Everyone wants to have relationships with people – even if it is to just say hi and bye to our neighbors or get along with our colleagues at work. But when you have bipolar disorder, making new friends can be complicated. For example, when do you tell them about your diagnosis? Do you even need to tell them at all? How can you manage your feelings if they react poorly to the information?

Sometimes you want to be around people who understand bipolar, and sometimes you just want to go bowling. How do you know when is when? Listen Now!

Gabe Howard

Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.

He is also the host of Healthline Media’s Inside Mental Health podcast available on your favorite podcast player. To learn more about Gabe, or book him for your next event, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.

Dr. Nicole Washington
Dr. Nicole Washington

Dr. Nicole Washington is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she attended Southern University and A&M College. After receiving her BS degree, she moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to enroll in the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed a residency in psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. Since completing her residency training, Washington has spent most of her career caring for and being an advocate for those who are not typically consumers of mental health services, namely underserved communities, those with severe mental health conditions, and high performing professionals. Through her private practice, podcast, speaking, and writing, she seeks to provide education to decrease the stigma associated with psychiatric conditions.

Find out more at DrNicolePsych.com.

Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Bipolar, a Healthline Media Podcast, where we tackle bipolar disorder using real-world examples and the latest research.

Gabe Howard: Welcome, everyone. My name is Gabe Howard and I live with bipolar disorder.

Dr. Nicole Washington: And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington, a board-certified psychiatrist.

Gabe Howard: Dr. Nicole, we’re friends, right?

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: I wanted to tell you that I have bipolar disorder.

Dr. Nicole Washington: I never would have guessed.

Gabe Howard: I mean, the tattoo on my arm didn’t give it away. The website, the podcast, the fact that I introduced myself, I’m pretty sure the first time we ever met. Hi, my name is Gabe. I have bipolar disorder.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Never would have guessed.

Gabe Howard: Never would have guessed?

Dr. Nicole Washington: Never would have guessed?

Gabe Howard: But that’s kind of a weird thing, right?

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: I know we’re colleagues and we were working on a mental health project,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: Etc. and you saw my bio ahead of time. But

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: Just I imagine if we were out in public and I just walked up to you and said, Hey, my name is Gabe Howard, I have bipolar disorder, you’d feel a certain way.

Dr. Nicole Washington: I would be taken aback and I would probably think, oh, my gosh, this guy has really poor boundaries. Like he’s just putting it all out there. That’s why this episode is important, right? Like, how do we disclose? When do we disclose? Who do we disclose to? I mean, there’s a lot that goes into that.

Gabe Howard: I love this subject because I do think that most people want to have people in their lives,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: Whether it’s a significant other, whether it’s friends, whether it’s family, everybody wants to meet people and make their social circle bigger. And if you live with bipolar disorder, that means you have to tell people that you live with bipolar disorder.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Which can be very difficult to do, right? People tell me all the time, they say, oh, my gosh, I met somebody. When do I tell them?

Gabe Howard: And there’s no clear-cut answer. If you ask 100 people this question, they will give you 100 different answers. And what’s even more fascinating to me is that if you ask me this same question a hundred different times on 100 different days, I will give you a different answer.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Because of the type of relationship, because of just where you are mentally like what? What will make your answer change?

Gabe Howard: So if I’m feeling very pessimistic, I’m like, never. You should never tell them, they’re all going to leave you anyway.

Dr. Nicole Washington: OK, OK.

Gabe Howard: I mean, you know, stigma and discrimination is like a real thing, being

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: Misunderstood as a real thing and being rejected, like, hurts. And when I’m in my depressive moods, I don’t want to be rejected. So I’m not telling you shit.

Dr. Nicole Washington: OK, we may not want to get advice from that, Gabe, so

Gabe Howard: Yeah. That is not, that is a reasonable Gabe. That is a scared Gabe.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Okay. But a fair answer, though, right? Because I think a lot of people listening probably have been burned by telling someone and then having it go completely left. So I’m sure you have experiences like that, right? Like you shared. And then they were like, ooh.

