So this article is making the rounds on my Twitter feed, and I have thoughts on it, and on the first response I saw to it. Let’s give you some background. I don’t have a mental illness, but I’m married to someone that does. My wife has bipolar disorder and anxiety. So my experience is coming from a place of being a supportive partner to mental illness.
Why does that matter? Because I’ve been the flakey one. I’ve tried to do things only to have to call out last minute because my wife was struggling with depression or anxiety or fear.
It sucks. For her. And for me secondarily. There’s a tendency with me and my wife to “close ranks” when things get bad. To cut off everyone else because there’s not enough emotional energy to handle friends (and sometimes family). I wish I could say we’ve gotten better about not doing that, but it’s still a struggle.
But back to the article. I can only imagine what it must be like to keep inviting someone to an event only to get no response, or wavering back and forth. Let me tell you, it’s no picnic on this side of the fence, either. Wanting to go juxtaposed with not being able to because of depression/anxiety/fear sucks big time. And then there’s the guilt and shame associated with being the flake, knowing you’re letting people down, but not knowing what you can do about it.
For me, what it comes down to is this, friendly event planner: decide how far you’re wiling to go to maintain the relationship. It won’t be easy; it might take hundreds of invites. We might never show up. We’re genuinely interested in seeing you and being a part of it. But it might never happen. We understand that’s a tough position to be in, but it’s part of being a friend to someone with a mental illness (or with the partner of someone with one).