How has your illness affected your relationships with friends and family both positively and negatively?
I’m not gonna lie, there has been a whole heck of a lot of negative impact as compared to positive. Relationships are hard. They take work. Regardless of the type of relationship, you have to put effort into keeping it going.
However, when you’re bipolar, there are just certain times where you are 100% incapable of putting forward the effort needed. It’s not like we WANT to put less effort in. I’m not trying to make excuses or anything, but I can, in all honesty, tell you that it happens.
With my immediate family (mom, dad, siblings…), the impact has not been as negative as it could have been, or as negative as it is for some people that I know. I have been blessed with a wonderful and supportive family. Though I’m sure it has not always been easy, they have weathered the storms of my ups and downs. I cannot even think of a time where any of them even complained about it.
Friendships, on the other hand, are a whole different story. It’s been difficult for me to maintain friendships, especially during adolescence (aka prediagnosis). My ups and downs have been the culprit of quite a few falling outs. Reasons …
I may or may not have a tendency to overreact. This has caused a few
or more ridiculous/unnecessary arguments.
Irrational behavior. I was very good at this in high school. My feelings were more than worn on my sleeve, they were pretty much written across my forehead.And as I got older, this behavior caused much tension that probably could’ve been avoided. I’d do something absurd (aka buy a house when I couldn’t afford it … and the likes) and then EXPECT sympathy when these idiotic choices slapped me in the face.
Shame. When I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I had already had a huge falling out with my best friends. I was too ashamed and irrational and embarrassed to even approach them about it. I missed three years with my best friends because of my behavior during a massive depressive episode.
Denial. One of my best friends from high school pointed out to me, possibly on more than one occasion, that I had she believed I was manic/depressive. I refused to own up the the fact that, just maybe, she had a point.
I’m not saying all of my relationships with my friends have had their issues because of bipolar, but I can say that my bipolar disorder has exacerbated some of the problems. Thankfully, and with my deepest gratitude, my friends were able to forgive me and we have reconciled. Now that they are aware of my issues, they have become a lot more understanding of … well … me. And I could not even begin to thank them enough for that.
So what’s left in the relationship pool eh? Oh … those two super important relationships. The ones with my husband and children.
My marriage has been a rocky road to say the least. Getting pregnant at 19, married at 20, and then pregnant again at 20 didn’t really help any of that, but my bipolar definitely escalated many of our marital problems. It’s taken years for my husband to understand me and the way my feelings/moods work. It’s made for a difficult 10 years of ups and downs, and I’m sure it will continue to be as he is the one who is closest to me. (And no matter how much I try not to, my moods do tend to shoot their evil flames in his direction more than any others.) I’m grateful that he has loved me through all these years and all my not so pretty moments. I’m sure it wasn’t easy.
Unfortunately, due to times where I tend to withdraw and hide in a funk hole, my daughter has taken on the role of the helper. When I can’t force myself to do it (whatever it may be) she steps in and takes care of things. She’s a huge blessing, and I hope that she one day realizes how thankful I am that God gave her to me.
As for my youngest son, I think he’s been pretty lucky. He was too young to see me at my worst, and since he is my baby, we share a special bond that no illness can break. (Youngest Children Unite Yo!!!) I believe he is more affected by his brothers bipolarness than my own. Oddly enough, he has responded to his brother in a way that surprised even me. This little guy can be a pain in the arse…but when his big brother is in the midst of an episode, suddenly he turns into an angel and does whatever is needed of him at that moment. It’s amazing to watch.
As for my little PDog … Bipolar has been the a blessing to me. Because I have bipolar and because I’ve been through many of the things he experiences he’s had, I’ve been able to relate to him and work through many of his “moments” with him. I’m glad he was given to me and not to someone who didn’t understand or care about what it means to be bipolar. I’m glad I’m able to be his mother. Though having bipolar sucks (A LOT), I’m happy that I am able to relate to the struggles he has. It has brought us closer together and I believe it will keep us close.
So as you can see, the impact has been quite a bit more negative than positive. However, as I get older and become more aware of my cycles, things are getting easier. Sure life has been hard, but I’m a better person for it. 🙂
(PS…did you see we are number THREE in the Top 50 blogs about Bipolar!!!)