Editor’s Note: It can be tempting to isolate ourselves and withdraw from social interactions. We do it for many reasons–to avoid feeling like the odd one out, to manage paranoia, anxiety and fear, or just to avoid being hurt by insensitive interactions. This is Judy’s account of what she learnt about the healing power of friendships and community.
It took 2 years for me to realise the importance of friends. It was a scary thought to begin with. But as Nick Vujicic once said: “If you don’t have a friend, be someone else’s friend.”
I only started making friends again when I was on a student exchange programme in Europe. It was awkward at first. However, I don’t think I could’ve survived without these friends. I am so thankful for them for seeing me through the semester exchange programme, and for being the ones that ignited this positive change in me.
- Friends point out your blind spots.
I didn’t realize that I was oblivious to whatever was happening around me. There was once when I was having a meal at the canteen, a friend who was eating with me asked, “Oh, you didn’t notice that Friend A was sitting a few tables away?” That was when I realized that in order to avoid the paranoia that comes from being alone in crowded places, I would only concentrate on what was in front of me in do my best to block out the background noise. I did that for two years during university, and that unhealthy coping mechanism has became a habit. It’s a bad habit that I am trying to break.
- Good friends care to tell you the truth about yourself. Or at least offer you a new perspective.
There was one really brave lady whom I met in my semester exchange who once told me in frustration: “Why are you so negative?”. Then, she continued “Have you ever wondered what is it your boss wants? What’s his vision?” She went on: “Why do you think people don’t like you? It may be what you think, but not what others think.” Initially, I was feeling upset, none of my friends ever told me things like that. This lady changed my perspective on things. A few days later, I was extremely glad she woke me up with her wise words.
- You can count on your good friends to hear you out.
We all need friends who can lend a good listening ear, and I’m glad I have a friend who is just that. Train rides in Europe can be quite long. Did I mention that I came to know Jesus in 2013? I am a Christian, but schizophrenia has made me lose the ability to focus on reading at one period. Apart from not having time, this became another excuse for me to not read the bible. I was content to be a Christian in name only. So, I thank God that the quiet guy whom I was on the train with was also a Christian. With our beliefs being our commonality, our train ride conversation centered around the questions that I hadn’t dare to ask in my church because it might sound stupid. So, thank God for the friend that tried his best to hear and answer my questions.
- Your friends assure you and care for you.
My friends would organise group dinners so that I’d have proper food to eat, and they would listen to me speak, and tolerate my nonsense. There is one friend who lived in my block and had his meals with me. Because I am such an anxious person, I worry about a lot of things. His words of comfort and assurance came as often as my worries. It became common to hear these wise words from him: “Don’t worry about things that have not happened.” I’m glad for his constant reminders.
It may take some time to have the right people in your life. But don’t stop trying. They’re out there–you only need to be brave to take that first step and be that friend to others.
Judy is a local university student who advocates for mental wellness and the importance of rallying community support for mental health recovery.