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Friends with mental illnesses

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Tightrope, Dec 21, 2019.

  1. Tightrope

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    First off, I take an antidepressant daily. Among my friends with mental health struggles, most suffer from depression. Some take medication but most do not. Most do not go to therapy.

    I am aware of my depression and I usually take a break people when I'm depressed. But sometimes being around people can cheer me up. Sometimes, it can depress me more. That's usually when I go to an event with a lot of people.

    Within the last three years, I made a friend who has admitted to being bipolar. I immediately knew something was different and possibly difficult about this person but, over time, interacting has become even more difficult. I've never known anyone with it. I've mostly known people with depression.

    I've talked to my own mental health professional about it and mentioned I thought bipolar people might be more difficult when they're in a manic phase, at least for me. He nodded in agreement.

    This person doesn't know their limits as to what they can do, overpromises and doesn't deliver, has bad impulse control in social situations (not violent, just unwise and annoying), and more. This is when I get very irate and do my best to keep it in. They have unsuccessfully tried to pull me in to their sphere (their family is full of enmeshed pulling of others into drama) but I have not allowed that to happen.

    A discussion of managing experiences with friends who have mental illness could be helpful. I don't know much about bipolar disorder, even after reading about it. How should a person manage their friendship with a person who has it and, if it becomes too much, should I back out of the friendship?
     
  2. Benway

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    Well, I'm bipolar 1 and I take medication for it, daily. But I have a lot of bad days. My mania manifests usually as agitation or high anxiety which I am also medicated for as I have generalized anxiety disorder existing co-morbidly with the bipolar 1. I find that when I'm in a manic phase, I become needy and require constant reassurance that everything's going to be okay, which gets increasingly difficult for the people around me every time it happens. But rarely do I reach out to my friends when I'm experiencing a manic state. Maybe sometimes in a depressive state I will, but not very often. I usually lay it all on my family and I know that's not fair to them but they're the ones I trust the most.

    I have a friend who's bipolar and refuses to take any medication because of his "straight-edge" lifestyle. A mutual friend told me this guy recently wandered off and walked to a high bridge and threatened to jump. He was picked up by local police and taken home. I don't understand why he wasn't taken to a psych ward. He's a smooth talker, this guy and he probably convinced the pigs to let him go. That or he bribed them. He hasn't spoken to me in almost a year, so I don't know exactly what's going on with him and while that makes me sad, I feel maybe it's for the best. He and I have always been like matter and antimatter despite our closeness, our mental illness makes getting along difficult.

    So while I can't offer you any solid advice on what to do, I can only offer what I have said. I often wonder if I'm really bipolar, or if I've been misdiagnosed yet again and am actually just suffering from major depression and high anxiety. But then again, that's part of what bipolar disorder is, I guess. I do know some people with bipolar are not anxious because they don't have the same co-morbidity with an anxiety disorder that I have and I'm jealous of those people. It's my little cross to bear and it's probably going to kill me one day, one way or another and I'm slowly accepting that because of my mental health issues and other health issues, I won't live as long as most people.
     
  3. Tightrope

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    Thank you for your answer and insight. This friend's manic phase shows up in overspending and, like you said, a constant need for reassurance and also having to call and check many times for the details of something that is coming up. What I've been told is that a manic phases lasts at least several days and, more often than not, a week or two. Then comes the depressive phase.

    I thought I might have a manic aspect but probably don't. I might go into overdrive if at a social function, like a party or an event, and I could only maintain that for a number of hours, and then I'm exhausted after that. What I have is more like an agitated depression I've been told, and I think that so many diagnoses overlap that different experts could even have different diagnoses for the very same people.
     
  4. Rorschach

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    I am sorry to hear your story, I feel for your situation. I know what it is like to have all your friends around you depressed, its actually quite a funny thing to think about. I am only a 18 and am in my final year of high school but I have seen so many depressed people, school is a breeding ground for that and while I don't want to bore you on small town america details I will tell you what I know. I know a lot of people who are or were depressed, I know and have saved my friends who were suicidal and I have dated a bi-polar suicidal girl. Now my story is probably an extreme case of bi-polar and I don't wish to taint your mind with a bad story but I feel that knowing others stories tends to help. This girl I dated she threatened to kill herself, she had been in and out of the wards and she latched onto me. I mean I am basically an emotional masicust so I stuck with here and tried to make her feel good. I saved her life one day and she acts like it wasn't a big deal, we would hang out and some days were good others were horrible but that's just how these things go. We would go on walks and she would be happy and be so high on life, then we would walk back to my car and she would stop in the middle of the street and look at the cars longingly. I felt trapped being her friend at the time, but she needed a good friend and that's so I stuck through it. She slowly wanted to be more then friends I kept saying no, she was really distraught and at the time I had never told anyone that I was gay or bi. Que the song where is my mind by the pixies like in the end of fight club and I basically told her that she met me at a confusing time in my life. She didn't handle it well and after some time her medicine started to balance out and she was really doing great. She was so happy and just life was so beautiful and she eventually convinced me to date her, after like a little bit of time she went MIA and after two weeks of high octane stress I got a text and she was in the ward again. When she got out we decided to break up and stay friends. it was ok though, but one bad day she took her anger out on me and so I just sat there and took it, after that we never talked again.

