Bipolar and Friendships
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness, primarily categorized by periods of mood disturbance. If you are bipolar, it is likely you will have experienced depressive episodes, at least one manic episode, and in some cases you may have experienced a mixed episode, that which contains factors of both mania and depression.
There is also a possibility for a psychotic episode or break for some people diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and this could potentially occur at either end of the mood scale.
Maintaining a close relationship when one or both of you has bipolar disorder is difficult, and can be a very challenging time. Through my own experiences in my bipolar journey my relationships have suffered at times, and unfortunately owing mainly to factors linked with my bipolar, people have been lost along the way.
Over the years since my diagnosis though, I’ve worked hard on building on previously held relationships, strengthening them, and even acquiring new friends on the way!
Learning how to manage a bipolar friendship for both the bipolar person and the friend is a constant process, and may result in some intensive feelings along the way. You may find the following strategies and ideas helpful in maintaining and strengthening your relationships, whether you are the person with the bipolar diagnosis, or the friend who wants to understand more.
Education & Awareness
For the bipolar individual – encourage your friends and loved ones to be knowledgeable in bipolar, and even mental illness as a whole. Direct them to sources you feel are more reliable, and give them your own input. Do be careful not to fall into the trap of being too forceful though – motivate those around you to have a basic understanding, but allow them to research details etc. of their own volition.
For the friend – the most important part of your toolkit in being close to someone with bipolar is being educated about the disorder. Try reading some trusted sources online (e.g. mental health charity websites), see if there are any local events in your area that you could attend, or try reading some personal accounts or memoirs (although please proceed with caution in this instance, as bipolar is at times a very unique disorder with details that can present very differently across those diagnosed).
Next page: forgiveness and understanding.