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When Your Mental Illness Affects Your Friendships


When you have bipolar disorder, so much can be a struggle. One of the biggest struggles I have come to face is holding on to friendships.

Over the years, I have come to learn that people come and go, and it’s not my fault. However, this illness does not make it any easier.

I have gone through many friends since my diagnosis, some who just didn’t understand and others who couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t blame any of them.

At this point, I take everything in stride. It is painful losing a close friend. Even more painful is when it is because of something you just cannot control. I have had groups of people tell me they could not deal with my ups and downs anymore, and shut me out completely. I have had best friends walk out of my life because of my unpredictable moods, unreliability and inability to control my depression.

Some of the most painful friendships lost in my life were two of my best friends. They went through everything with me: Hospital stays, depression, mania, good times and bad. They supported me through everything without a complaint. But suddenly, they grew tired. I couldn’t blame them either. I was tired. I was worn out. You tend to rely too much on others when your own life is chaos. That’s what I did… and it backfired.

Even harder than maintaining old friendships with a mental illness, is making new friends. Sure, you can make friends, but they may not be as understanding of the shifts in mood or the sudden constant need to isolate one’s self and be alone as old friends who know you better may be.

I have been lucky to keep at least a couple of really great friends, and one in particular who has been by my side through it all. He doesn’t live close anymore, but we talk every day and he’s the closest to my heart of anyone.

Family is another subject, but I’m lucky to have a supportive one. At least when my friendships falter, I have my family to lean on. Of course, this is not the case for every person. It gets very lonely without strong friendships in your life. It also takes work to maintain them, which I think is why it gets tough when your mental health is not up to par. If you’re lucky enough to have friends who will stick by you and your illness, and support you no matter what, keep them. They are few and far between.

Follow this journey on A Tale of Two Minds.

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Thinkstock photo via nikolaj2.