Gabe Howard: I have so many stories like that. I disclosed at work and got fired. Now I know we’re talking about like friends, and I want to keep that on it. But one of the reasons that I felt comfortable disclosing at work is because I thought my coworkers were my friends. Right? It’s a whole other podcast to talk about when you should disclose in the workplace and professional disclosure and things like that. But seriously, the reason that I felt comfortable to come into my workplace and say, Hey, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that’s why I was out for six weeks. I was suicidal. And in the psychiatric ward is because I thought these people were my friends.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right. So that kind of brings up a really good maybe first point. Right. Figuring out what kind of relationship you have? Are they really friends? And is it a strong enough relationship for you to want to share that with?

Gabe Howard: So let’s compartmentalize this. All right, let’s talk about solely friends, non-romantic involvement, because I do think that there is a higher expectation of honesty if you’re looking to build a life with somebody.

Dr. Nicole Washington: True.

Gabe Howard: Right. I just, I know that we all love our friends and we want to be close to our friends. We all have our BFFs, and that’s super important. But dating, I think, carries a little bit more of a you know, you know you know what I mean?

Dr. Nicole Washington: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Gabe Howard: If I was friends with somebody for a year and they said, you know, Gabe, you’re like, you’re a really good friend and I’ve enjoyed hanging out with you. And we’ve done a lot this year, and I want you to know I live with bipolar disorder. I’d be like, you know, thank you. Thank you for feeling comfortable enough to share that with me. I have questions or who knows?

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right. Right.

Gabe Howard: But if I dated somebody for a year,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: Like if we were dating, talking about moving in together, you met my mom. Like, I’m thinking about marrying you and you’re like, Hey, Gabe, I want you to know I live with bipolar disorder. I’d be like, what?

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Like, I would feel lied to. That’s how Gabe would feel if you hid something from me for a year.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Okay. So how does Gabe today feel? Like what is a reasonable amount of time? A friend, you said a year. Do you think that’s about how long? Like, do you think saying it too soon runs people off? Like, I mean, how do you meet people? You meet them at a party or a work function and you’re like, Hi, I’m Gabe and I have bipolar disorder. Surely you don’t do it that way, right?

Gabe Howard: I mean, I do, but I’m a special case.

Dr. Nicole Washington: [Laughter] Okay.

Gabe Howard: I have tattoos and clothing and websites and podcasts and.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah, you are. You are a special case.

Gabe Howard: Yeah. But the average person, no. And almost I can see where it might be a little scary and I’d feel the same way. Dr. Nicole, you’re a doctor, right? You’re a board-certified psychiatrist. We say that at the top of every episode. And if you walked up to me and I said, hi, my name is Gabe, and you said, oh, hello, my name is Dr. Nicole Washington. I’m a board-certified psychiatrist. I’d be like, Well, I don’t want to be your friend.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Exactly.

Gabe Howard: Like, that’s, that’s like a weird thing to say to somebody. Now, for the purpose of this example, if you said that I wouldn’t be scared of you, I would just assume that you were pretentious and arrogant. Just really? That’s the first thing that you want to tell me about you?

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: The very first thing that you share with your friends tends to be the things that are on your mind, are the most important. And this is where it’s really difficult for people with bipolar disorder because getting it out there is really important because we want to know if you’re going to reject us. Like there’s nobody with bipolar listening that’s not like, well, I want to tell people right away so I can just get the ditching out of the way. So as soon as they say, I don’t want to be your friend, I can be like, Good, I haven’t invested any time. But again, did we self-fulfill that prophecy by, like you said, not respecting boundaries, running people off, and really not giving somebody a reason to be friends with us?

