Reaching recovery from mental illness is a very difficult battle, and the battle continues even though you’re in recovery. To stay in recovery, you must take care of yourself and your needs daily. You must take your medications, practice coping techniques, monitor your moods, know your triggers and limits, and so on. If you have a serious mental illness, then you will continue to struggle with symptoms of it for the rest of your life. The important part is knowing how to handle the rough times and knowing when you need to step back from stressful, overwhelming, or very emotional situations.

When I was very sick with my illness the only problems I saw were my bleak overwhelming sadness, anguish, and hopelessness. I couldn’t see anyone else’s problems. I couldn’t handle dealing with the simplest things like deciding to buy new shoes let alone handle the hardships that faced my friends. My best friend Cheryl struggled with a bad relationship and yet she stood at my side. I knew her relationship was bad, but I couldn’t give her the support she gave me.

We lost contact for several years and we found each other again through Facebook. When we reconnected I was married, in recovery, and much stronger. I was finally able to be the friend I couldn’t be all those years ago. I could listen to her problems and give her support. She also returned the support.

One time my grandma was very sick and in the hospital. I was taking it very hard, but at the same time Cheryl was struggling with her own troubles. I had to step back from being there for her, and she had to do the same for me. No matter how much I wanted to support her, I knew I couldn’t handle her situation at that time. I turned to others on my support team. We both agreed that we would be more helpful to one another by stepping back. It was hard to do, but very important for both our wellbeing.

I made friends with a woman when I was sick. We both had similar illnesses and we became very supportive of one another. We understood what each other was going through, and it helped to have a friend who understood. The problem was I reached recovery and she didn’t. She kept falling deeper into her illness. When we talked, it was all about her hopeless, awful life and she had no room in her darkness to listen to me. I tried to be a friend for as long as I could, but her downward spiral started to take its toll on me. She was pushing me beyond my limits, and I had to end our friendship. I couldn’t let her drag me back down that hole again. I’ll always cherish the friendship we had and the good memories we shared and wish her the best, but I had to take care of myself first.

Recently I have been supportive of a friend going through a very rough time while she dealt with a sick relative. I’ve been more than glad to listen to her, support her, and even let her cry on my shoulder. In some ways I understand what she is going through. Her situation is similar to when my grandmother was sick. After a while, her tough time became overwhelming to me. I didn’t want to stop supporting her, but I needed to take a break. I worried about how she would take it if I told her I needed a few days where we didn’t talk about her problems. I didn’t want to hurt her, but I had reached my limit.

I asked Cheryl for some advice, and she told me to just tell her I needed a few days to take care of myself. I put Cheryl’s advice in a message and my friend understood. After a few days of taking care of myself, clearing my mind, and taking a breather, I felt strong enough to support my friend once again. I wanted to give her the best support I could give her, and I knew I couldn’t do that if I went past my emotional limits. Taking a small break helped a lot and now I am at her side once again.

It’s important to know your limits. While you are in recovery, your mental health must come first. You can’t risk being pushed down that hole again. You can be there for your friends, but you need to know that when things get to be too much, you need to take a break or walk away.

Knowing my limits helps me be a better friend to those I care about and allows me to stand strong in the light of recovery.

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