Monday, April 14, 2008

Online and Offline Friends (Part 3)

I think the problem with being bipolar and dealing with "real life" friends is that it's inconceivable for them to understand what this illness feels like. When I'm depressed, I'm not able to explain it at all. If fact, I can barely speak, and have no desire to. From past posts, I know there are others who feel differently and want to be surrounded by people when they're depressed.

Personally, during my worst depressions, my best companion is my dog Spike. (Yes, my husband is a saint, and he's been totally supportive throughout, which makes me one of the lucky ones, but I truly wouldn't have wanted him to remain by my side for a year.)

During my first year-long depressive episode, which was caused my medication (I know I sound like a broken record but I guess it's my prerogative since it's my blog), Spike never left my side (that's my husband in the background; my digital camera skills still leave something to be desired). And it's now 15 years later, Spike and I both have gray hair (although I dye mine, and thus look younger), and he is still a wonderful companion.

When I'm well, I always felt that I should try not to dwell on my illness because of my long absences. Still, I know that over time, some friends feel I've talked about it too much. Some are more tolerant, but I guess they feel helpless to help me. Some have always been there for me. Others have chosen to keep me in their lives, but they have marginalized me by not sharing their own problems and concerns.

And I guess, when all is said and done, it's difficult for most people to feel I'm trying to get well--when I've remained sick for so long. If they have any questions in that regard, they could always read my blog. Does anyone find it just the least bit odd that we write these public blogs and share our innermost thoughts about this illness and our attempts at wellness, and few of our friends or relatives read them? I guess it's just another indicator of our self-absorbtion...or is it?

Maybe, it would be helpful to write a Bipolar Primer for Friends and Relatives. But again, would we be writing it for an audience who is so sick of this illness that they don't want to hear it mentioned one more time? I'm not sure.

What do you think? How do you deal with your "real life" friends? How many people feel their illness has left them feeling isolated? How many have figured out a way to appear less self-absorbed?

18 comments:

Danielle Says Hello said...

Great post and good questions Susan! I am sure that I continue to appear very self-absorbed by those that don't know me well. As for my friends - both online and in real life - if they are truly 'friends' they understand that my depressive states are not a choice and as true friends they never try and 'coax' me out of them. They just ride the wave with me. If it means that they don't hear from me for awhile, they understand and don't hold it against me. They know that it is actually better to leave me alone as I can get quite irritable otherwise. As I write this I realize that perhaps only those who have bipolar can understand this....however, friends don't have to 'understand' they just have to be 'there'....that's why my dog 'marbles' is my best friend ;) Great thought provoking post Susan. I could write more but I am supposed to be on 'break' ;)

my life with bipolar disorder said...

Susan, I am glad you have Spike and your husband with you over the years. That's a nice shot of Spike, your photography is great, no worry :)

I just shared on my blog about how I found it necessary to share with my family and friends about my diagnosis, and how I do it.

I do lost some friends along the way as some felt it is better to keep a distance from me. But I thank God for family, church friends and other friends who have accepted me with my diagnosis, puts up with my manic and depression, try to understand and not judge me or condemn me. It tries their patience at times, but I thank God for their love and prayers. It is a blessing to have them.

I don't feel isolated because of my diagnosis as I give of myself wholeheartedly in the reaching out to church members and friends who are in need, lonely and suffering in some ways. This make my life very enriching.

Pocket said...

Nice site…glad I found you!
Look forward to reading more posts…

Interesting posts! How did you measure the 120 episodes?

marja said...

When I'm depressed I feel as though I'm isolated, though I'm really not. It's my negative point of view that makes me feel that way. I actually do have a lot of friends and people I can turn to for support.

My problem has been that at times the topic of my disorder comes up too much - probably because that's the work I've taken on as well. I've become a mental health activist and mental health issues seem to be constantly on my mind. I'm sure my friends - and my husband as well - get pretty tired of that.

I've also had to fight very hard to learn to be supportive towards my friends instead of always being on the receiving end. I need to remember that if I want to have a friend I have to be a friend as well.

As a person with a serious mental illness, some people think of me as a victim with needs. They don't look on me as someone who can give them support as well. It's hard work with some friends to make them realize I want them to come to me for support as well. I would like people to feel they can come to me in the same way I go to them.

Support has to go two ways, doesn't it? Equally.

