I started typing this post out as a reply to Sunny - whose wonderfully insightful blog you can find here - but it got very long, and I found that I was saying things which would perhaps make quite an interesting post (well, as interesting as my posts ever get!).
Sunny's comment said this: "Funny - I just had a conversation with a friend the other day about this kind of thing. This friend has known that I have OCD for about a year. She was asking me if I read something she sent to me online and I said, "No, it would have triggered me." Then she apologized and said that she never thought of that and that she wouldn't send me stuff like that anymore. I told her not to worry about it and not to worry about whether stuff triggers me or not. It's my job to decide what will trigger me or not and it's up to me to take care of myself. I would prefer that other people would treat me normally. Anyway, I know EXACTLY what you are saying."
And, when I read it, a lot of things made a little bit more sense. We're obviously on the same wavelength!
I've been doing something thinking today and I've come to a semi-conclusion that, if people know about my mental illness(es), then they seem to think that they must assume some sort of responsibility for my wellbeing, which isn't the case at all. As I said yesterday, I am quite happy to look after myself. Yes, it's painful sitting with someone who doesn't eat anything when everyone else is having their lunch, but that's got to be my lookout and my decision. If I choose not to have anything, then I can promise you that I'm burning up inside from the shame, and probably eyeing up your lunch and wishing I could eat it myself, but it's really, honestly, not your responsibility to feel that you've got to coax me into eating something. I would hate to think that my friends think that if they 'take on' me, they've got to take on a full-time counselling job as well.
The thing is that, unlike a broken ankle, which would require some extra support from friends, a mental illness probably isn't ever going to go away altogether, and so my friendships can't be built on people thinking that they've got to help me and support me every day. I want people to spend time with me, not with my OCD or my eating disorder. I also don't want them to think that I'm the 'special' person, because this is me. Yes I'm ill, and some days I'll be having a horrible time and I won't have had anything to eat and I'll be repeating phrases in my head and everything, but I'm used to it. I've had bad days before and I'll have them again. I know how to cope with them, and I know how to get on with other parts of my life at the same time. Also, quite often on these days, it's the fact that my friends make me laugh and are absolutely wonderful people which lifts the fog somewhat.
And that can't happen if they're worrying about me.
I want to thank Sunny for inspiring this post. If you've not checked out her blog, you really have to because it's a lovely little corner of the internet!