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How I Ruined an Important Friendship While Manic

My teen years were pretty awful. Struggling with mental illness, especially bipolar disorder, took a great toll on me, my family and many around me. There were many moments I look back on and cringe, wince and desperately wish to forget. Many of those moments were when I was experiencing a manic episode.

I sit and wonder. Why did I do that? How could I do that to someone or to myself? I play out all the ways it could have gone instead, if not for my mental illness. I try very hard to not shift the blame to others in many of those situations, when I was the catalyst. However, I also acknowledge others did play a part.

It’s extremely hard to forgive myself and accept how my mental illness was debilitating in those moments.  Many of those times I wasn’t even fully aware or getting the correct treatment for my disorders, or had gone off my medication. I really wish I had a better understanding at that time, so that the outcome wouldn’t have been ruined friendships or toxic effects on others and myself.

I had a best friend I loved dearly. She had her own issues too and we fit together perfectly in our dysfunctional way. With all friendships there were ups and downs, teenage drama and hormones. We played off each other, escalating the situations we would put ourselves in. The negative situations especially, danger, carelessness, parties, creating drama and causing problems.

I don’t believe she really understood that I was bipolar, or what that meant. Because of this, we often had conflicts about the way I acted, the choices I made sometimes and how unpredictable I was, in my rollercoaster of ups and downs. Looking back, I believe it was ultimately my mental illness that tore us apart, and what made me lose our deep friendship. A loss that still hurts to this day.

We had gotten tickets to a ballet. Months in advanced we had gotten the money together and were very excited to go. Her especially because it was a fancy old fashioned theater and that was one of her favorite things. It was downtown at night without parents, so it was even more exciting to us.

The month melted away as we waited, talking about it constantly and telling everyone we knew. We chose what we’d wear and would dress up and feel fancy in preparation. I was OK during this time. I wasn’t depressed or manic and I was actually stable and trying to hold on to that because things in my life overall were going really great.  Unfortunately, that stable feeling had convinced me I no longer needed medications, so I secretly stopped taking them. As the ballet came even closer, I started that ride up.

I encountered a new group of friends that were nothing but trouble. They were the worst type of friends to have and while I was completely aware of that fact, I didn’t care. I floated into mania and started ditching my best friend to hang out with these people. Even trying to get her to hang out with them too which was worse than simply standing her up.

The day before the ballet, we laid out our carefully-chosen outfits. We were both still excited, but I was distracted, taking calls I shouldn’t have been. We had a sleepover and all that night, trouble was calling me and I was answering. The day of, we got dressed and were getting ready when I decided that first we should go see my new friends. She didn’t want to, but in my manic state, I didn’t care. I just wanted the excitement, the drama, the attention from them. They lived fairly far away, so it was a risk visiting them while also making it to the ballet on time.

This is painful and hard to write. My actions — me and my mania — made her miss the ballet. The event that we and especially she had been so excited for. That she had saved all her money for, had actually gotten permission for. The worst part was, I didn’t really care. I kept telling her we’d still make it, that we’d just stay a few more minutes. Looking back, I can hardly believe how selfish I was, how completely unaware I was of how my decisions were hurting someone I cared about. How completely out of control I was, as I had gone off my medications.

After that our whole relationship unraveled, still in the mania mist, I pretty much left her behind. Once this group of friends had torn my life apart and I was coming down fast into depression, I tried poorly to make it right. It was too late, this had been an inevitable catalyst. All the chronic drama and ups and downs of my mental illness came to light and had ruined what we had beyond repair.

While this experience was tragic and hurtful, it was one of the big catalysts that caused me to get the help I needed. Since then, I have come a long way, thankfully, with medication, treatment, support and learning about my illnesses. I truly believe I owe a lot of my success to her.

I have no idea where she is now. After that moment, I really didn’t talk to her or see her again. I sincerely hope she is living happily. I wish I could have explained it all to her, not to excuse my behavior but to help her understand, but I didn’t even understand it myself. One of my biggest regrets was losing that friendship, one that meant so much to me.  And never actually expressing how sorry I was for the sadness I caused while struggling with my mental illness.

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Thinkstock photo via Rively