Dr. Nicole Washington: I think it’s still like you said, though, like you, you don’t want to waste your time. You don’t want to invest equity into someone developing a relationship only for them to drop you, so to speak, once they find out about your illness. So, I mean, I get the whole wanting to get it out early. What I normally tell people is just have a couple of conversations, right? Just get to know him a little bit, see what kind of things they say, right? If they’re popping off the word crazy or talking about people, oh, that person’s crazy or saying stuff. Sometimes I recommend little tips though, too. Like little dropping little like little seeds, right? Like drop little seeds into conversations and just see, you know, like if there is a news story going on about somebody who did something pretty erratic and you’re like, oh, my gosh, yeah. Did you see on the news where they said, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and kind of see how they respond and how they, you know, what kind of words they use, what kind of language they use. It might give you a little bit of insight. So I definitely recommend dropping a few seeds in there.

Gabe Howard: So I’ve got to be dropping like, bipolar breadcrumbs just to, like, lead people there and see where they go.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: I understand what you’re saying, though, because, there is a downside that we haven’t talked about from disclosing too soon. Let’s say that the person does pop off. They do discriminate against you, stigmatize against you. And then they tell everybody else they’re like, hey, hey. You know, Gabe that just joined the gaming group. Oh, yeah. He has bipolar disorder. We got to get away from him. We got to get away from him. And since you’re not established in that group. I have decided for the purposes of this analogy, that I joined a gaming club, and the person that I decided to be friends with has been a member of that club for two years. I’ve been a member of that club for a week. I disclosed right away, that person reacts poorly and, for lack of a better word, poisons the rest of the group against me. Because who are they going to trust? The new person or the person who’s been a member in good standing for two years? But doesn’t this suck? I mean, seriously, Dr. Nicole,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: Doesn’t this suck?

Dr. Nicole Washington: It sucks to have an illness that you even have to think about that kind of stuff. But in that particular situation, I guess the question I would have for you is should your disclosure be based on their need to know? I think there are certain relationships that you may be in, friendships, platonic relationships, maybe they don’t need to know. Like maybe in that particular example, maybe those people don’t need to know. There’s no, there’s no value added or taken away from your friendship in that setting if they know.

Gabe Howard: I do think about this a lot because I don’t think any of my friends know whether or not I see a dentist regularly. And when I do see the dentist and something happens, I don’t agonize over when to disclose. I’m never sitting around thinking I had a cavity and my dentist told me that I’m a poor flosser. How do I get the group together and disclose my cavity? Right? That doesn’t go through. But bipolar disorder, it feels like it’s a core component of our lives. It also represents a trauma. And we want to know if these people if they get sick, if they’re going to run off?

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: I don’t know of anybody that’s ever lost their friends because they’re bad flossers.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Well, you’re also acutely aware of the fact that if you’re in an episode, it can affect those other people, whereas your cavities don’t really affect anybody else. Right. Nobody really cares if your teeth are not great. But they do care if you’re manic and you start saying inappropriate things or you start accusing them of stuff that isn’t true, or you ghost them because you’re so severely depressed or you know, they care about those kinds of things because reasonable friends would care about those kinds of things. So maybe it’s a matter of if your symptoms could possibly affect them in some way, then you figure out disclosing.

Gabe Howard: I’m really, really glad that you brought that up because here is where waiting too long to disclose can really bite you in the behind. Let’s say that I decide. Look, I’m not telling my friend. He doesn’t need to know. She doesn’t need to know. It’s another business which is fair. That

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes,

Gabe Howard: Is all fair. I want to be very, very clear.

Dr. Nicole Washington: It is.

Gabe Howard: That is a reasonable, fair decision. And you’ve been friends now. We’ll say two years and you have an episode,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Right? And you go dark. You go completely dark and you don’t answer any texts, phone calls for two weeks because depression is you’re just you’re sitting in your room back in the corner of the wall. You haven’t showered, right? You’re barely making it to the bathroom. You’re wearing the same clothes. And you get over that depressive episode and then you call your friend back. You’re like, Hey, I’m sorry I went M.I.A. And they’re like, no, no, I don’t accept your apology. There’s no reason for this. You ditched me for two weeks. There is. There is nothing that you can say that will make me forgive you. Oh, I have bipolar disorder. Sure you do. Yeah. Yeah. Now, all of a sudden, you’re mentally ill. Look, you. You could have told me this. I guess we’re not the friends we thought we were. If you hid that from me, and now that that person feels a kind of way. Whereas if they knew about it ahead of time, let’s even remove the fact that they could have helped. Right? Let’s even get that out of there. They would have been like, Yeah, Gabe needs space,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: Right? Gabe just needs some space. He’s not doing so well. I check in on him because I care, but yeah, yeah. He’s not going to make it to the New Kids on the Block concert.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: That’s just a bummer. And I accept that because I love Gabe and because I know the situation.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Because you share it with them. Hey, I know we go out and we hang out, but if there’s ever a period of time where I’m not returning your calls or I’m declining or I’m canceling and it happens consistently, that could be a sign that I’m depressed. And this is what I need from you during that time. Like, this is how you can best help me during that time, you know, whatever that is that you feel like you need. Maybe you’re somebody who, when you’re depressed like that, you need somebody to say, Oh, come on, come on, we got to get out. Like, come on, and drag you through the motions. Or you might be one of those people that say, I’d prefer you kind of just let me deal with it and I’ll get back with you after you know, after I’m cut out of it. But I think that’s important because it does affect other people.

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Gabe Howard: And we’re back discussing disclosing bipolar disorder in our personal lives. I am super, super happy that my friends know. It is a weight that has been lifted and I’m in a very privileged position right now because I have friends. So if a new friend comes into the fold and I tell that friend, hey, I live with bipolar disorder and that friend goes away, I mean, I’m not saying that it doesn’t hurt. I don’t I don’t want anybody to hear that. It doesn’t it does impact me. But I can get even help with that impact. I can call up my other friends and be like, you know, I, I met John. And then as soon as John found out I had bipolar disorder, he ditched me and friends are like, look, he’s not your tribe.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Exactly.

Gabe Howard: He’s not your guy, he’s not your buddy. You’ve got us. And while we understand that, it sucks. Gabe, come on, let’s go out. Let’s. But, you know, when this gets really difficult? When you have no friends,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Absolutely.

Gabe Howard: Right? Maybe. Maybe you’ve just you’re you got your first legs in recovery. You’ve been stable for six months. Things are starting to look up. You’re starting to repair some maybe some family relationships.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: And you want a buddy, you just want somebody to talk to.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: And yeah, you join a bowling league. It’s a bowling league now. And you’re like, Well, but I like John.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: But if I tell John and John goes away, I got zero.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: So maybe it’s better to keep this in and keep John.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right. Right.

Gabe Howard: I think about that a lot. People are just so cavalier. They’re just like well if you tell them and they’re not your friend. And that’s OK. Well, right. But then I’m. Then I’m back to the couch alone. I’m back miserable. And I’m rejected. And I have nobody to commiserate with.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Exactly.

Gabe Howard: Like, that’s a very cavalier thing to say.

Dr. Nicole Washington: I get all that. But how much responsibility do you feel like you have to educate that person about bipolar disorder? Right.

Gabe Howard: Yeah, it is. Isn’t this the, the best part of this illness,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Dr. Nicole?

Dr. Nicole Washington: You got to educate everybody.

Gabe Howard: So, right. Right. In addition to being sick, in addition to having to manage a lifelong illness, in addition to all the stigma and discrimination, I am also the designated educator of bipolar disorder to almost everybody I meet always.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Well, I don’t think that’s true, right. Because Google is an option. There are very reputable sites. If a person really cares about you and they want to learn about bipolar disorder, they can very easily go to the National Institutes of Mental Health. They can go to the CDC. They can go to Healthline, Psych Central. They have a million places they can go. Right. But you’re an expert on you. So the reason I say about education is because I think what happens is you run the risk if the person doesn’t know you very well. Every time you show any level of emotion, they’re going to think you’re in an episode

Gabe Howard: Right.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Because they don’t know what you’re like when you’re manic or when you’re depressed, or if you get mad at somebody and you’re in a car together and somebody cuts you off and you, you know, shout out some very colorful words.

Gabe Howard: Like bipolar rage. It’s bipolar rage. He’s going to kill us all.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right. Right. Are they like, did you take your meds today?

Gabe Howard: Oh, I hate that question.

Dr. Nicole Washington: You’re like, that’s not how this works. So there is some level of education about you personally that if somebody is going to be in your life, they need to understand that you are still human, you still have emotions, you still get angry, you still get sad, you still have great days where you’re in great moods. But none of those things necessarily equal a mood episode.

Gabe Howard: So I think it’s really important to understand two things can be true. I do think there is an onus on the person with bipolar disorder to explain their illness and how it impacts them to their friends and social group. I also think there’s an onus on the friend to learn more outside of that. Like you said, go to Healthline, go to psychcentral.com, listen to an inside bipolar podcast. Get yourself some basic education so that you can sort of carry the load. What I often see is that neither side, they’re like, What’s not my responsibility? You need to learn about me. And the other side is like, look, if he’s not going to tell me what he needs and it’s not my problem. And I think that’s so sad. This is what causes gridlock and many, many arguments that befall our society, because every side thinks it’s the other side’s responsibility to fix it and nobody wants to come together. And I think people with bipolar disorder, we can help this along. Give them your favorite book. Recommend this podcast. Shoot them an article. It doesn’t have to be a super heavy lift. Just find something that speaks to you as a person living with bipolar disorder and be like, Hey, hey, this

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: And just hand it over. If you think that’s unreasonable, I will say this. The number one thing that made me get along better with the women in my life is when they started handing me feminist literature. They’re just like, look, I’m not going to argue with you, Gabe, but read this book. That’s all I ask. Just read this book. And I read it and I was like, okay, I’m starting to see some stuff. And this has happened with race, socioeconomic status, gender, just politics. I’m like, okay, you forwarded me an article and, I’m not saying that I changed my mind. I’m not even saying that I agree with you.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: You, but I’m understanding. So I think this is just good idea, period.

Dr. Nicole Washington: It is absolutely a good idea. So one of the things that I’ve had patients tell me a lot when thinking about friends and disclosing and even just finding friends, right? Like that’s hard in and of itself to find a friend. And we get to this conversation of do I try to go fit in with quote unquote regular people? Because I don’t want to have to wear a nametag that says, Hi, I’m Gabe and I have bipolar disorder everywhere I go. It’d be nice to just feel like a normal person. That’s what people tell me. They say, I just want to feel normal. So in your bowling league, you just want to go hang out with other guys, you want to bowl. But what else comes with that? Right? Sometimes they’re at the bowling alley, sometimes they’re drinking beer, sometimes they’re going afterwards for drinks, sometimes they’re hanging out. You know, that may be a part of that feeling, like a normal person. How do you deal with the pressures of that kind of stuff? Because that may end up leading you to disclose, right? If they’re constantly pressuring you about it. Oh, wait, what are you, man? You don’t drink. What’s wrong with you? You don’t want a beer? What’s you know, that may be what leads you.

Gabe Howard: I really like that example that sometimes you just want to have a group of people who don’t know because it’s just a bowling league. It’s not that they’re not your friends. They’re just not to come over to your house, call you on the weekends, text you late at night. They’re just you see them on Tuesdays, you bowl and then you leave. It’s okay to have friends like that, right? And sincerely, if you’re in your first stages of recovery, if you’re getting your foot wet, if you’re relearning social skills, that might be like a really good way to do it. And yeah, there’s less of a reason to disclose in that because you’re not really reaching that like intimate friendship level there. They’re not your BFF. You’re just you’re just hanging out bowling. You’ve got that one thing. Like the only thing that you have in common is that bowling league, and that’s all you care about. In fact, many of these bowling leagues are like, look, no politics, no religion, no money, no, no kids, no spouses. Just we bowl. All conversations must be bowling. I think that’s really healthy and that’s a really good idea. And you find that out by doing a little scouting, right? Do a little scouting when you go to join the bowling league. If you can’t drink, go to the bowling alley. You’re choosing not to drink. I shouldn’t say can’t drink because you’re choosing not to drink, which is an empowering and good decision. Go to the bowling alley and say, look, I’m a recovering alcoholic or I choose not to drink, I’m sober. I don’t want to. I want to join a league, no alcohol. And

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: I’d find out if they have one and they often do. It’s not as uncommon as you think. We tend to think a lot of the things that we need to do because we’re managing bipolar disorder are like super uncommon because we’re like, well, what are the odds that there’s going to be a bowling league where they don’t drink because you have bipolar disorder? Yeah. There probably isn’t one. But what are the chances that there’s a bowling league where you can’t drink because you’re a recovering alcoholic? Yeah. Your odds shoot up,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah,

Gabe Howard: Right?

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah,

Gabe Howard: There’s probably that group. I mean, even back in the heyday of smoking, when, like, they smoked on TV, they still had a nonsmoking section in restaurants.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: They still had bars or comedy clubs that were like jokes with no smokes. Casinos even had, like, no smoke Sundays so that people who didn’t smoke still had a

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Place to go.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right. And there’s levels of disclosure, right. I think people tend to think of disclosure as all or none. There’s levels you know, you could simply say, well, I’m taking some medication that I shouldn’t drink with and just leave it at that and not have to go any further. But sometimes there is that pressure. I think people feel like when you’re on the spot and you feel like, Hey, guy, why aren’t you drinking? And they’re like, I have bipolar disorder and I can’t. And it just comes out, right? It just comes out. And before they know it, they’ve disclosed. It’s on the flip side of that. One of the things that we see a lot, some people go the other way, right? They want to be around people who get it. They don’t want to have to explain. They want to be around people who understand the illness. And so sometimes they befriend people in the inpatient unit. They befriend people from support groups to hang out with outside of that. What do you think about that? Like, how do you feel about that?

Gabe Howard: Everything is a double edged sword. On one hand, I understand that some of our first friends may be people who get it. They may be friends from that support group, from the inpatient unit, and so on and so forth. And I don’t want to knock that. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. And if we if we replaced inpatient units and bipolar support group with grief support group and somebody that you met in hospice while your, you know, sister, brother, husband, wife, etc., was passing away, people would be like, oh, my God, that’s the greatest story. You know, her husband died and she became friends with the volunteers at hospice. And then she went to a grief group where she people would be like, that’s like a really good thing, right? That bonded them and they moved on. The minute you change it to bipolar disorder, people are like, Oh, I don’t know about that. I mean, you got a you got a couple of crazy people hanging out that that could go poorly. But listen, it could go poorly and you have to be on guard for that. One of the things about support groups is not everybody is in the same place as you. And I would advise moving slowly if you’re both, you know, near the end of your journey almost to recovery, you know, you’ve got a lot in common. You’re really, you’re really in the same place. I can see a really good friendship forming from that because you’re right, some of my friends, Nate, I talked to him about the trauma of feeling suicidal and their eyes glaze over,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: And that sucks because I can’t share that with them and it makes me feel disconnected. So I do have friends that the minute I start talking about the trauma of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder or feeling suicidal or of being inpatient, they lean forward and they’re like, I got you.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: And that that makes me feel seen and heard. So that’s like super powerful. But what I want to say is, it’s not automatic.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: All right. And listen, I’m going to go back to my grief group analogy, too. That’s not automatic either. Just because people immediately assume it’s going to be good doesn’t mean that there’s not horror stories. There are all kinds of horror stories of people meeting in grief groups and getting taken advantage of, getting scammed, getting hurt, biting off more than they can chew, realizing that the only thing they have in common with this person was the grief, and as soon as that starts to dissipate, etc. I would just recommend Move with extreme caution. This is a vulnerable group and you yourself are in a vulnerable position.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah, absolutely. And I always say this to people in in-patient units, and I rarely use the word always, but I if a patient tells me like, Oh, I met so-and-so and we’re going to be friends and we’re going to be hanging out afterwards and we’re, you know, after we leave, I always just say to them, I want you to be very careful, because relationships built during acute episodes are typically very tricky and can sometimes be very detrimental to your recovery. I think if you’re in a support group and you are both in that place of recovery or nearing recovery or in the same space, like you said, that makes so much more difference. But when you’re both acutely whatever in whatever episode and you meet on a random inpatient unit, that to me is a little bit riskier. And I am always warning people to just be very careful because I can’t tell them that they can’t be friends with another person. But we talk about being careful.

Gabe Howard: Nobody can be more open about being bipolar than me.

Dr. Nicole Washington: No.

Gabe Howard: And yet I’m like, just handle it delicately. People are like, you don’t handle it delicately. You the only thing that I don’t do is walk around with a megaphone and scream into it. I have bipolar disorder, and honestly, it’s because I don’t need a megaphone. I can get loud enough without the megaphone. I so that’s like a really weird it’s a really weird opinion for me to have. And this is why I always arrive at this conclusion. You know what? Just do what you want.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Do what you feel. So much of relationships just have nothing to do with the rules.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Dr. Nicole, did I answer all of your questions? Do you have a better understanding of how people with bipolar disorder think about relationships and why we’re so skittish?

Dr. Nicole Washington: I do, I do. And it gives me a little bit more to take back to people when they ask me what I think about their relationships and disclosures and things. So yeah, this was fantastic.

Gabe Howard: I love that and I love all of our listeners. Thank you so much for listening in. My name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of Mental Illnesses and Asshole and Other Observations. You can buy the thing on Amazon, but if you buy my book on my website, I’ll sign it and throw in a bunch of swag. Just head over to gabehoward.com.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Oh, this sounds like a great deal. And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington. You can find me on all social media platforms at Dr. Nicole site to see all the things that I have my hand in at any given moment.

Gabe Howard: Dr. Nicole and I both travel nationally, both together and separately. If you want more information on that, just visit our respective websites. And hey, listen, if you want to make sure that you don’t miss any episodes of inside bipolar follow or subscribe, it is absolutely free. Just do it on your favorite podcast player. And also one more favor, tell people about our show. Sharing the show is how we grow. We will see everybody next Monday on Inside Bipolar.

Gabe Howard: I love that and I love all of our listeners. Thanks so much for tuning in. My name is Gabe Howard. I am the author of “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations.” You can get it on Amazon because, well, everything’s on Amazon or you can get a signed copy with free swag just by heading over to gabehoward.com.

Dr. Nicole Washington: And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington. You can find me on all social media platforms at DrNicolePsych to see all the things I have my hand in at any given moment.

Gabe Howard: Dr. Nicole and I both travel nationally or internationally together or separately. You can find out more information on our respective websites and listen, wherever you downloaded this episode, please follow or subscribe. It is absolutely free and we have yet another favor. Tell your friends about this podcast. Sharing our show is how we grow. We will see everybody next Monday on Inside Bipolar.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to Inside Bipolar from Healthline Media and psychcentral.com. Have feedback for the show? E-mail us at show@PsychCentral.com. Previous episodes can be found at PsychCentral.com/IBP or on your favorite podcast player. Thank you for listening.