I haven’t written for two weeks because I spent almost a week in my childhood hometown. I spent that time visiting old friends from my high school years. One of these friends in particular, the best friend I have ever had, I hadn’t seen since we were eighteen. We kept in contact through Facebook and emails, but none of that is the same as seeing a friend in person. I was pleasantly surprised that she and I were able to pick up as if it was only a few days since we last talked, let alone sixteen years. I was actually quite speechless when we first met last week simply from being overjoyed at seeing this friend who stuck by me through the highs and lows of mental illness. Years ago in high school, when I was having my first problems with crippling depression and bouts of anger, she was the first one to suggest that what I was going through was not normal teenage angst. She observed this before even I did. Good friends like this need to be held onto. It’s not like good friendships can be found every day.
This visit with old friends reminded me of how valuable having some people who will support me, and I support them, truly is. In my current life, I don’t always have a healthy social life. Much of this is due to the paranoia aspect of my mental illness that makes it tough for me to tell whom is trustworthy. Since my default mode is to assume I cannot trust someone I just met until I can tell otherwise, this makes starting new friendships and social contacts pretty tough. Social safety nets are not only essential for any kind of stability for those with mental illness, but they make life much more enjoyable. They are the pleasant memories of when things are going well that can make the difference in getting through tough times that come and go for all people, mental illness or no. To paraphrase the late Robin Williams from ‘Dead Poets Society’ (one of my favorite all time movies), ‘Now medicine, business, engineering, science are all good endeavors that are necessary to sustain life. But it is things like art, poetry, beauty, love, friendship that are reasons we stay alive.’