4 Tips for Seeking Support With Bipolar Disorder

I spent many years dealing with bipolar disorder alone. Partly because people didn’t know how to help me, and partly because I didn’t want to be helped. I didn’t want to share the truth with anyone. With what I felt were all my “ugly” symptoms, I believed it was better to stay hidden. So when I finally met new people and made new friendships, I had to learn how to be open with them. It has been hard.

I do a pretty good job on the surface of it. I try to reach out for help when I need it and express what I’m going through. But I worry constantly about “friend fatigue,” or whether I’m being a “burden.” My mind is constantly trying to convince me my disease will destroy all my relationships despite ample evidence to the contrary. When the fight is 24/7, I sometimes feel in constant need of support and worry it’s too much for my friends.

So I’ve given this some thought, and here are a few things I try to do when seeking support from friends:

1. I try to put myself out there, but I recognize and respect that my friends have their own lives and their own problems. Sometimes work gets in the way of them being able to fully be there for me, sometimes family problems, or they’re just not doing so well themselves. It’s important that I reach out when I need to, but I try to remember other people can’t always show up fully. Just like me, they’re doing their best.

2. I try to be open to suggestions. If I ask for help, I listen and give what they’re saying a chance. Sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine things will ever be different, and it can be hard to listen when someone tells me it will. Sometimes it’s hard for me to acknowledge I need to try something new or see something differently. But I try to give their kind words a chance.

3. I know they will be there for me when it counts and have faith that I am always supported. I may go through hard times day to day, and they may not always know what I’m going through or be able to help — but I keep in mind they care in the best way they can in every moment. That they would be there for me when things get really bad. This is such a comfort and can be enough to get me through.

4. And finally, I remember that support goes both ways. I try my best to be there for them, too, when they are in need. That’s the beauty of friendship.

People with mental illness can need a lot of support and should always reach for it when they need it. But there are things we can do to help our “helpers” help us.

Image via Thinkstock.

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