To the Friend Who Walked Away During My Manic Episode
In the throes of my mental illness — untreated bipolar disorder — my manic and depressive episodes took a toll on me, as well as my friends.
In the winter of 2016, I experienced repeated manic episodes that left me wandering for days outside, paranoid of my home. Intertwined with my mania were depressive episodes — times where I yearned to die and get away from my misery.
The police were involved. The hospital was involved. My family, friends and roommates were immersed in my suffering, vying to help me from drowning. No intervention was working, no matter what my friends said or did; I just wanted to die or wander, depending on my state.
Months later, a close friend approached me and said, “Handling your crises is impacting my ability to thrive in school, and I’m really sorry but I need a break from being friends.”
I could have felt abandoned, dismissed or angry, but I understood. I knew my situation was intense, and if it was negatively affecting my friend, I wanted them to take care of themselves.
A year and a half went by with no communication with this friend. During this time, I was admitted to a psychiatric facility, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and started on a treatment plan. Following my admission, I was able to return to university, move out on my own, host an event for mental health, perform poetry, publish a book and most importantly: thrive.
We reconnected this past April, when I was healthy. Now, we are friends again, with clear boundaries and expectations within our friendship.
We have fun together — fun that was not possible in the throes of my illness. We have deep, meaningful conversations that are not tainted by crises. This friend constantly encourages me to fight for wellness, take my medications, show up to appointments and push for success in school.
I am grateful — grateful for our friendship now, but also grateful for what they did when I became too overwhelming for them to carry on their own.
Boundaries are critical in relationships. They are healthy.
Setting boundaries to not be an unpaid therapist does not make you a bad friend.
Gently saying goodbye does not make you a bad person.
Taking care of yourself makes you a good person.
Sometimes, taking care of yourself means letting go of others, and know that’s OK.
To many more years of a healthy friendship,
Photo by Meiying Ng on Unsplash