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Being the ‘strong’ friend to someone in their time of need is something that almost gets brushed under the rug without a second thought. It goes without saying that we generally would do anything we could to support our friends and loved ones whenever they needed it, and with 1 in 4 people in the UK now experiencing overwhelming symptoms of a common mental health problem, this support is needed more often than not.
But what happens when the strong friend is feeling... Not so strong? Who do they turn to?
I cannot speak on this topic from experience, as I have never been the strong friend. But I have lived alongside and witnessed the strong friend, and I have a general idea on what effects it can have on a person.
Mental health issues are exhausting. It is no secret. But when you have somebody offloading their thoughts onto you, can you ever tell them that sometimes it’s too much? The short answer is yes. Sometimes, we don’t realise how much we are offloading onto one person—it just sort of spews out like sad vomit—and if it ever feels like it’s too much for you, it is probably feeling too much for us as well. Sit your friend down, look them in the eye and just ask if they mind changing the subject. They would probably be glad to. We do not want to be a burden to you, and despite our mental ailments, we can read messages pretty clearly. By taking your mind off of things, we will be taking our mind off of things.
If you don’t want to hear the details but still want to check in, just ask how we’re feeling. Ask how we’ve been doing. Generally, the details won’t be provided unless pushed for, and by just asking how someone’s been holding up I can almost guarantee that you will brighten their day more than you can imagine. It also opens them up to ask you how you’ve been doing, then giving you a chance to explain if you haven’t been feeling your usual self. We are always happy to listen and help.
Another important point is to stop lying to yourself. Chances are, if you’re the strong friend, you’re not used to showing your vulnerability off as much as those around you as you’re constantly trying to be the support barrier. I know it may b hard, and I know it may be alien to you but don’t lose touch with your own feelings.
Finally, just be honest with us. Us weak friends love you strong friends more than anything. You have seen us at our roughest and loved us through it unconditionally—and we will always do the same for you. We cannot help you if you do not let us, I of all people understand having the hard exterior, but sometimes it is healthy to let some people slip through the cracks when you really need someone there. We do not want you suffering in silence and we will never ever compare your problems to ours
I would drop everything to be there for my strong friends, as their happiness is paramount to me. So don’t be afraid to reach out to those who you have shown kindness and patience to. Even if it isn’t explicitly, insight a conversation that you know will cheer you up, bring up old memories you can laugh about, ask to meet in your favourite spot.
We do not want to inundate the friendship with our sadness. Please never believe we do. We appreciate you more than we can ever express, and we want you to know that you don’t have to act strong all the time. We will be there, and we will love you.