Backpacking and Bipolar II. Taking Manic Depression on tour.
#Bipolar #mentalillness #Paranoia #misunderstandings #Mania #Depression #Manic #Depressed #paranoid #manicdepression #Bipolarbum #moodswings
Probably one of the most damaging aspects of my illness pre-diagnosis was the effect it had on my relationships, particularly friendships. Close friends would be under the closest scrutiny, given the amount of time I spent with them, and when your perceptions are skewed, all kinds of explosive misunderstandings can and frequently do happen. I would fixate on perceived attacks or sly digs and before long, I would be on a collision course with whoever I saw to be the ‘guilty party’. The best defence was always a good offence in my case and friends could often find themselves subject to a verbal bombardment, apparently out of nowhere.
Voltaire’s definition of madness again becomes useful.
“[Madness is] to have erroneous perceptions, and to reason correctly from them.”
When you are mentally ill, you CONSTANTLY misinterpret things that are done and said, or assign far greater weight and meaning to throw away comments than is healthy or helpful for you to do. In the past I have absolutely OBSESSED over percieved slights and possible insults. This silent obsession rarely culminated in anything other than an explosive declaration on my part that the friendship had reached its end and that I didn’t want anything more to do with the person who had offended me.
This has happened enough in my life that I can say there is a trend. My closest friends to date have either fallen victim to this treatment at one time or another, or they’ve witnessed it first-hand and make a special effort to not incense me. I currently have a former-friend on facebook (Who I had been friends with for more than ten years) trying to get in touch with me, find out what he did wrong and make amends. The problem is I can’t remember all the things that he did wrong, I aren’t sure if I imagined it or if he really did make remarks against me and this leaves me in an awkward situation. I feel as though I can do nothing but err on the side of caution. I’ve ignored him and don’t intend to rekindle a friendship. I couldn’t do so honestly and I don’t feel like having a huge argument with someone.
I am a good friend. I would kill for my closest friends. They are my chosen family. I’m secure in the knowledge that having me as a friend is generally a positive thing. The problem lies in how quickly I can decide that someone has ceased to be my friend. To hear things said that aren’t explained fully, when I am depressed or irritable – my mental backstabber, BipolarII, decides to weigh all of my intellectual bandwidth into exploring ways in which the statement that has set me off, was definitely about me. When I am down – anything negative that starts with “Some people…”, “Don’t you hate it when…” and “There’s nothing worse than a person who…” – are taken to be about me.
This is yet another reason why mental illness requires CONSTANT dilligence in order to live with. Should I let go of the reigns at the wrong moment – I won’t even be aware of how wrong my thinking is until I find myself almost capsized with a headache and feelings of loneliness and betrayal.
In the same way as the best way of losing weight is to never put it on in the first place – Coming back from one of these episodes is a million times more difficult than arresting the thoughts earlier and pointing a spotlight at the cracks in their foundations.
Usually I will put my concerns openly and directly to the person involved and give them a chance to either tell me I’m wrong or apologise for what they’ve said, or to stand by it. Any of these is better than allowing myself to ruminate for what could be weeks and have my mind poisoned with loneliness, vitriol and self-hatred.
Do any of you find yourselves ‘under attack’ like this? How do you deal with it? Is there a way of safeguarding your relationships from this? I want to hear from you.
All the best,