‘improvement.’
At first, when things started to go downhill, you probably kept inviting them to stuff.
Do you want to go to the movies? Would ice cream make you feel better? I’d love for you to come visit.
And you might have gotten a lot of ‘weak’ excuses.
I’m sorry, I’m not feeling very good today. I didn’t sleep well last night. I have a really bad migraine. I ended up having to work late. We’re having car troubles again.
You probably felt like you were pressuring them and they didn’t really want to come. Why keep asking just for them to have to make up excuses? But I’m willing to bet they didn’t stay away because they didn’t want to see you; they probably didn’t want you to see them. They probably didn’t have the energy to put on a face and didn’t want you to see the reality they are so often hiding.
Their lifeless eyes, the bags beneath being the defining feature. The greasy, tangled hair clumsily pulled back after a few too many missed showers. The wrinkled, dirty clothes because they’ve been re-wearing their favorite comfy outfit and laundry has just felt like too much.
At first, they might have felt the tiniest bit of relief when you stopped asking and inviting. They didn’t have to hide or lie. They didn’t have to avoid discussing the painful and uncomfortable. But I’m sure they quickly took notice, and missed the effort you thought was a waste of time. A nuisance. A pointless endeavor.
They might not have had any new insights or updates to provide. They might not have taken you up on your offer to be a listening ear. They might not have shown up to a single event you invited them to. They might have flaked out at the last minute EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
But at least they knew you cared. You were thinking about them. You hadn’t forgotten them.
And as time drags on, and the asking and inviting lessens, as it always does, they start to feel like nobody cares, is thinking about them, or remembers them.
They might feel like more of a burden. A disappointment. A flake. They’ll probably start to worry nobody enjoys being around them any more, that they were just a constant buzz kill. A pity invite. An obligation.
So please, don’t stop asking and inviting. You’re not bothering them, overwhelming them, or pressuring them. Take it from someone who knows. More likely than not, you’re reminding them their experience matters and their feelings are valid. Even if they have nothing to share or say. You’re letting them know you see them, even if you don’t physically. You’re letting them know they’re not alone, even if they choose to stay home.
Just ask gently, with patience and without presumption. And invite unconditionally, with consideration and without expectation.
I know it’s hard, and it might feel like a lot. But they’re dealing with a lot. You don’t need to fix it or completely understand it, and you don’t need to be perfect. All I ask is that you keep on asking.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Connected In The Deep. You can read more from them on their blog. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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