Mental health and wellbeing matters: appreciating friends

Coffee image for Film Stories' regular mental health column
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In our regular spot where we chat about mental health and wellbeing, some words on appreciating our friends, no matter how different from us they may be.

Hello and welcome to the spot on the site where we chat about mental health, wellbeing, and things that may be affecting us. This is a weekly part of our site, that works on the idea that not everything we say or write is going to be of us, but hopefully over the course of the series, there’s something that may be helpful to you, or someone you know.

This time, a bit about friendships, and appreciating our friends, even if you’re polar opposites.

We all have friendships in differing forms and to differing degrees.

For me, I’m generally bad at keeping friends – my rather beige personality and broken brain tend to chase them away over time. But the ones that I feel are truly worthy of the label ‘friend’ really do matter.

At the moment, my primary friendship is with ‘Skyguy’. I’ve given him this nickname as it is not my place to reveal his identity… and also because we essentially bonded over Star Wars. If you know The Clone Wars series, you’ll get the reference (it’s the nickname Ahsoka Tano gives to Anakin Skywalker).

In 2019 we happened to be in the same room one evening, at a spoken word event, and we didn’t speak. Later that night I got a Facebook friend request, and then… nothing. There was the occasional reaction to each other’s social media posts, but nothing much beyond that.

However, in 2021, I sent him a couple of messages, because I’m nosey and suspected he needed to get something off his chest. Since then, we have developed a regular contact and have discussed everything from Anakin Skywalker to politics, personal lives, and my wonderful ability to overshare.

Our communication method can be interesting to look back on, also. To the untrained eye, it looks like random nonsense, but there is a pattern. He will send most of his messages in voice clip format, and the longest to date is about 22 minutes. We call them his podcasts. I then reply in text format, and I can send messages so long that War And Peace looks like a short story by comparison. And then there are our Meme Wars, of which I am the undisputed champion.

This, in part, shows how different we are. Yes, we have some overlapping and similar interests and opinions, but as people we are polar opposites. The extrovert and the introvert. The raver and the one who prefers to sit at home with a brew. Seeing his audio clips in reply to my typed messages must look like a conversation between cats and dogs. We have a flow that works for us, but to an outsider I can only imagine how strange it looks.

Skyguy is just one of a handful of people with whom I feel I can discuss anything, feel no shame at who I am, and even feel comfortable hugging – which is a significant issue for me.

And yet, no matter who the friend is and how much I value the friendship, there are still some things I cannot say. The issue is not them, it’s me. There are certain things that have always been hard for me to vocalise such as ‘I love you’, ‘I miss you’, ‘I want to hang out with you’, or topics I’ve never been allowed to discuss in the past. Emotions are hard for me to understand, let alone express, and it worries me that perhaps people don’t see how important they are to me.

I want to let people know they matter to me, that I care, that I value them, and that I am glad they are in my life. But saying any of that feels wrong, and in the past I have even made people feel awkward in my attempts to express any of it. So, while I work on finding a way to say the things I can’t say, I just plan to revel in the fact I even have friends like Skyguy at all. I’m not always this lucky.

Who are your standout friends? And how do you ensure they know how special they are? (I am looking for tips).

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