• Mair Elliott

Female friendships..

As some of you may be aware, today is 'galentine's day', a day to celebrate female friendships. Now I don't celebrate these holidays due to my dislike of the commercialism of it all, but I do want to have a look at female friendships.

I am not the most social person in the world. I am very private, independent, introverted, and generally just prefer the company of animals than other human beings. Which would mean its no surprise that my friendships are in very small numbers. 3 to be exact. I'm talking about real and honest friendships here. Those three girls are the ones I'd give my life to save if it came to it. But I don't see them very often, one is off having an adventure of a lifetime in Australia, one is working full time in a city 2 hours away, and the other is studying in Scotland. Its a bit of a logistical nightmare to see them to be honest, but I know that when we do meet up its like that space and time in between us never existed.

Over the years relationships have been very hard for me, and I still really struggle to let anyone new get close. Despite breaking the autism stereotype by having a good group of friends during childhood, once I started to become ill it became really difficult for me and them to manage that relationship. I withdrew and the more ill I became the further I drifted away from them. I started to not turn up to school, and so we didn't see each other very often. Without meaning to put words in their mouths, it couldn't have been easy to understand what was happening to me, to watch as mental illness started to infect every aspect of my life. The further away I drifted and the less often I saw them the harder it then became to keep that friendship going. Managing illness and trying to maintain relationships is hard work.

However, I was lucky during my schoolyears to have an amazing group of friend who despite everything stuck with me. I remember when I was in hospital 5 hours from my home, they all travelled up to see me. I was and still am so grateful to have experienced that kind of love. And even though many of that group have moved on to live their lives I still celebrate the time and love we shared during our school-time friendships.

3 of them have never left (the buggers! ;) ;P ) and it has been an absolute privilege to watch them do their thing - seriously, I'm so proud of each of them I could cry. In all the darkness I've experienced they have been there. Visiting me in psychiatric hospitals, sitting with me in general hospitals when receiving treatment for overdoses, on the end of the phone, ready to have coffee and a catch up anytime. And they've been there in the good times, with one I travelled around Canada (without her I don't think I could have done it) and we shared some brilliantly funny times ('I can't open the door' - inside joke). I travelled out to visit another in France whilst she was doing her placement year, and had the best week. With the other I've been to Italy and watched her get her own house, get her dream job, and so on. These friendships have stood the test of time and the unpredictability of life.

I have an ongoing argument with my therapist about my 'lack of socialising'. And yes its true, outside work I don't actually socialise very often, which is a massive risk factor for many unpleasant things. But my argument being that where I do have friendships, I value them above and beyond almost everything else. I'd rather have really strong friendships with a small number of people than be technically 'socialising' with lots of people but with no substance.

There's something magic about those close female friendships, I cant really pinpoint what that is. But I do know is that I love those buggers, and I should say it more often.

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About Me

I am a young patient  activist, speaking openly about life with mental illness and autism. My activism includes public speaking, trying to affect change in mental health and/or autism services by contributing to relevant organisations, panels, committees and executive boards. I hope to break down misconceptions, stereotypes and stigma relating to mental illness and autism, and to create a future where mental health services are fit for purpose.

Want to hear me speak? Curious about my story? Think I could help you or your organisation to understand mental health and/or Autism?

Get in touch; Mair.elliott97@gmail.com


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