My Challenge of Maintaining Friendships
In the past two days, my therapist told me my anger put people off and one of my better friends in this town told me that I hadn’t heard from a mutual friend of ours in over a month because I require a lot of emotional energy on others’ parts and am hard to be around.
You can imagine what these comments did to my already-fragile (very fragile) sense of self-esteem.
As kids, our parents teach us that cute little rhyme, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
It’s an injustice on their parts to teach us that, because words can hurt. A lot.
I have been in therapy a long time, and I thought I had managed to become reasonably self-aware. But I never saw coming “you’re hard to be around.” I don’t think J. meant it maliciously at all, but I don’t think he knew the effect it had, either. We were in a public place and I couldn’t very well burst into tears on the spot, but it crossed my mind.
I have bipolar disorder. I can assure you that mentally ill people are horrendously misunderstood as it is. The media portrays us as violent or unstable. Almost none of us are violent, and once the meds get sorted out, almost none of us are unstable, either. But the portrayals of mentally ill celebrities such as Amanda Bynes (currently) or Britney Spears (several years ago) would have you think otherwise.
Nobody ever shows you the “OK” side. Britney Spears has been doing well for some time. Amanda Bynes is finally getting treatment and there’s no reason to believe she won’t end up reasonably well. Non-celebrities — like, say, me — run similar courses.
I had my zillionth trip to the psych hospital a couple of months ago. I stayed a week, they tweaked some meds, tweaked some more once I got out, and I’m doing – yep – OK. I can work. I can socialize. I can take care of my cat. I can get out of bed and attend to personal hygiene. All the things that are near-impossible when I’m sick are doable now.
How long will it stay that way? I don’t know. The times between cycles seem to get shorter and shorter. But for right now, all is well.
So why am I considered offputting? Yes, when things are bad I need a lot of help and reassurance. But I’ve been fine for a couple of months. It shouldn’t make people disappear on me. My sense of humor’s back and I can smile now and then (despite all the psych types mentioning my “flat affect”). I can understand why people would want to run when I’m at my worst. But I’m not there now. So what’s the deal?
Before you go thinking, “Dang, doesn’t she know it’s not all about her?” Yes. I do. I understand that people have busy lives and priorities besides spending time with me. I would guess I’m not near the top of anyone’s priority list except my cat’s, and that’s because I feed her. I’m fine with that. I just want to be thought of every now and then.
I can’t help the course of my disease. I don’t think I’m a bad friend. I just want to know why it requires so much “emotional energy” to cope with me when I’m fine. It makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong — and it makes me feel subhuman simply because I have bad brain chemistry.
Just a little bit more understanding would be great.
Czernicki, C. (2013). My Challenge of Maintaining Friendships. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 30, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/10/26/my-challenge-of-maintaining-friendships/