Friday, June 22, 2007

A Letter to My Non-Bipolar Friends and Relatives

Last night, my feelings were deeply hurt by an experience with a friend I've known for years. Writing about it made me feel much better but I decided to delete it this morning. The incident is less important than my response, which I do plan on leaving in this blog. As I relaxed in my bubble bath afterwards, I composed the following letter (in my mind, which I won't send) to my friends and relatives.

Dear Non-Bipolar Friends and Relatives:

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it has meant to be bipolar for so many years. And I've recently come to some realizations that I'd like to share with you.

Even though I emailed many of you about my blog, few of you have told me that you've read it or if you have, you've barely mentioned it. None of you have posted comments. Only my aunt in Texas has said that she's really enjoyed what I've written.

How do you think that makes me feel? Two days ago, I recorded my 100th post. I've made an entire community of new friends. I've had people who were total strangers to me only a few months ago, respond with so much kindness and empathy to my posts, that I've been touched to my very core.

Yet, those of you that I've known my entire life or for much of it, haven't responded at all. Could it possibly be that in 100 posts you haven't read anything that's touched you at all?

Or is it that you haven't taken the time to read what I've written because you're not bipolar so you're not interested. You know, it was bad enough when I wrote my three books and you never even wrote me a note to say what a great job I'd done.

Personally, I can't understand it. If you had ever shared one thing you'd written, I'd have been so proud of you. If you had the courage to share your thoughts as I've shared mine, I've have understood you so much better.

I must admit that I find your lack of interest appalling. During the last 39 years, I've experienced 120 depressive episodes. I've survived an illness that few people survive--with my sense of humor in tact. I've seen "death" as surely as if I'd had a terminal disease. I've felt such excruciating psychic pain that it's indescribable.

I've read books about people climbing Mount Everest and I feel that we bipolars who survive this illness have conquered something far more important than climbing a mountain--even one that's so high. And we've done it without Sherpa guides.

In fact, for the most part, we've done it without great empathy from our doctors (there are exceptions and I feel fortunate that my psychiatrist is very empathetic), without effective medication, without adequate health insurance, and without sympathy and empathy from bosses, friends, and relatives.

So, perhaps you can understand why finding a bipolar community has been so important to me. For the first time, I am living--if only virtually--in a community of bipolar people. So, I don't really have to be concerned with being bipolar. I know that whatever emotion I've felt, they've probably shared. I know what however sick I've been, they've probably felt similarly.

I know that however much my feelings have been hurt by people who unconsciously (or not) have said unkind things, my fellow BIPS know what it feels like. Most importantly, I know I don't have to explain my behavior to them. And I don't have to apologize.

Could it be that we who are bipolar are the only people in the universe who can honestly share our feelings? I've got to say that it sometimes feels that way. Otherwise, how could it be that you've read 100 blog postings and have remained silent?

I just don't get it. I'm beginning to feel that I like BIPS better than other people (except "older" people who I also find extraordinarily honest and giving). I am beginning to feel that even with our weaknesses and flaws, we are more sensitive and more caring that others.

I am writing this letter to you with the hope that at least some of you will respond so that I can understand your absence--both emotional and physical--during the last 14 years when I was so very ill.

Love,

Susan

10 comments:

Syd said...

Susan,

What an amazing letter! It brought tears to my eyes - first tears of sadness (and empathy), then tears of anger, but most importantly, tears of "pride" for lack of a better word at the moment. I'm so proud of you for having the courage to say the things that many of us are feeling, and to say it more gracefully than most of us could.

I think that every person with BP with a blog who reads this letter should post a link to it from their blog, whether your experience applies to them personally or not. This is something that everyone who "says" that they care about a loved one who is suffering should read. I'm sure that those people who have been supportive know who they are and will not be offended by the link. And as for those who haven't been supportive, well, they'll know who they are too.

I'm so sorry that you were hurt by this experience, but just remember that there are lots of us sending virtual hugs and actual prayers your way at this very moment.

"Dootz" said...

Susan,

No, to some of us out here you DON'T have to explain. We are there with you.

I hope and trust the others will come along sooner or later and understand.

-Howard

marja said...

I know how you feel. But you know, I've come to expect this disinterest from people. I've seen it for so long, it doesn't bother me so much anymore.