    So my advice to you is to remain cautious, I don't think just breaking off so abruptly is a good idea. if you don't feel like that relationship is operable then I would tell you to let it slowly die off with un-returned calls and excuses. I do think that it is manageable though, people can get better and you could go through the process of forging a good bond. I wish you the best of luck and I hope you don't get burnt like me, friend.
     
  5. Tightrope

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    Thank you. I prefer that it slowly fizzles out. I have not seen this person get better and it is unlikely that this person will get better.

    I have put this person in the friend zone. I did that when we first met. Immediately. I wish I could say I was ONLY in their friend zone.

    I go to a mental health related support group every now and then, just to connect with others. They told me I'm not responsible for this person's well being and that I should not assume that role. That is what I've learned in therapy, too.
     
  6. Rorschach

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    It is a tough lesson to grasp, at least it was for me. I hope you find solitude in the right path and that you are not in any unwarranted trouble. I wish you the best of luck and stick with theropy because I've heard that's good. Happy holidays and live a long happy healthy life friend.
     
  7. Tightrope

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    Thank you, and likewise!
     
  8. BradThePug

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    I also have been diagnosed with bipolar 1. I was a mess for a long time. My mania tended to come out more as being angry and just being a terrible person to be around. For me, it took a long time and some forced therapy to really learn how to understand and manage my mental illness. You cannot force somebody if they are not ready. It sounds like you are doing the right thing by setting boundaries with this person. The important thing is that you do what you need to do to maintain your mental health.
     
  9. Tightrope

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    Thank you. I stopped being nice and started being firm. I also space any contact further apart. It has helped.
     
  10. Aussie792

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    There've ben some excellent comments here.

    Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other mental health conditions which can drastically alter a person's understanding of reality or elevate their risk appetite are notoriously difficult to manage. But the overriding consideration should be your ability to treat it like a normal friendship - with boundaries, clear expectations and a mutual understanding that you are both morally equal people.* Be clear about what you can tolerate and what you cannot. Be clear it matters when those lines are crossed.

    Mental illness alters, sometimes even removes, the ability to make choices. But some things within that context are willed - if your friend declines to take medication when they should (I do not know if this is the case), then they are putting themselves in a position where they know they may do things they cannot control. Things like consciously drinking alcohol when it tends to trigger manic episodes (again, I do not know if this is the case with your friend) are also things that can trigger a loss of choice but one for which they remain in part personally responsible.

    For example, if your friend's irrational and embarrassing behaviour during a manic phase is causing you trouble, point out that those specific behaviours need to be curbed. If they can only do so with a general program of treatment, then it's something you might want to encourage and help your friend go into.

    One of the worst things for a person to go through with mental illness is feeling abandoned because of that condition. Being deemed a lost cause or not worth the drama is not a nice feeling - so, as a matter of courtesy, if you are to make the friendship conditional, do so openly. Tell your friend where the lines are drawn and how he can avoid crossing them - it will likely do both of you some good in this situation.

    *I mean moral equality in the sense that people often treat mental illness with one of two appalling responses. One is to treat the mentally ill with condescension. The other is to coldly ignore the mental illness, making no accommodation for it. While the latter is crueller, the former is just as destructive of human dignity and, in a more practical sense, often stops people from setting boundaries or encouraging independence and self-help.
     
  11. Tightrope

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    The friend is a woman and she was immediately friend zoned. Even if there were no mental health issues, she would have been friend zoned. I don't think this person was looking for just the friend zone. With this person, that's the best I can do.

    I am not the type to abandon someone because of their mental health if I can manage being around them, set boundaries, and the boundaries work. I have been firm with her when she's out of bounds in her life and give suggestions on how she can get things rounded up. I encourage her to take baby steps. She usually comes up with excuses or says she will do it but, of course, does not. I may sound disappointed and hope I am not crossing into condescension when I do. I am not in mental health and know that it wouldn't be a good occupation for me, even if I didn't have my own issues.

    In therapy, we have discussed the situation and have agreed that this is more than I should take on. I did not know how deep the situation is and how often boundaries would be crossed. It's a bad intersection of my independent personality and a dependent personality.

    You are right saying you can't be mean to a person with these conditions and you can't berate them. If they can't stick to boundaries, then I have to set limits such as spacing contact further apart and having them contact other friends and family, which they have.