So everyone’s heard that adage that I find a bit offensive, “the blind leading the blind,” right? Well, what I’m looking for is a better way to say it than quoting Stabbing Westward, as I did in my title. I need to figure out how to say it, because it’s how I feel right now. How can one mentally ill person help another in dealing with their struggles when I can’t even fully handle my own?
I was recently in a pretty heated argument via Snapchat messenger of all things with one of my best friends from college. It didn’t start out that way; we were just exchanging snaps and chatting, but it took a turn when he commented about how miserable his relationship had become. Now I’m no source of relationship wisdom, as I’ve had my fair share of bad ones and poor relationship decisions, but I tried to assure said friend that he’s capable of functional relationships; he just sets up his own roadblocks. That turned into quite the heated debate over what kind of person he was, with him claiming he’s cold, self-centered, and selfish, basically him letting his depression speak for him. I claimed otherwise and threw back that he lets his own poor self-esteem grow to self-loathing, and he needed to get a handle on that. He threw back that I basically needed to abandon ship and forget about him, because I was too good a person to be pulled into his pit of misery. This is a friend I’ve had since 19, so there’s no way I’m giving up on this relationship. I threatened to blow up his phone until he’d sit down and talk to me about what was going on, but after one voicemail, I paused and have paused for over a day.
The reason for my pause: how can someone with bipolar that mostly manifests in depressive episodes help someone manage and react in spite of their depression? How can the broken fix the broken? How can I save someone when I can’t keep myself together day to day?
I decided that all of the shiny happy “buck up, soldier” cheerleader talk might not be enough. I mean, he knows where I am and that I can’t always be counted on to give myself a pep-talk, why should he listen to me? Are the depressed able to be a cheerleader for others or are the mentally healthy people the only ones who can fill that role?
I guess that’s a question I’m looking for someone to answer. Do others with mental illnesses help you in dealing with your own? Do we trust the troubled to advise us?
I know I like commiserating with my peers whose brain chemistry runs a little off of the rails, but that’s me.
How do other members of the community feel?
Should I just keep cheering this friend of mine? Is there any chance that they’ll believe it, when I haven’t managed to get it to stick in the last 17 years?
Can I save someone else when I can’t even save myself?