You read that right, I’m my own best friend. The concept might be foreign to some of you, and that’s okay. It was to me too until I was admitted to Janesville Mercy Health’s psych ward back in August of 2015.
During the admission process, there are a handful of standard questions, like “what brought you here today?” or “what kind of stuff to you like to do?” in an effort to figure out how best to help you. Now, I had been admitted to my fair share of inpatient psych wards, but on this particular admission, the latter question gave me pause.What did I like to do? I knew the right answers: dancing, writing, playing the piano. But those are answers my friends would give. What did I like to do? What was I passionate about? Who was I? Okay, okay. I know that sounds like I went weirdly deep and philosophical, but cut me some slack, I was already having a mental crisis. These questions flooded my mind for a few hours. I knew all the right answers, but they were just that… answers. Like it was information learned for a quiz. I couldn’t answer the questions as genuine responses from me… if that makes any sense. I realized the answers to these questions were not my own, but answers that anyone who knew me would answer.
Doubts began to sink in. My sense of self was based on what other people thought about me. Their opinions, their judgments, their misconceptions. It got me thinking: what do I know about myself, regardless of what others say? I wasn’t sure where to start. So I just wrote stuff down when it came to me. It started out as silly stuff. “I like being in the rain,” “I should stretch more,” or “I like tap dancing.” The list really started to work. Slowly, I started discovering deeper things too, like my warning signs that I was going into crisis, or advice to shower more often. I continued to make this list, even after discharge. It’s currently six pages long. A few months after my stay in Janesville, I was again in a psych ward, very close to rock bottom. I had lost my boyfriend, I had lost his family, my friends had taken breaks from our friendships… I was so sad that words like “I’ll never leave you” weren’t true. I realized the only guarantee in life we have is that we’re stuck with ourselves for the rest of our lives.
Once I had this realization, I started studying myself a lot. I bought books on my disorders. I took quizzes to learn about my different personality traits. I brought my list of things I learned about myself everywhere with me. I tried to learn at least one thing about myself every day. After six months I did it. I loved myself like I would love a best friend. I had inside jokes with myself. I was way more honest with myself. I gave myself a nickname that I called myself. It was me, myself and I, and I was finally happy being alone. I knew my strengths and weaknesses. But I didn’t want to stop there. I kept studying and studying. I became obsessed. I would by college textbooks to learn about my disorders. It became unhealthy. I had worked myself into thinking that I could study my mental illness away. Like I could cure myself if I knew enough about it. My Behavioural Specialist at Rogers noticed this behavior and called me out on it. While at Rogers I wasn’t allowed to excessively engage in this activity, beyond the homework I was assigned. It was hard at first, but I gained some much-earned freedom from my constant studying after a while.
Flash forward back to present day. I can now say I have a healthy balance of learning about my disorders and myself, without obsessing over it. I’ve been proud to be my own best friend for over a year now. I love life so much more because I always have a pal by my side to share life with. You might think it’s weird, but I assure you it’s the best decision I’ve made in my life. I’m my own best friend.