Except: there is one person who I'm hurt by. It's my sister, who's always been very close to me. I know she doesn't have a computer at home, but she goes to the library to use the computer for other reasons. Whenever I suggest she check out my blog, she doesn't even want to know how to find it. She just doesn't care - even though it's so important to me.

Why are people like that?

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Marja,
Your guess is as good as mine!

Susan

Jon said...

I wouldn't say disinterest as much as discomfort. If a friend revealed a physical handicap I would have an equally difficult time discussing it with them as they are discussing my bipolar disorder. My mother can't bring up my bipolar disorder, but she tries in her own way- she asks me how my meds are going.

Don't be too hard on people, it's a very difficult topic for many to discuss. They don't want to hurt you, and don't want to treat you any differently than they ever have.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Jon,
I must admit that you and I see this in a different way. If friends or relatives hasve cancer or diabetes, would his/her friends or relatives have a difficult time discussing their illness?

My father died of cancer and I can't tell you how much research I did, how many doctors appointments I went on with him, how many hours we spent talking about wellness and illness.

And my mother has diabetes and dementia and we can honestly discuss both.

I have been there for my parents (and they have been there for me) and for many friends and relatives who have suffered from physical illness.

What I have gained from my illness is an ability to comfort people when they are sick, and to talk honestly and openly about their fears and concerns (I let them take the lead and I don't go farther than they are able.)

So, while I appreciate your comments, I believe I am entitled to my own feelings about this. I have earned that right!

Susan

JayPeeFreely said...

I know exactly how you feel. Given my own circumstances, not much in the way of communication has transpired back.

Around Christmas, I mailed out a chapter on the baseball project to my father, who as you know, is not much of one. I also sent it to a high school friend who has been through a difficult stretch in her 20's due to her brother's actions.

Neither responded at all. Many others I had friendships or relatives that know about much of the story, never do either.

To this, I have given up. Frankly, the online community of BIPS and others, are reflecting something back. I get more from the comments than I ever get from my closest relatives and few friends.

You are right to state the things you did. After 100 posts, even one response, heartfelt and considerate, probably would have meant the world to you.

I haven't said this before: I am likely bipolar. I've never been diagnosed correctly due to the ignorance of the psy. community. I wonder if I even believe in any diagnosis given the apathy I've seen in the few visits (5 total) to any mental health "specialist."
I choose to read things, decide what helps and move on...

The past few days I've struggle to get out of bed. I work every night as a paper deliver for the last 2.5 years, and sleep sometimes too long afterwards. Or rather, I get too down to get up and "just do it."

People around me barely comprehend it. My aunt is a perpetual burden.

Getting back to you, your comments rang true to me. When you have an ongoing lifelong conflict (and others forget that is what it is)
and you are fighting it, why should get pushed aside?

You are a successful person in my book. A published author, sensitive and caring and f--king real for christ sakes. Plenty of the "normal" people can't find their asses with both hands...

Great letter.

Carrie said...

Susan,

Thank you for writing what I have felt so many times - this weekend as a matter of fact. My own mother pretends that I don't have depression because she doesn't want her friends to know. Ouch!

On my journey I have learned something new from each relapse. I am gathering ideas for a retreat for functioning folks with mental illness. Please check it out - I would really value your feedback!

www.thiscrazyidea.blogspot.com

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Carrie,
Great idea! I'm swamped today but I'll add you to my blogroll and mention your idea.

Susan

Anonymous said...

Dear Susan,

Your letter has touched my heart. I was browsing google for things on BiPolar, because my friend recently-ish found out she had BP. She's not able to take any medicine, as far as they say, and so i've come to find ways to help her cope during her different moods.

People often make me feel the same, not really carring, or being supportive. Im even sad to say its often my friend with BP. It hurts rather much...
Don't let it hurt you though, most people don't and can't care like few can. People are impaitent, and selfish, usually resulting in the typical "I'll look at it tommorow."

This blog is yours, and you, I can see, have some nice people that comment you. Keep in mind these people, loved ones in a sense, and forget your everyday friends and family. Somtimes its hard for people to deal wiht things more than they have too, and often they don't, other times they just don't care.
I hope my post didn't aggrivate you, and I hope its fine I commented.
~Vian