So. There’s a FB post going around right now, in regards to mental health awareness. Post goes like this:
“How often do you sit at home and wish someone would ring you and suggest, well anything rather than these 4 walls? How many of you have had a night out planned, or arranged coffee with friends and suddenly “these 4 walls” seem the only safe haven because it’s the only place you don’t have to pretend you are ok, so you cancel. Or when you are invited out you tell them how terribly sorry you are but you’re already booked up that weekend, when you are actually just really busy holding it together in your safe box. And so the first problem starts, all by itself , people stop asking you and the isolation that at first wasn’t true becomes your only truth.
Please don’t give up on your friends, ring them, go round, even when they don’t want you too, because they really do they just don’t know how to say it. Everyone says: “If you need anything, don’t hesitate, I’ll be there for you”
I’m going to make a bet, without being pessimistic, that out of my Facebook friends that less than 5 will take the time to put this on their wall to help raise awareness of and for those who have mental health difficulties. You just have to copy it from my wall and paste it to yours (hold down on this post and you will be given the option to copy… then go to your status and hold down to paste).
Please write “done” under my comments when you do! I’ve done this for a friend for Mental Health Awareness!!”
Now, I’ve studied psych on college level since I was 14. And that post is some BS.
It makes the incredibly wrong, and a fairly insulting, presumption that anyone who wants or needs solitude absolutely must have a mental illness and requires a constant series of check-ins from anyone who thinks themselves a good friend.
Allow me to explain, from experience and from having to deal with this issue repeatedly in multiple iterations:
Not everyone who requires solitude has a mental illness, and when you’re calling constantly, you’re actually being extremely intrusive and you’re exacerbating the issue that they may have, which is that everyone constantly wants something from them, and you’re deliberately ignoring that they actually need some time and some place where they can be on their own, themselves, which your constant phone calls and “check-ins” will hinder.
Here’s another point that people either ignore or don’t want to accept:
If someone wanted your help, they would ask for it. Stop being a Well-Meaning Wilma and stop trying to constantly fix things and people. You’re not being helpful; you’re being rude, intrusive, and annoying.
I really can’t believe I have to explain this, but apparently I have to. Because people really need to be told this.
We do not need constant contact in order to stay friends. Simply, we don’t. If your idea of friendship depends on constant contact, I suggest revisiting the definition.
I can attest that there are extremely few people for whom I’d pick up the phone, and even then, they know not to call me without there being an emergency, and they ask if they can call before calling me. Why? Because I am actually doing things! I’m probably reading, or ironing, or cleaning, or just spending a bit of time with Mom. Or I might be eating dinner. Or hey – maybe it’s tax season and I’m working long hours! I have actual things I’m doing, and a phone call makes me stop everything I’m doing to focus on the conversation. Because I believe wholly that if a person is talking to me, I owe them the very basic courtesy of listening actively. When someone writes me an email, I treat it the same way: I read and actively read what the person is saying. Same thing in a chat. It’s basic common courtesy.
But according to this sharebait, which borders on asinine in its presumptiousness, I need “checking up on” and someone to call me to “break me out of the four walls”. HELL No! These four walls are my sanctuary and saving grace. You wouldn’t want to see me without me having my alone time, trust me. It’s for your own good.
I live in the busiest city in the world, and work in a fairly stressful career track. I am surrounded by people effectively every. waking. moment. of every day. Being alone is my self-care! It is my mental health awareness. Because when I’m inside my four walls, I can detox, I can do things on my time and on my terms.
And I am certain 100% in the knowledge that I am not alone in this perception.
Come on. I really should not have to explain that the number one component of mental health is having boundaries! I shouldn’t have to explain that having established personal space is essential, absolutely completely essential, to mental well-being. But considering that this sharebait is going around, it seems that I have to make it clear.
Look, people. We have lives. We have families. We have jobs that don’t always cut out at 5pm, or when the shift ends. We have actual busy lives and calling just to “check in” because you’re spoonfed the idea that alone = lonely = mentally ill is very rude, to put it nicely. It’s intrusive. It’s not helpful.
