Saturday, April 12, 2008

Online and Offline Friends (Part 1)

I'd like to thank everyone who wrote during my computer meltdown. It's comforting to know I was missed. Perhaps, returning from an enforced absence online is like returning from a depressive episode--without all the angst. Still, there are some important issues to address. For a long time I have recognized that I have become socially isolated. But that point was driven home when I realized that more people have missed me online in the last week than miss me in "real life."

Sometimes I feel bad about my reclusiveness and sometimes I don't. I certainly have justification for my behavior. Over the years, there have been so many depressive episodes, so many canceled plans, so many birthday cards left unsent, so many milestones ignored (because my main concern was survival), and so many relationships damaged by my erratic behavior that was medication-induced--that many friendships have fallen by the wayside.

And during a decade of severe illness, I had to adapt to the restrictions it placed on me. Initially, it wasn't by choice. But perhaps after years of going forth into the world--and pushing myself to fit in--maybe my depressions caused me to reclaim my original personality type, which is introverted. In fact, many of my personal traits can be explained in the Myers Briggs Personality Test. An introvert has the following qualities:
  • Think/reflect first, then act.
  • Regularly require an amount of private time to recharge batteries.
  • Motivated internally. Mind is sometimes so active, it is closed to the outside world.
  • Prefer one-to-one communication and relationships.
When I'm hypomanic--and this has been greatly exacerbated by medication although I've worked hard to diminish its impact--I become an extrovert with all the Myers-Briggs defined qualities (although it's not as dramatic a shift as it seems):
  • Act first/think later.
  • Feel deprived when cutoff from interaction with the outside world.
  • Usually open to and motivated by outside world of people and things.
  • Enjoy wide variety and change in people relationships.
I'd like to have a few close friends who live nearby who would understand this bipolarity and not feel like it's "bad" or "negative." (My dearest friends are mostly spread out throughout the country.) But how would I explain myself to new friends?

"Hi, my name is Susan Bernard. I 'd like to be your friend, but my personality does not remain constant these days. I need periods of solitude, although I sometimes enjoy interaction with the outside world. Sometimes I can be there for you--and sometimes I can't (although I will always respond to your emails if you let me know they are important.)

Sometimes I have bursts of energy, but sometimes I don't. I'm extraordinarily loyal although it may not seem so, given my absences. I can be outgoing, but usually I'm more quiet than that. My feelings are easily hurt. When there are problems between us, I cannot let them fester. I need to resolve them, and I will tell you how I feel (in writing because it's so much easier for me to express myself). And I hope you will do the same. My goal is to talk or write things through so that we can understand our differences and remain friends.

(more to come)


Gianna said...

that's about how I make friends these days...some people are actually open to it...but it takes time and courage...

I have a couple of developing friendships where people know all of that about me...I've also let them read my blog...but that took some time.

my dearest closest friends are all in CA--I'm in NC...

and then I have a lot of people who have become dear online too...

it's a strange world us mental health bloggers inhabit...I never quite know how to describe my online life to people, but there are open minded lovely souls out there who hear you if you dare to share...

Syd said...

Susan, so much of you wrote here resonates with me. I used to feel guilty that my friendships, particularly in the "real world" have such a bipolar aspect to them - meaning that sometimes I'm the life of the party and other times I'm too tired to even attend.

But I've come to realize that most of the people that I consider my friends are the same way, there are times when they're there for me, and times when they're no where to be found. While some are introverts, which would explain our similarities in that regard, many are not. I've decided that maybe it's not a measure of the depth of our friendship, but merely a symptom of the times we live in. We're at that age where things happen, and if my friends are like me, they can only deal with so many "things" at a time.

I'm trying to learn to be more patient with my friends who can't always be there when I need them in the same way that I'm hoping that they will be patient with me when I need to withdraw and go inside for a while.

PS I think you're a wonderful friend, by the way! :)

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
Thanks for your comment. I agree about there being people out there if you "dare to share." But, there's a whole other side to this, which I plan to write about tomorrow. It's about liking or disliking different kinds of people dependent upon my moods. It's something I've never written about or read about, but it will be interesting to hear what you--and others--have to say.


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

That's a very interesting point about other people being the same way. I guess I didn't think about it until I'd read what you'd written. I supposed I've always blamed myself for my distance, or I've blamed my illness for their distance. But you're right!

And you're a wonderful friend as well.


my life with bipolar disorder said...


Thanks for this great post. I too struggle to maintain friendships because I went through much confusion with manic and depression. Friends are puzzled when I disappeared for months at times due to depression, and some eventually distanced themselves from me.

My diagnosis did helped some of my friends to understand me a little better. Thank God that I am finding a lot of support and encouragement now through my blogging friends, including you :) I no longer feel alone because we all understand one another's struggles to some degrees. It is so wonderful to have such friends and support through the internet though we may never meet on this earth! Thank you for stopping by my blog and your encouragement :)


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Nanci,
Thanks for thanking me! I think a lot of the problems for many of us was that it took so long to get a diagnosis that we didn't know what the problems were. And once we did, there wasn't a lot of practical advice on how to deal with them. I think I'm going to write more about this in tomorrow post's because it's such an important issue.


Annie said...

It is good to have you back.Even though I have not known you long enough to assume a friendship, I have enjoyed your posts. I relate to your feelings about friendships off-line and it is one of my goals to build more friendships. If you have time I would consider it an honor for you to view my blog. Your writing is so inspirational I come to your site every day and it is worth it.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Annie,
Thanks so much for letting me know. I genuinely appreciate it. I tried to visit your blog but by clicking your name, all I get is your profile page. And your blog isn't listed on that. But tell me what it is, and I'll visit! If you want it to be listed on your profile page, you can do that too.


Paula Joy said...

This post made me chuckle! You wrote this in such a way that is SO EASY to identify with, and that's why I laughed. I'm there!

I haven't read the others yet, thought it best to start at part one!! :)

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Paula Joy,
You might want to stop with part 1. By the time you get to part 4, I go into a full-fledged rant, which is much less of a chuckle! But thanks for your comment. I appreciate it!