Unfortunately, it started at the beginning, before I was actually diagnosed, before my mom and I sat opposite a psychiatrist who uttered the word “bipolar,” a word I didn’t know and soon wouldn’t want to know. (This is all before the beautiful stuff started).
By now, dear reader, I think you know I tried to kill myself a decade ago. Totally not a cool thing to do – not only for yourself, but for those that care about you. If your goal is to scare people into loving you more, try again, friend. While in the hospital I received calls from friends and family members all wanting to hear my voice and know that I was really okay, even though we all knew I wasn’t.
I distinctly remember two separate calls. They were from my best friends. One talked a lot while the other was quite quiet. These two calls changed everything. Each of these two ‘besties’ quickly left my life, though it seemed to happen in slow motion. I was barely talking except when I was manic so I take some of the fault. But what I think happened was I scared them. I really scared them and when you are scared you run from the scary thing so, they ran. Plus, they knew little about my disorder and who was I to inform them? I was just learning the basics of mental illness 101 myself.
I was/am so lucky to have such a supportive family. My parents flew out to California from Oklahoma when the shit hit the fan and my sister was there too. It was hard on everyone. My brother and favorite cousin called, as well as other members of my family. When I was released from the hospital I went back to Oklahoma, to my cousin. She cheered me up and on.
Recently, I’ve lost a friend of 17 years. She called and I told her I didn’t want to talk to her and we had nothing in common. I asked if we could put the conversation on the shelf until I did not feel like killing myself (again). We hung up. In the past I cut her out of my life for about a year because she was addicted to exercise. It was all she talked about and I got tired of it. Perhaps that makes me a bad person but I couldn’t listen to her talk about her addiction anymore.
So now I feel like we are back to the same thing. When I called to apologize, she talked first. She agreed we had nothing in common and there was some throwing ins of “I don’t know what it feels like to have bipolar, but…” All in all it sucked. I ddn’t really get the chance to apologize because she had made the decision that we would no longer be friends. I tried to explain to her, using this analogy, “When all you want to do is die, you are a ship that is going down and you do not want to take anyone with you. You do not want anyone else to get hurt so you push them away. I was trying to isolate.”
She told me I hurt people anyway.
Losing some friendships and relationships is par for the course of mental illness and being beautifully bipolar. But here is how I see it, dear reader, these are not the people we can count on when we need them most. I am definitely not inferring that one person should be responsible for our care, there should be several, or maybe even a bunch, of people we can call on. A healthy support system does not rest on one person’s shoulders. And though she was not the only one I needed, she had been part of my support system, which is now smaller.