Friendships Have A Role To Play In Recovery

In my last blog, I talked about the impact mental illness can have on romantic relationships.  That got me thinking about other important relationships in my life – friendships!

Friends come and go throughout your life.  I think that’s normal.  However, for those of us who have spent time in hospital we have discovered that the tendency is for them to go. It’s very disappointing.

Sometimes, though the best friends you make in your life are those who you spend time with in hospital. I met my current best friend in hospital years ago. Although distance is a barrier now, I know that she is always there for me.  What’s more is that we can truly relate to each other because we have both experienced that same spot in our lives.

While I can’t seem to make friends very easily in the wider community, I always seem to find friends in hospital - go figure! I do question whether hospital is a good place to make friends though, as some “friends” have not necessarily made a positive impact on me.  For example number one: going on privileges and getting high with a “friend”, then crashing and trying to kill myself. Example number two: having my friend read a good-bye letter to her husband to me, then breaking her trust when I reported what she was thinking to the nurses for her own safety and my moral well-being.

I have found out the hard way that sometimes the only thing you have in common with your hospital friend is that you share a diagnosis or a concern about a certain staff member. Upon becoming well, you may discover how boring or negative this “friend” actually is.  That may be very tricky as it is hard to break ties with them if they’re still unwell – guilt trip!

Regardless of whether or not making friends in hospital is good for people, it is not up to us as staff to put limitations on friendships. Sure, we can certainly help patients put up healthy boundaries but to deny them the possibility to make a new friend is not in our job description.

What I believe should be in our job description is being willing to encourage patients to keep the new friends they have made in hospital and to let go of ones who may be impacting their recovery negatively.

My final point: I think it is fantastic that Ontario Shores is known for its accepting and inclusive space where inpatients, ex-patients, and outpatients feel comfortable meeting.  I think we need to work to build these accepting and inclusive places in the wider community so that people can move beyond the hospital environment.

Friendships while in hospital can be life-changing.  Whether long-lasting or not, they form experiences that are always lessons in life for everyone and anyone.