The Most Helpful Text I’ve Received About My Bipolar Disorder
A few years ago, I began to have symptoms of another episode of my bipolar disorder. I had been diagnosed about ten years prior, and I was on medication. I had just had about five years with no symptoms, and during those stable years I made some wonderful new friends.
When the symptoms started, I was scared — not just about what might happen during an episode, but I was scared that when my new friends saw what I was like during a bipolar episode, they might get understandably scared off. When manic, I’m unpredictable and tend to do dangerous things until I land in the hospital. When I’m depressed, it can last for months, and I’m very tedious during that time. All I want to think and talk about is death and suicide. So when I realized I might be headed down that familiar road again, I was afraid of losing my friends.
I decided to share with one friend in particular that I thought I was having symptoms again, and that I was going to need to see my doctor ASAP, most likely for a medication change. I wasn’t sure how she would react because this was a serious issue, and up until that time we had been light in our conversations. She knew I had bipolar disorder because I had always been open about it, but it had never really come up in our friendship.
As it turned out, she said something I’d never heard before. She said, simply, “You do not have to do this alone.”
As a divorced woman who prides herself on independence, I realized that I had never heard or experienced that kind of support, not even from my former spouse and not even from my parents. In everyone’s defense, no one knew I had bipolar disorder growing up and during my marriage. I got my diagnosis at age 42. By that time I was used to being on my own (with my four kids) and taking care of my business myself. I didn’t even know where to begin to let someone help me.
It took me awhile to really trust this person, although she never gave me any reason not to trust her. Probably because of issues from childhood, I’m just not a very trusting person. But she even came to see me when I was hospitalized. She went through the security procedures and left all of her belongings in a locker, just to sit with me for about 45 minutes with limited privacy.
After I was out of the hospital, I wondered if having her visit had been a good idea. I was feeling good in the hospital (somewhat manic) and the visit was fine, but I worried that she might not be able to get the image of “hospitalized me” out of her head. Would she forever associate me with that experience?
That was a little over two years ago, and while I do feel that there was a slight shift in our closeness, she has certainly not abandoned the friendship. It took several months of deep depression and multiple medication changes before I leveled out, but gradually our texting went back to what it was like before that episode. When I’m stable, I don’t dominate the conversation or feel sorry for myself. I like to think that I am a good friend.
It’s certainly easier for me to help someone else than it is to accept help myself. I need to work on that in therapy. Because some of our best conversations have happened over text, I can refer back to them occasionally, which is helpful. This same friend has told me several times that I am not alone. That continues to be the most helpful thing anyone has ever said to me. I’m grateful for the high quality friends I have in my life.
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