An essay by Brian McLaughlin, Advocate

I left them, they didn't leave me

When I was young I had many close friends. They were the kind of friends that could talk about anything, or spend long hours without saying anything at all.

When I became ill they seemed to all fall away. I attributed this to stigma and have harbored hard feelings for a very, very long time. I think a lot of folks living with serious mental illness have felt this way.

Since I became ill I have spent a lot of time alone. I seemed to have forgotten how to feel lonely.

Often I spend long hours lost in my own, sometimes flawed, thoughts.

Recently, I got to thinking about my old friends. I found myself missing them, yet, at the same time, angry at them for leaving me.

Then it occurred to me. My friends did not leave me. I left them. Further, it occurred to me that I not only left them once, but twice. First, the uncontrolled symptoms of mental illness obscured the person they knew. Then, when my symptoms cleared, I chose a life of seclusion. After awhile the phone stopped ringing and the mail box was chronically empty.

I wanted to share this so others like myself will not make the same mistake. I think my life would have been much richer if I had recognized my error sooner.

I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to reconnect with the world I would have to make the first move. I have made a start. I sent an e-mail to one of my old friends I had not seen for twenty years. My old friend immediately responded and the twenty years that had passed seem to be melting away with each letter.

Respectfully submitted for your consideration,

Brian Patrick McLaughlin MS/CPS
MH Consumer Advocate
Erie County, PA.

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