Before you begin trying to “fix”or to “help” or to “check up on” someone, try this extremely novel idea of accepting them the way they are. Try also this interesting concept that maybe they don’t need fixing. And also, just consider, ask yourself, what are they saying that I’m not listening to? Because there’s a pretty good chance they already told you what they think about it, and you simply didn’t listen, or you deliberately ignored it because you thought that your perception was more important.
I had to tell a friend of mine repeatedly that I am a text-first person. I cannot tell you how many calls I had after telling her that, which went, “I’m just checking up on you, I know you’re stressed” – honey. STOP!!!!! If you know I’m stressed, and if you know me well – and she does know me well – and you know I am around people every day, then why would you knowingly cut into time that I have made clear, repeatedly, that I need for myself? Granted yes, she couldn’t always text. I get that. I will grant that. And of all the phone calls, I purposely didn’t pick up maybe two, for that reason: I do consider the opposite side. But… please have some regard for the person you’re calling. I said to her repeatedly: I’m around people all day, I need to be alone. I need space. I need to relax. And the phone calls that began with “I’m sorry, I feel like a bad friend for not checking in on you” – no. You’re not being a bad friend because you’re not checking in on me. But you certainly aren’t a very good friend if you repeatedly ignore me telling you what I do need, which is not to be around or talking to people after a certain point!
And in 2015, I had to contend with someone who wouldn’t even so much as send a Facebook PM and yet track my every move online for almost a year. Maybe one comment over that time, but more than enough IP hits. And the reasoning that I was given for that is “She’s just trying to be your friend!”
For. Fuck’s. Sake. That is not trying to be a friend, that’s borderline stalking.
Look. I know social media is an odd landscape to navigate, but the basic rules of social decorum apply. The first rule is if you’re trying to be someone’s friend, then start by respecting the person that they are as opposed to outright ignoring it for your own perceptions. If you have someone like myself, who is busy, who has a life, who values communication but sets store on personal space and boundaries, wouldn’t you, I don’t know… just write a message to that person to establish some sort of a rapport? Let them tell you what they want/need/expect from a friend? I am a very open person; I have no problem letting people know what I am like and what I expect from the people around me. It’s really not that difficult.
If you write a message, I answer it, guaranteed. And maybe 15% of that will be an answer you won’t like. But if you call me and it’s not an emergency, and you didn’t ask if you could call, you’re fast on your way to my shit list.
The one thing that I absolutely can’t stand, which the above FB sharebait conveniently ignores?
I cannot stand it when people invade my personal space and don’t respect the boundaries that I have set. “Just trying to be your friend” is bullshit. If you were trying to be my friend, you’d actually pay attention to the person that I am.
I especially love the bit about “go round even if they don’t want you to.” NO. NO NO NO NO. DO NOT DO THAT. Because that’s the fastest way to get your dumb ass arrested for trespassing. I would love for some fool to try and come over to my house… number one, I made sure next to no one knows my home address for this exact reason, and number two, I would so dearly love to hear the sound their arse will make when it makes contact with the concrete sidewalk, after I punt them off my front step. You think I wouldn’t do that? You think that just because you come to someone’s front door to “check up on them” they’re obligated to let you in? Dear gods, people, please check yourself before you wreck yourself, or before someone else does.
People… seriously. Personal space and common courtesy are not a hard concept to wrap your head around. It doesn’t mean someone must have a “mental illness”. It means they like their goddamned space and have certain standards. And if you think something is wrong with them for enforcing this, it says a lot more about you.
Here’s what the people who are on the receiving end of the Well-Meaning Wilmas and the “just checking in on you” and the “just trying to be your friend” really want to say to you, that I’m putting into words right now, because apparently no one else would:
You’re not being helpful.
You’re not trying to be a friend.
You are being intrusive, and you’re making the person you’re intruding upon uncomfortable, and you need to back the fuck off.
And when you get the boot for this, please point the finger squarely at yourself for not listening to them in the first place.
You can’t force this shit. Seriously. If you want to be someone’s friend, first accept the person as is, and then respect that. Converse on their terms, and not on yours. Show some very basic respect for the people that they are, if you want to earn any respect yourself. And never, ever, EVER try to be the Fix-it Fred. Just do not.
Leave. People. Alone. Because that’s what they really need. If they want to get in touch with you, they will call you themselves.
Really, it’s not a difficult concept to grasp.