The World According to Bipolar Girl: In Response to a Friend pt II
This weekend I took a break from people. I’ve just been still. I believe that God is giving me wisdom to begin to navigate my way out of this angry pit I’ve fallen into. The mediation that I’ve been waiting for at work has yet to take place, but I am ok waiting. I also know that it will not be an overnight solution. It took months for things to get this bad, it’s going to take time to restore that which never was. You can’t call it “reconciliation” if there was never a relationship to start out with, can you?
But enough of that. I’ve carefully tried to distance myself from my work related triggers the past two days. Time enough to deal with them on Tuesday. I’m going to turn my thoughts and my words back to the response I was making to comments from a friend here. I’ve already responded to her first question. Her second comment wasn’t so much a question as it was a comment that spoke to me. Here is my response to her:
I thought I could b open n b honest but the more I told of me.. The depressed me.. The bipolar me.. It’s as if everyone wants me to shut up now….I feel that part of me isn’t accepted
Sad, but true… there will be people, loved even ones who will not understand you or accept you because of your Bipolar. That is their loss not yours. My family does not accept me… but I know I am a funny, intelligent, creative, and interesting person. It is their loss that they do not get to be in relationship with me. Yes, it grieves me that I do not have a family. But I could not continue to wear the mask for them. I could not continue to pretend to be someone I wasn’t or to pretend that everything was ok when it wasn’t.
Sadly, I’ve lost friends who tried to fix and/or save me only to get bitter when I didn’t get fixed. They cut bait on our friendship and made me feel awful and broken in the process. If only they hadn’t tried to do something no human was ever going to be able to do… things might have turned out differently. I was not looking for a human savior. I’m still not. I tend not to miss those people so much. But, I’ve also lost good friends because they couldn’t cope with me and my illness. My darkness…the depressed me… the Bipolar me… overwhelmed them. Some of that was my fault. It took me a while to learn about appropriate sharing. I’ve had to learn the hard way not to overwhelm the people I love or to have unrealistic expectations of them. Most people do not understand mental illness and the church is still really ignorant.
If you have overwhelmed people, you can work on appropriate sharing with appropriate people. It’s a learned skill. I used to be an “emotional black hole” — I’d suck people into my drama and they’d have no idea where they went. When I was depressed and suicidal I didn’t always know when enough sharing became too much sharing. People kept trying to “save” me and couldn’t understand why their efforts failed. I’d get the standard schpeel — scriptures rammed down my throat, instructions to pray more, read my bible more, go to church… and all of it would piss me off. I’d tried all of that and couldn’t figure out why none of it was working. Last year I read a book where the Christian counselor said that suggesting all of that stuff to a person with Bipolar Disorder is the very worst thing a person could do. I totally want to photocopy that entire section of that book and give it to my friends. Sort of a “Bipolar Handbook” so they don’t risk offending me when I’m in crisis and I don’t risk offending them when I get mad.
Now I give people outs. I do not share too much info with any one person at any given time and I also ask them if they’ve heard enough. I try not to put too much of a burden on any one person and I never try to make people feel like they are responsible for healing, fixing, or saving me. Even during my suicidal episodes of more recent years, I tried to make sure people realized that any negative life choices I might make were mine. If I ever really did decide to kill myself, there wasn’t going to be anything anybody could have told me that would have made a difference.
Most people will get burned out and frustrated if they feel like they have to continually play savior to somebody who doesn’t get “saved.” They are ignorant about how mental illness works. They also tend to get upset when you don’t get “better” fast enough. Part of appropriate sharing is not using your friends and loved ones as free therapy. It’s easy to do that, so you have to find the line between appropriate and inappropriate sharing. In this, I still tend to lean towards extremes. Now I don’t overwhelm people… I “underwhelm” them. I tend to keep people in the dark and at a distance because I’m tired of talking things out, but God keeps reminding me that I’m not an island. I’d venture to guess that he doesn’t think you’re an island either.
Over the years I’ve made use of professional therapy and medication. Those people are paid to listen to me so they couldn’t run away or make me feel bad for feeling bad. It did begin to bother me that my therapists were not Christian, but in the early days of counseling, that was not an issue for me. I needed somebody to listen to me who wasn’t going to get overwhelmed and run away. I also needed somebody to prescribe meds. If you need therapy or meds make use of them. There is nothing un-Christian about this and it doesn’t show a lack of faith.
As long as both were helpful, I took advantage of them. When the meds stopped being beneficial, I stopped taking the antidepressants. When the doctors started telling me things that contradicted my Christian faith, I stopped going. Right now I asked my personal care physician to up my Lithium because I think I might be battling mania. Hard to tell since I haven’t had a true manic episode in over a decade. I don’t feel the need to go see my old therapist so I’m not.
My point? If the depressed part of you is creating stress or drama that actually can be addressed through therapy and meds use them. That might just make it easier for people to cope with you. My life was fairly out of control before I went on the meds. I also had to try different meds until I found something that worked. If you’re on meds and they’re not working look into other prescriptions. If you’re seeing a therapist and that’s not working pray about finding somebody who actually will help. And if you can’t find someone you like and trust… blog. It’s still the best free therapy around.
I’ve made no secret in this blog of the fact that I’m struggling right now. Oddly enough, people aren’t running away from me. I have a solid group of people who love me, support me, and are actually trying to run towards me. People from work and from church are affirming who I am, my value to them, and are attempting to understand me enough to give me the space I need as God walks me through this season. I believe that God has people like this for you. Until he reveals who those people are to you, do not give up hope. I cannot tell you when my own world is going to stop shaking, so I can’t predict when yours will. I won’t quote scripture at you and tell you to do all this stuff that you are incapable of doing right now. I will continue responding to your comments and praying for you. I will also remind you that Jesus loves you and knows exactly what you are feeling and where you are. He hears your thoughts, sees your depression, and will never tell you to shut up.