Not everyone is equipped to befriend someone with a severe mental illness such as Bipolar. For some people, it’s just too much. It took me a long time to understand this-the fact that something entirely out of my control could be a reason for someone not to be friends with me. But when you find friends who love you for you, you will never feel alone.
When I was diagnosed at the age of 19, I didn’t consider any of this. But then I lost a few friends. No one tells you that when you’re first diagnosed, you’re going to be put on a lot of different medications and you may act different than your normal self. You may become manic or depressed due to a medicine that doesn’t work for you. Or maybe you’ll even just want to talk about your mental illness with your friends, because it’s new to you and you just need to get it out. All of this is totally normal.
However, it will show you who your real friends are. There are plenty of people who distanced themselves from me after my diagnosis. I wanted to talk about it! I was confused, but also relieved that finally my moods had a name. But they didn’t want to deal with my new exhaustion that I dealt with from mood stabilizers. I didn’t realize that I had to take them at night in the beginning of my journey (because of side effects of drowsiness,) so I would get tired when we went out at night. Some people also felt embarrassed by my random spurts of energy, that turned out to not be so random.
A while after being diagnosed, I had decided to go off my meds. My friends were there for me the entire week I decided to go out every day and night and skip my classes, but not many of them checked in on me the following week when I slept for 5 days straight.
Another time, I had an episode of suicidal ideation in freshman year, before being diagnosed, and my best friend from college at the time went behind my back and told everyone I was crazy. Instead, maybe this person could have talked to me and suggested I speak to a counselor.
I mean, this is college. I get it. Not everyone’s going to be your lifelong best friend, and not everyone’s going to be there for you all of the time. Also, not everyone knows what mental illness looks like, so they don’t know how to handle it. I understand that, and I have no ill feelings toward any of the people I’m thinking about when writing this post. I wish them well and I understand that my moods were too much for them.
But those people made me especially grateful for the friends who did stick around. The friends who never judged, and always tried to understand when I acted differently from my normal self. Those people do exist. And now that I’ve found the right combination of medication? I’m a completely calm person for the majority of the time. And these friends have been with me through it all. I have to give a shoutout to my best friends since high school, Miranda and Erin. They’ve always been there for me through every up and down and I love them for it.
Of course, it’s not a one way street. With any friend, I understand that my mental illness is not an excuse, and that I still have to be an exceptional friend, in order to expect that kind of love back. But I think feeling so much has allowed me to be extremely empathetic, kind, and supportive, because that’s what I want in return!
Here’s what mentally ill people want you to know: We’re not crazy. We have our ups and downs like everyone else, they just might be a little more extreme. Our problems might look a little different than your problems. But all we really want is to love and laugh and have fun with our friends. Like any non-mentally ill person. In that respect, humans are all the same. We just want to love and be loved. So please, be patient with us. Don’t be too upset if we slip up and say something we don’t mean. And most importantly, tell us if our problems ever become your problems. We will understand if you need some space every once in a while.
My other main point is not to compromise your values, ever. Just because you have a mental illness does not mean that you’re not worthy of amazing, lasting friendships. I still go by the rule, treat people how you want to be treated. As long as you do your best and communicate well with your friends, you should be good to go.