It would be a complete lie if I told you that I was fine; even as I write this, I'm not fine. As a Black woman with pre-existing mental health issues on top of financial burdens, constant fear for my life and being afraid of being in a room with more than 10 people at a time, I can confidently say that life has been pretty stressful. One of the most stressful parts about all of this is that my relationships have suffered, and I don't necessarily mean my romantic relationship.
Throughout the past few months, my best friend and I have been going through a rough patch. Granted, all friends do at some point or another, but we were just mentally and emotionally no longer in sync. I began to retract from her, not vocalize what was going on inside of my own head and bury myself in my work. Not because I had any ill will towards her, but because I felt as though she was doing the same - not talking to me.
In my head, if I'm not your person anymore, you don't have the privilege of being mine. Selfish, but unfortunately true.
Little did I know, she was lowkey feeling the same way about me. Small misunderstandings translated into escalated arguments; we would go for days without speaking and our friendship had only functioned simultaneously for the first time in months when we put together a digital conference. All of the RSVPs and YouTube replays could not compensate for our true underlying issues in our friendship. Even with our first successful business partnership, it was a very surface-level friendship and we never spoke with one another about our personal lives.
While trying to keep my mental health afloat, I feel this innate obligation to always check on everyone around me and constantly be in go-mode. Truth be told, I needed someone to check in on me and I needed to be a better mental health accountability partner. Pulled from my own personal experience, check out my advice on maintaining your mental health and healthy friendships when everyone is going through it:
Ask Each Other How You’re Doing And Mean It:
It's easy to send a "Wyd" or "What's up?" text when starting off a conversation, but when you're asking, be genuine. If you're not ready to actually have your friend possibly unload and you're just asking how they are for a meaningless segue into the heart of the conversation, I suggest not asking. Mental health check-ins are extremely important in functional healthy relationships, especially during heightened times of racial injustice and social distancing, so make time for one another to truthfully spill the tea on how you're actually doing.
Give Each Other Grace:
Everyone is going through it right now - especially as a Black woman. My best friend works a full-time 9-5 and I'm a full-time freelancer so, needless to say, we've both got our hands full. Give yourself and your friend time to feel everything that you're feeling and know that everything you're feeling is completely valid. If they don't answer your text messages or FaceTime calls when you expect them to, that doesn't mean that they no longer f*ck with you. If it's been a couple of days, sure it's normal to be concerned, but extend the olive branch and allow them to reach out when they're ready. It's OK to want to be there for your friend, but don't be too pushy or overbearing.
Open And Honest Communication Is Key:
If you're anything like me, you don't like to talk about your problems in your friendship or face them because then the problems don't exist; they are merely a figment of your imagination. However, failing to communicate doesn't solve problems, it creates them. Don't be afraid to bring your concerns about the friendship to one another, even if it means a few awkward pauses in between monologues. This person is your friend for a reason, so you should be able to come to them about anything - especially if this is your best friend and your main confidant. It's always tough to be honest about some snags in your friendship - I mean, look at Issa and Molly. Once you tap into that open communication and honesty, the hard part of actually addressing the problem head-on is over.
This Is Your Friend, Not Your Enemy:
Admittedly, my best friend and I have both been extremely moody, but it's not because of one another. Life is happening and it's happening to the both of us individually, which translates and trickles into our friendship with each other. Just because you may feel as though everything is slowly crumbling at the tips of your fingers, that doesn't mean that your friendship has to. I don't know who needs to hear this, but your friend is your friend for a reason. They're there to help and support you through whatever you're going through and they're not the bad guy here.
You're battling your own demons and it takes a lot of inner strength. Sometimes battling internally can alter your reality, including who is against you and who's for you. One thing I can assure you of is, projection is real, but don't create problems with your friend and push them away just because you're going through something. That's not fair to them.
Put Yourself Before The Friendship:
This sounds backwards, I know, but hear me out. You can't pour from an empty cup and you can't drive a car with an empty tank. Take time to assess where you are in life, where you want to be, and what kind of friend you can afford to be to everyone without stressing yourself out. Be honest about your ability to be a friend to others if you're not truly taking care of yourself. Once all of your ducks are in a row, you can swim on down through any body of water. Until then, you can expect to drown before you get to the deep end.
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