Schizophrenia and Friendships

  • I wanted to devote February to relationships: friends, lovers and family.


    One thing I always recommend: finding your tribe to connect with and share your life with and get support from.  A peer meeting is a good way to meet people that often go out to lunch or for coffee after the session.  What you talk about in the group will be held in confidence and not talked about outside.


    I wrote here at HealthCentral years ago that the goal is to begin by going out in the world to get comfortable interacting outside your apartment.  Go to Starbucks and have a latte and read the newspaper or use your Tablet.  Browse an antique store in a nearby neighborhood.

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    As you get comfortable you can branch out to talking with others.  I recommend not to be shy: to practice in front of a mirror or with a person you trust having conversations with others so that you get the confidence to speak up in real life.


    Friendships in my estimation are the bedrock of a person's recovery especially if he or she doesn't have close family members as a support team.  In the second SharePost in this series I will talk about romance.


    For now: I want to talk about making friends.  You can join a MeetUp to interact with people who share a common interest.  Watch out for hidden fees though most MeetUps can be attended for a song: on the cheap like the $10 sessions I belonged to.


    Church basement single events are another venue as well as neighborhood bookstores and revolving dinner companion nights at restaurants.  Package tours for a day trip to the country or a nearby city are also an option like the ones available via MetroNorth in New York City area.


    Your friends will arrive and depart at the exact times they are supposed to enter and exit your life.  Cry a tear when the friendship ends if it does and understand you will be able to meet new friends again.


    In New York City: the Friendship Network is run by women out of NAMI Nassau-Queens to match individuals with mental health challenges with each other for the purpose of making friends.  You can meet some great people this way.  It can also be a way to meet members of the opposite sex yet you have to set with them any limits or expectations you have.


    You get to decide how much you want to reveal to your friends and new friends wherever and however you meet them.  I'm able to offer empathy when a friend is going through a hard time so it always intrigues me when a friend disappears because he or she is not doing well.


    You also have to understand that sometimes you have to take other people's comments with a grain of salt because what they're telling you is linked to their own insecurities not who you are.  Ask yourself if there could be another side to the story than an intentional attack on how you live your life.


    Yet if you suspect a continual kind of emotional abuse is going on it is within your right to halt it or to walk away if you must.


    I recommend hosting pot luck or other dinner parties in your apartment once a season with close friends.  A pot luck has the benefit of being low-cost because everyone brings a dish.  Or you can order pizza from the best pizza shop in town and pay on your own.


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    Owing to the nature of peer-to-peer friendships you are within your right to expect that your friends will not attack you or criticize you.  You want to be involved with peers that can bring you up when you're sad and not cut you down when you succeed.


    My Five Friends Theory is that you can count on one hand the number of good friends you have.  I told my first therapist that all a person needs is "two friends, pizza and a really great stereo system."  I stand by this assertion today.


    The goal is to reach out for support and not isolate away from others when you're living with an illness.  Healthy, positive friendships will ameliorate how you feel about what you're going through.


    I'll talk in the next SharePost about romance: a step that is optional in recovery yet is a step that a lot of us do want to continue to explore.

Published On: February 13, 2014