Relationships of all kinds have their moments of turbulence, even those we cherish most. However, mental health conditions can often produce an added source of friction due to the very nature of the illness. Those characterized by misconceptions or delusions, Bipolar Disorder for example, can compound the difficulties associated with miscommunication or avoidance even further. I’m certain we can all recall moments of escalation with those we love that were exacerbated by our psychological state at the time.
As someone living with Mixed Bipolar Disorder, I can attest to the unique challenges sprung forth from the seat of agitation, which may present itself in both manic or depressed states, as well as dangerously persistent mixed episodes. It becomes all too easy to misunderstand, say things we don’t mean, and act poorly on our impulses when engaging with others with these added features. Fortunately, the Optimum Performance Institute offers up wholesome tools to aid in conflict resolution in the presence of Bipolar Disorder.
” …What are the distinguishing factors between the relationships that have failed and those that have gone on to flourish? We all experience emotional ups and downs. For those with bipolar, these experiences may be more pronounced. What is it that keeps friends together despite the symptoms of bipolar when so many others fizzle out? I believe with the right tools, support, and practice, people with bipolar can maintain healthy friendships. “
When feeling the need to isolate, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell a friend that you need some “me” time or that you need space. No need to go into details, just gently assure your friend that it isn’t anything they said or did. In addition, be accepting and supportive when your friend needs alone time as well. Setting healthy boundaries in this way prevents misunderstandings.
LEVELS OF FRIENDSHIP
Having a different friend, or friendly acquaintance, for different needs is very healthy. Accept that not everyone has to be your “BFF.” For example, one friend may be your support group friend, another your study buddy, another your roommate, etc. You may not see them every day, but you know exactly who will help you out when you are overwhelmed by that big exam coming up!
When you need support, take a moment to be mindful of the kind of support you need, and take appropriate action. Establish your own go-to support team so that you are not “unloading” on one person, since this will likely push that person away after long. For example, a therapist, doctor, counselor, life coach, sponsor, or peer from your mental health program are all appropriate people to turn to in addition to family and friends.
The decision whether to tell someone about your illness can be a tough one. Fear and stigma can cloud your friend’s mind when hearing the word “bipolar.” At the same time, keeping your friend may be easier when they know about your condition, and it may be easier for you to communicate. The choice is yours only when you are ready. If you have a hard time trusting a friend with this personal information, try finding a support group or mental health program.
Sometimes when an episode of depression or mania come along, we do or say things that we didn’t mean. This also happens to people who do not suffer from bipolar disorder. When feeling better again, it’s important to make amends as soon as possible. When apologizing, state what for, and then reassure them. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, however assure them you are getting treatment and working on it. If they want to talk about it, make sure to actively LISTEN in return. Validate their feelings. Everyone wants to feel heard. Your friend may need some space before they are ready to talk, or even after talking. In this case, be mindful of tip one.
How has Bipolar Disorder affected your friendships? How might you navigate these waters differently with the above knowledge?
**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!**
For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!
In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!