As I write this next entry, I am in bed sick, with no voice, cable television on Frasier, all by my lonesome. And I’m okay with that! Being bipolar causes a great deal of distress to the person who has it. It really is crazy to be happy one minute and suicidally depressed the next and never know which one you’re going to be at any given moment. One things for those of us with bipolar that causes moods swings is the basic difficulty we have with people skills. Speaking only from my own personal experience, bipolar disorder tends to destroy my relationships. The impulsivity always causes me to say something I will later regret and makes the person I say it to back away with his or her hands figuratively in the air and a look that says, “Oh my God, what the hell is wrong with this woman?” As a result of my big mouth, I have burned a lot of bridges over the years. I have lost count of how many friends I have alienated to the point of the friendship coming to the an end. Justin says I seem to attract friends with “issues” and that it’s never all my fault when the relationships come to a dramatic, screeching halt. I do seem to have a sign on my forehead that reads, “Are you in therapy and taking medication? Please be my friend!” Not that there’s anything wrong with being in therapy and on meds for mental illness. I’m so not saying that. I just seem to have a knack for seeking out people who also have mental illnesses without even realizing it and then find myself not only dealing with my own issues, but trying to understand theirs as well. For some reason, all of my life I have focused on the need to have one “best” friend as opposed to having a large group of people with whom to socialize. The problem with this is that (a) it puts way too much pressure on that one person and (b) when the person actually turns out to have a life, I have nothing to fall back on and the result is massive loneliness on my part. Loneliness and bipolar disorer seem to go hand in hand for me. Because of the mental illness, I drive people away and when I drive people away, I become obsessive and depressed. I replay everything I did and said over and over and over in my head, analyzing and turning it around and losing sleep over it. I crave social interaction and need friends to confide in (and, well, to just have fun with), but my neediness becomes overbearing. The really sucky thing about having bipolar disorder (or any mental illness, for that matter) is that it seems to come paired with the ability to self-destruct both yourself and your relationships with no warning. At least for me. Every time someone in my life is too busy to spend whatever amount of time I have deemed requisite for the relationship, I plunge into a major depression and become convinced the person no longer likes me. Because I don’t really have a life, my expectation (unrealistic expectation) is that the other person shouldn’t have a life either. When I discover that she (because it’s always a girlfriend) has commitments to other relationships, a depression so profound descends upon me that it takes days, sometimes weeks, for me to come back out of it. I need to stop putting all of my eggs in one basket and branch out. I need to have friends who are healthy. I need to stop being so damned needy. I need to accept that my situation is unique and that I can’t expect other people to drop everything all the time to reassure me that they are there for me. Bipolar has been the bane of my existence for my entire adult life. It’s a catch-22. I have not built a support system because I am bipolar and being bipolar makes it really hard to develop a support system. Since I was so unsuccessful at my last foray into the working world, I have become even more leery and distrusting of other people. Choosing to pursue a writing career allows me the freedom to be as “crazy” as I need to be, but it has an inherent loneliness built in. By nature, it is a solitary career and I crave human connection. But every time I venture into the social realm, I feel like a Catholic school girl with my hands held out, waiting to get smacked. Ever since my diagnosis, I feel as if I have gotten my hands figuratively slapped on a regular basis. And I also realize that the mental illness is truly shaping not only who I am as a person but how I interact with the people in the world around me every time I venture into any relationship. The internet has been my savior and, through Facebook and other blogs, I still feel a connection to other people. I am grateful to have social networking, because it allows me to interact with other people without alienating them. But there’s a limit to what social networking can do and I still find myself overwhelmed with feelings of incredible loneliness (and sadly, envy) when I see others posting about things they are doing with friends in real life. As my own real life shrinks, I wonder if I am going to end up being that crazy cat lady that all the kids on the block avoid and the neighbors talk about (and not in a good way). After all, pets accept you unconditionally, no matter what you say to them. While pursuing a writing career is something I have always wanted to do, there are days that I think it is catering to my illness. There is nothing to force me out into the real world except my determination not to become a reclusive nutcase. I’ve always needed others way more than they need me and I don’t think that this is going to change. But admitting you have a problem is the first step towards solving it. I don’t know where I go from here, but at least I do realize that being mentally ill is interfering in my relationships. Hopefully, I am learning to curb my impulsive mouth in the process so I don’t drive anyone else away. The best relationship in my life – the one with my husband of 23 years – is something I am so incredibly grateful for. That’s much more than many people have, so I am able to count myself extraordinarily lucky that somehow my marriage seems to work. Justin is and always will be my best friend, my soft place to land when I get hurt, and my barometer for when my craziness is getting out of control. I’m convinced that if more people ran things by their significant other before the said them, assuming that person is reasonably intelligent and rational, fewer friendships would implode.
(Posted by Chelle)