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How Bipolar Disorder Has Tested My Friendships

I have bipolar disorder II. This means I am more often than not depressed with small bursts of mania. Most of the time, I am able to handle day-to-day activities without a problem. However, it definitely affects my friendships.

I was 19 when I was diagnosed, after a suicide attempt, and this changed my life. Before that, between ages 16-18, I struggled hard. I constantly skipped classes at school, sat in the bathroom and cried. I failed my classes as well, which caused me to lose scholarships to help pay for school. I could not figure out what was wrong with me. I was being treated for depression and anxiety, but it was obviously not enough.

As I sat in the mental health facility, talking to my psychiatrist, he seemed to realize that while I had depression and anxiety, I also had bipolar disorder II. Once I started getting treatment for that, you would think smooth sailing, right? Not so much. Without realizing it, I had started to really push my friendships. I had someone I considered my best friend but I was so unsure that I meant anything to her. I would constantly have meltdowns over text messages and it “drove her crazy” (which I totally understand). I will always remember the day she said, “You can’t keep breaking up with me!” I was devastated. Here was the girl I thought was my closest friend and I had driven her away. This would not be the last time.

It seemed, when I was in a depressive episode, my depression would completely cloud my judgment and stop me from thinking rationally. My therapist explained the executive functioning part of the brain and how it was impossible to thinking clearly when my adrenaline was so high. It made me feel better, but it still didn’t fix my problems. In the summer of 2015, I had a friend who got into a horrible accident. I swore I would be by her side while she healed. However, I got depressed and did not do what I said I would. It tested that friendship, but ours was strong enough to pull through.

To this day, I still get into these hazes that cause me to think unclearly and jump to the worst conclusions. Situations can be totally “normal” but, in my mind, they are extreme. My bipolar II is being treated and I have become more stable, but I still notice little glimpses of my depressed self peeping out, testing current friendships. Thankfully, I now have a group of friends and a wonderful husband who know how I struggle and are extremely patient with me when I make rash decisions. One of my friends likes to remind me, as author Jenny Lawson says, “depression lies.”

I strongly believe I have to work hard to keep healthy relationships, but it also helps when your friends care enough to be patient with you. I was not always so lucky, and I am extremely grateful for those I have in my life now. Any mental illness can test relationships, but it is important not to blame yourself. You are not your mental illness. It has taken me a very long time to realize that.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

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Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash