Staying friends with someone who lives with bipolar disorder is like running a marathon. You can’t win the race by trying to dash to the finish line. It’s a mental game that requires equal parts of love, compassion, and patience. And maybe this sounds cruel, but it’s important to be honest with yourself and really evaluate when it’s “too much to handle.”
Sometimes you need to take a few steps back – before you say or do something that you regret – or before you break down and “ghost” on your friend.
There is nothing worse than making your friend feel abandoned. Lucky for you, there is a gentle way to approach this without burning your friendship to the ground, or instead, ghosting. But first… let’s talk a little bit about this marathon thing.
As a friend… persistence is key – you might keep asking how they’re feeling or suggest that you should get together soon, but they just keep telling you “they’re fine” or simply brush you off. Don’t give up even if you’re sounding like a broken record! Remember that there might be a day where your friend will actually need you. It’s not easy for them to open up because they might feel too embarrassed. Or they don’t want to feel rejected if the conversation doesn’t go as they intended. If you stop asking though, there’s a chance they might never open up to you when they need to.
As the bipolar buddy… stay open minded and patient. Mental health is still so taboo so don’t feel offended if they might say or ask something distasteful. To anyone who knows a thing or two about mental health, you might actually think, “Why on Earth would they even think or ask that?” But you need to stay calm and help them understand because you’re helping yourself by helping them too!
But let’s be real… these awkward conversations don’t always go smoothly, especially when you feel like you have to walk on eggshells (though I think it’s better to just get it out in the open).
Your best bet is to take a step back if things get a little heated, then schedule another day to talk with a list of notes in hand. It may sound silly and unnatural to you, but it works! Even if they’re just bullet points. I’ve noticed that this method has worked for myself and others because it helps to keep everyone on topic. Our natural reflex is to react instead of respond. Sometimes, we even create a response before our friend is done talking. Now you can thank your notes in case you stumble on your words or forget the reason why you wanted the conversation in the first place.
No means no, and if you’re beginning to feel like things are getting a little too cray cray, you can always take a break and meet up later. After all, it’s exhausting to have one of those conversations that have gone in circles and never ever end.
Take a deep breath. Are you ready? I hope some of this can help kickstart your engine to finnnaaallllyyyyy talk about all the awkward bipolar related moments you’ve had, or answer all your curious questions.