On Watching Your Friends Struggle With Mental Health


Trigger warning: Mental illness, eating disorders, and sexual assault

To those who do not know her,

“Mental illness”

Seems to be either a buzzword,

A catch-all,

A scapegoat for bad behavior

Or a haunting phobia

That just might come true.

For those of us who know mental illness intimately

At her best,

When she makes us confront our deepest insecurities

And at her worst,

When she takes our self-control

And our willpower

For us who have lost those we love

For us who have lost a part of ourselves,

For us,

Mental illness is a looming reality,

An impending strike

Ready to break you down

So this is my apology

To my friends who have fought wars within themselves

To myself for dismissing my own struggles

As being too common

To be of concern:

I’m sorry for all the times I called myself fat in front of you

Or skipped a meal for an outfit

And I’m extra sorry for standing by each time you skipped breakfast,

Lied about lunch

And disappeared at dinner time

Before bingeing in the dark at 2 a.m.

I’m sorry I tried to force you out of bed

When I didn’t understand how bad it was inside your head

I’m sorry I held you down and yelled

When your mania told you to run and rebel

I’m sorry I didn’t know whether to hold you

Or cheer

When you told me you’d officially

Had more experience in boys

Than in years

And I picked the wrong one

I’m sorry that I didn’t understand

That the way I worry

Worried you

That the speed at which my concerns grow

At which my thoughts spin

Spun you further away from me

I’m sorry that when he took advantage of you

I was in the next room, able to save you

But completely unaware

I’m sorry that when you told me the next day

I didn’t know what to say.

The truth is, I found you brave

Crying in my arms, your voice shaking

Because when it happened to me

I lost my voice

My words

My strength

And I still haven’t told you, to this day.

I’m sorry for all of the times I tried to fix you

And all of the times I dove right into the deep end with you

I hope you can forgive me

For my negligence

And my ignorance

But more importantly,

I hope you can see

What I do

That all you have experienced

Has helped shaped you into who you are today

And the woman,

The women,

Standing in front of me

I love them just as they are.

I love them deeply

And fully

And I will love them forever

And I hope

That you can learn

Can begin

To love yourself,

All of yourself,

As I do:

Deeply and fully and forever.