A friend who's bipolar and I were discussing some aspects of our illness when I mentioned how solicitous I used to be of my friends when a depressive episode began and ended. Since she hadn't thought to engage in what I consider Bipolar Etiquette, I figured that maybe others haven't as well and might find it useful.
I have written before about how sad and hurt I have been by friends who have deserted me because of my illness. But I should also mention the love and gratitude I feel for friends who have not only stood by me, but have helped in various ways.
A few friends were particularly sensitive to the financial devastation of this illness and were always there to offer freelance writing assignments once I recovered. Some would leave sweet voice mail messages just to let me know that they didn't need a call-back but they were thinking of me. During one particularly bad depressive episode, one friend came up with a list of potential support groups in case I needed to talk to other people. And during another painful episode, I fondly remember those people who wrote me such kind and touching letters.
In order to maintain these relationships over the years, I always made sure of doing two things. First, when I could feel a depressive episode coming on--and I always had at least three days to try and stave it off--I emailed my friends to let them know that I wasn't feeling well and might not be available for a few months. Usually, I just sent a fairly short note, something like this:
I'm feeling a depressive episode on the horizon. Hopefully, it won't be a bad one, but if it is, I want to apologize in advance in case I miss your birthday, anniversary, or other milestones. I'll be thinking of you and I'll let you know when I'm well again.
P.S. Although I'm not feeling like talking on the telephone, for the time being I will respond to email--although it might take a few days. If I feel worse and can't answer your emails, I'll try and let you know.
(to be continued)