Friendships are hard for a bipolar, anxiety-ridden introvert.
Other than my years of being bullied, friendships were good overall. By 11th grade…and college…and early years of my career, friends were sprinkled throughout. Not many, but enough. None lasted, although I thought they would. As much as I tried to keep them near, they drifted further and further away. Eventually, I stopped trying. I’d converse with my colleagues at work, but doing anything outside of work or home became extremely rare.
I became comfortable being a homebody.
No opportunity to be socially awkward. Completely ingrained in my being is the need to feel accepted, most likely stemming from harassment dished out by my peers in elementary school. I hated letting anyone down. I became a perpetual people-pleaser…even to my own detriment. Putting on a mask eventually became my default…being who and what I felt others expected of me. In this way, I felt acceptance…even if it were false acceptance.
Social Media’s Benefit
With the onset of social media, I could now reach out to others from the comfort of my own home. I can chat with friends, share what I’ve been up to, and still hide what I feel may push people away. I enjoy having pocket friends (they all fit in my pocket via mobile phone).
On May 29, 2017, I launched a blog. I decided it was time to embrace at least one aspect of myself that I attempted to shroud. My bipolar. On June 8, 2017, I laid out my lifelong struggles with mental health in one fell swoop of a post. Hitting the publish button frightened me to the core. I then awaited the aftermath.
Much to my surprise, I received an avalanche of positive feedback, which you may view at the end of this post. I also received feedback from “fixers” who feel like they know mental illness, yet don’t: you need to rely more on God, you need to try yoga, you need to try such-and-such diet, you need to try natural supplements instead of drugs, and one piercing opinion from a relative: therapy without God is just psycho-babble (how dare I see a psychiatrist…the only one who was able to save my life…instead of a minister who does not have proper mental health training). As I’ve stated before, management of a mental illness is a multifarious process and different for everyone. There is no magic pill cure.
How did my outing my bipolar self affect my relationships?
- Family better understands me…or at least tries.
- Some just don’t get it and choose to ignore my elephant in the room, and they walk on eggshells around me. Is what it is.
- Life can still be lonely. I oftentimes feel silently judged or misunderstood.
- I’ve gained new friends via social media, in particular Facebook and Twitter. There’s an entire online community of others who genuinely understand…because they live with a mental illness, too. Understanding is a huge part of acceptance. I may never meet them in person, but the bond is strong and fast among those who “have been there”. I love and adore my bipolar buddies and mental illness battlers. We’re in it together.
And, for those who now only see Alicia, the one with bipolar:
I’m not just my mental illness…I’m so much more.
Surprisingly positive feedback after outing my bipolar self:
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