I find it hard to be friends with people that only want to see the best parts of me. I am not sure this is good or bad, or if such a thing can even be quantified. For years of my life I hid the fact that I had PTSD. I only told my really close friends. I pretended, or tried at least, that I was like everybody else. And my friends during those years celebrated my okay-ness, and had no idea how to hold space for when I was not. Maybe a lot of people don’t know how to do this. Maybe that’s okay.

I don’t think it is right to expect people to have to “deal” with me, but I do wish there was more compassion on their part. I always said, if I had a broken leg, people would hold the door for me. They would see I need some extra support here and there. With mental illness though, there is no visible wounding. There is no, ‘oh, that person might need a hand.” There is nothing to see. And then when keeping it together becomes impossible, those close to me will see an episode, at work, home, the grocery store, the post office, anywhere I go there is potential to be “triggered” with PTSD.

I have a lot of friends across a lot of backgrounds and faiths. I have a consistent theme to these relationships and that is most do now know how to adequately hold space, or to meet me where I am, especially when I am in crises. I became a mental health advocate last year to challenge this and help. I thought, “I have a voice. I can be a voice for those like me and help those like me to feel less alone.”

This has happened and I have made so many deeply close relationships with other survivors like me, people that “get it.” Simultaneously, I understand that most people will not know what this struggle is like. And maybe most people will never know how to hold space or witness someone bursting forth with emotion and pain. Maybe our society deems it “unacceptable” and that won’t change.

I gave up on a lot of friendships. I realized I didn’t set proper boundaries to begin with and was friends with unsupportive and judgmental people, for me. I even left a lot of family behind because it seemed like no matter how hard I tried to explain how I was, most just didn’t get it. And that’s okay.

All I can do is be the change I want to see in this world. All I can do is the best I can and use my voice to continue to help myself and maybe others like me. Maybe that’s the point of my existence. Maybe I’m here just to say to other’s like me, “I see you. You’re not alone. And I understand. You are safe with me. You’re hard emotions are safe with me.”

-Angel Marie Russell

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