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Managing Relationships During Mental “Shut Down” Phases

Balancing our mental health can be tricky at times, but how are we managing our relationships and friendships in the midst? Some can communicate just fine, while others have difficulty expressing themselves. Sometimes it could have a lot to do with not wanting to worry or burden our loved ones. That makes sense to me; however, there are times when we need to open up and communicate because a simple conversation may allow someone to be of great help in the long run. 

Personally, I am incredibly guilty of causing my mental health to affect my relationships with others. It typically happens when I slip into a deep depression or right before I’m heading into the unfortunate saddening phase. A phase I will refer to as my “shut-down” period. During these moments, I will briefly disconnect from everyone and everything—disconnect meaning, no social media, no answering calls or texts messages, and no outings (including a lot of calling out of work). Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with disconnecting from the social world. Still, I tend to do it without the proper warnings. I simply deactivate or delete my social media apps and then turn on the Do Not Disturb feature on all of my electronic devices. In my mind, I see nothing wrong with not wanting to be bothered by others, but I can also understand how it may give someone else a false impression. Maybe they feel I’m ignoring them because I want nothing to do with them? Or could they think they did something wrong when they didn’t? These are the typical things people assume when their calls are constantly directed straight to voicemail. 

Who knows? 

Over the years, I have lost plenty of so-called friends due to this poor practice. I have also caused many of my loved ones to worry excessively by not warning them— especially my Grandfather. Oops, my bad! In all honesty, I get it, but at the same time, I feel people should be more respectful of my desire for peace. Sometimes I just want to experience a long-lasting peace and not be bothered by anyone. Although I am an outgoing individual, I have had people lose interest in me due to declining multiple offers to hang out. And not as in me declining due to some unforeseen occurrences, but declining simply due to my mental health and not knowing when I would be able to come out again. It is always as if they can not comprehend the severity of my mental health and assume I am making excuses not to hang out. Seriously, here I am, lying down bundled in my blanket. Thinking of everything possibly going wrong in my life, trying to figure out how to get myself out of this hell of darkness. Wishing I could peacefully end all of the horrible symptoms of my anxiety and depression forever. While contemplating, is it all even serious enough for me to want to end my own life, and you think I’m making excuses? Yes, my depression is that deep at times, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. 

It seems bizarre, right? I know! Honestly, it probably seems more bizarre to those who simply can not relate. But, unfortunately, this is life for quite a few individuals. 

When I shut down, I automatically assume one can not help me get through what I am experiencing; no amount of love or advice can help me. Therefore, I disconnect all forms of communication. I just feel I have to work on and figure things out independently. So that is what I do; I stay to myself until I have found a new way to approach whatever I’m going through. Now don’t get me wrong- other individuals may be the complete opposite. Some people need others for that push of encouragement or motivation- whatever floats their boat. I suppose being more open with our loved ones about whatever is truly disturbing our peace could tremendously help some of us. It allows them to have an insight into what we’re genuinely experiencing. It also allows them to ask questions to educate themselves possibly. Some of our loved ones are honestly unaware of the severity of our illnesses and dark phases. Therefore, it is up to us to help them understand our symptoms more effectively. 

Long story short, before completely ghosting those who truly matter to us, I recommend giving them a brief heads up. I’ll try to work on that myself. You could start by letting them know you’re taking time for yourself and your mental health. Then, if you desire others to uplift you, teach them how to help you during these periods. Maybe you want someone to check on you every few hours or perhaps even daily- let them know that. You could also possibly ask them to help you find resources that will allow you to get back on track towards a healthier lifestyle. Or maybe you want them to be there to listen to you vent. Whatever it may be, open your mouth and speak up about it because you never know if it will also help them open up to you about things they felt they were alone in. You could help each other!

No one wants to feel like they’re being ignored or unwanted when they did nothing to deserve such a feeling. At the same time, people should also be willing to respect our alone periods if that is what one desires. Once you have already expressed your needs, if someone can not understand or appreciate your decisions- well, that is now their problem and not yours. You have to take mental health breaks from time to time regardless of what others expect from you. Just try your best not to get so deep into the phase to the point where you want to give up. Instead, use that time to fully evaluate your life, goals, next steps towards happiness, and mental health. Be sure to solely focus on healing yourself during these times. Yes, I know it’s easier said than done, but you can do it, and you should! The sooner we’re able to take the proper steps to get out of these dark phases, the sooner we’ll be on a brighter, healthier, and more successful pathway in our lives. Please know, if you ever feel as though no one else is- I am always rooting for you!

Much Love Hooters,

-Cherry and the Hoot  

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