And how close two people can get when they support each other! And how good it can make us feel to be able to support a good friend who has been there for us!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Thanks Danielle. I agree that "friends don't have to understand, they just need to be there" is very important for me as well. Also, knowing that that won't hear from you and won't 'hold it against you' is key.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Nanci,
Thanks for letting people know about your post; they should check it out. I'll drop by later to do the same. I'm glad you've found people at your church who can help you. And it's always important to remind ourselves that if we're well enough, we can feel better if we can help others.

Susan

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Pocket,
Thanks for writing.I'm not sure what you mean about measuring the 120 episodes. I had two six-week episodes a year for 25 years, and then it got progressively worse. They became far more frequent, and I counted them after that. I kept mood charts for almost a decade.

Susan

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
Thanks so much for explaining how important it is to "be a friend" who gives rather than just receives. And I think it's also very important to realize that when you're depressed you're not alone, you may just feel you're alone. And that it's hard work to let friends know that you're there for them as well.

Susan

Annie said...

What an interesting post. I think sometimes I frighten my family and friends when I am depressed. My facial expression and mannerisms are so rigid and even harsh looking.They don't know how to act around me, so I stay in my room. I too have a loyal peopledog who is with me when I am depressed and never leaves my side. I call her a peopledog becasue she relates to me as more human than many people do. By the way my blog is
www.therapistwithbipolar.com/blog. I hope you will visit. Thanks for another thought provoking post.

Duane Sherry said...

Wonderful three-part series.
Where do I begin?

You said so much in three short pieces - I think you captured what many of us feel in a way most of us are not able to express.

More questions here than answers - the case with life's most complicated challenges.....

I really enjoy your work. You are a wonderful writer!

Duane

JayPeeFreely said...

Just read your last 3 posts - and I can totally agree. It is often a real barrier to meet someone, seem to hit it off, and know that any mentioning of some "abnormality" is going to send them running for the hills.

And like you said, how do you maintain relationships not found online? (Good question, give me the answer when you find it.)

Aside from my 3-4 blogger friends, that's about it for me. I haven't went out or ran into a true friend in like 5 years...(even then it was a former co-worker, who, I felt I used, at least, monopolized his time while I was dealing with some unusual issues...)

I struggle with the intro/extrovert thing too. I am outgoing in non-stressed situations. I like to discuss all types of things. But you know the reasons. So, I had to convert my extrovertedness to blogging about whatever. I read, but not as much as I should, damn TV, and I get into spurts about all types of things...or new ideas/hobbies that detract sometimes from a focused life.

I won't join org. because I come with baggage. Which I think is telling...maybe that's our dilemma. Trying to fit in an unfittable world where others have "their bags" to deal with.

Anyways, good to see you back. I posted my latest articles...hope you find them funny.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Annie,
Yes, our facial expressions are sometimes really unappealing when we're depressed. Because of my son, I always tried to look "normal" when he was around. But when he wasn't, and I was trying to concentrate on "normalcy" and sometimes looked in the mirror, it was like looking at another person. Yech! I'll visit your blog later tonight. Thanks for letting me know.

Susan

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Duane,
Welcome to my blog. Thanks for your comment, and your compliment. I'm very flattered.

Susan

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear JayPeeFreely,
As always, thanks for your comments and your honesty. I think I gave everyone somewhat of a false impression. I'm not saying that I don't have "real world" friends; I'm just saying that it's difficult. But I also believe it's very important. In fact, I think I discuss this in my last post in the series.

I'm tired tonight, but I'll drop by your blog tomorrow and catch up! I'm sure I'll think your pieces are funny--if you intended them to be!

Susan

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Annie,
Your blog doesn't come up with the URL address you've given. I'm not sure why, but I tried it about five times last night.

Susan

Paula Joy said...

Being new to this bipolar thing, I'm still at the stage where I'd like my real life friends that I've told about my diagnosis to talk to me about it. Why is it that they never ask me how I'm doing?? That bothers me. That is why I find such freedom in blogging. You all are on the same page, where it's normal and okay to talk about how we are feeling and how we are doing. How do we transfer that freedom to our real friends?? When I had someone ask me today how I felt about my current medication situation, I darn near fell off my chair!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Paula Joy,
That's a good question, and I don't know the answer. I'll post about it tonight so that perhaps someone else who has more insight than I do on this can provide an answer.

Susan