Auntie SparkNotes: I'm Stressed Out and It's Messing with My Friendships
It's senior year, I'm really stressed out, and I'm afraid it's going to take a toll on my friendships.
Because of stress, I get overwhelmed very quickly. I want to cry at the drop of a hat, I'm always burned out and tired, and I feel like running away when confronted with the slightest inconvenience. I know my friends aren't there to be my emotional crutches, so when something upsets me I step away from my phone for a while, or I become quiet, because I'm afraid I'll snap at them.
But the thing is, because my solution is to withdraw and stay silent, I bottle everything up, which makes me more miserable. I've considered talking to my friends when they've said something that upset me, but it's just so easy to upset me these days I don't know if it's a legitimate concern or if it's just my exhausted mind blowing things out of proportion. Not to mention, I'm sure suddenly becoming radio silent in the middle of a conversation is really worrying and anxiety-inducing for other people. But if I did try to explain I genuinely think I might just start crying, which wouldn't make anyone more comfortable.
Well, there's your first mistake, Sparkler: Who ever said that people should be comfortable all the time? I mean, you're not comfortable. You're miserable! And yet, you're still here—which just goes to show that "uncomfortable" is an unpleasant but survivable state of affairs.
So if you have something important to communicate to your friends, and you get a little teary in the process… well, so what? You're allowed! People sometimes cry when they're overwhelmed and on edge. And if your friends feel a little bit weird about it, then y'know what, let them. Let them feel weird. Let them steep for a few minutes in the minor discomfort of being in close proximity to a really unhappy person. They'll live — and in the meantime, they'll have gotten whatever message you needed to convey about how they can best support you during this difficult time in your life.
Of course, that is step two. Step one is this: Go to your doctor, ASAP, and get screened for depression. You're constantly burned out, overwhelmed, and on the verge of tears— in other words, you're ticking an awful lot of boxes that suggest a diagnosable mental health issue. And that's something you need to address before you talk to your friends, because the conversation you have with them is going to go something like this: "You've probably noticed that I've been kind of off lately. I'm going through a hard time and I'm taking steps to deal with it. In the meantime, though, it would really help me if you could [insert specific reasonable thing here which you want your friend to do, or avoid doing]."
Because you're right: asking your friends to shoulder the whole entire burden of your unhappiness by confronting them every time they upset you—particularly when your current fragile state makes you incredibly easy to upset —isn't fair. But letting them know that you're going through something, and that they can support you in this or that key way while you do the work to get better, is more than fair; it's your best shot at maintaining healthy relationships while you're in a not-so-healthy place (not to mention a deserved opportunity for your friends to do what friends do, and be there for you.) And if you cry a little in the process, I promise, nobody will blame you.
...Unless you get snot on them. So keep the Kleenex handy.
Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want more info about how this column works? Check out the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.