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Thanks for stopping by,
Princess Steph

Monday, January 3, 2011

The inequity of friendship when dealing with Physical and Mental illness

I have been living a wonderful social experiment on the reaction of social groups/friends to mental illness versus physical illness.

I have been part of a group of friends where it has been very interesting to see the difference of reaction to physical versus mental illness is with a girl's group that I am a member of.  This group meets every month and I have not been to one of the meetings for 18months.  There are 12 girls that are a part of this group, that are all good friends, that are all caring, wonderful women.  All the girls are well educated, all went to University, all fabulous.

One of the girls is a good friend and has outreached over the last year and I can never tell her enough how much I appreciate it.  The other girls have not reached out at all.  No e-mails, no phone calls, no invitations for coffee, nothing.  What I find interesting, is that 3-4 years ago, one of the group had breast cancer, and the group rallied.  I am by no means relating the gravity of my mental illness to having cancer, but I am relating the experience of having an illness take over your life as being similar.  Now granted the girl with cancer had two little kids and cancer is a horrible disease, but this group of wonderful girls, set up a calling tree, brought her meals, shuffled her too and from appointments, sent out updates, etcetera etcetera......  You name it we did it, and if you weren't doing something to help her and her family, the wrath of the group was on you.  I should point out that I am thrilled that we helped her and her family.  She is one of my favourite people and I would not have not urged us to do anything differently.  She needed our support, and we as a group, needed to support her.

I have been ill now for over a year.  Not one meal has been offered when i wasn't able to go grocery shopping for months. Not one e-mail sent from this group to check up on why I was not at one of our group meetings.  Not one message left to check if I need anything when i didn't get out of bed for weeks on end.  Is mental health so misunderstood by a seemingly educated wonderful group of women that they can't reach out? or is it that it just is not taken seriously?  Maybe again my expectations of friends is just to high?  Maybe I expect friends to be friends when you need them.

The most disappointing thing about the little insight into this human behavior is that it perfectly demonstrates society as a whole.  People are happy to rally around and support sexy diseases like cancer, that are tangible and they can understand the illness.  People look sick when they have cancer, it is easier to understand.   Throughout their treatment they change and you can see the change and illness. 

People with mental illness do not look sick.  I look sad sometimes, but not sick.  If you look at me, you would not necessarily know that i have been sick for years and very sick for a year.  It is not sexy to be supportive of Crazy People.  I also know that it is difficult.  We are difficult to care for, because we often don't know what we need or want.  We also often want to be alone.  Our illnesses are no less real and no less painful and they affect our lives just as much.  We don't make it easy for you, but if you are friends, you will try and try again, because we are worth it.  

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