Recently, one of my closest friends, who has been struggling with depression for years, told me that she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. One of the things that she said that really resonated with me was that some of her friends had turned away from her and didn’t want to know her anymore. It made me think of another friend who was diagnosed with cancer, and who also found some of her closest friends and family suddenly ghosted her. It’s when dark times come that we find out who our real friends are. The ones who will be there for us, even if they’re uncomfortable or it makes them sad. The last thing that you need when you’re struggling with big changes or big emotions is to lose people.
I think there are a few reasons that people do this. I think sometimes they’re scared. They don’t want to face their own mortality, or their own fears. Sometimes maybe they’re shallow and it feels like being there for you might be an effort, it won’t be fun to be your friend through this time.
I’ll never forget a time when I went home for a visit and a friend of mine desperately wanted to see me. She spent the whole time talking about herself and a small fight she had had with her sister. She didn’t ask about me at all, but she knew that I had big personal events going on in my life, including a murder of a boyfriends brother that had left him suicidal. It was a dark time in my life. Needless to say, we’re not friends anymore.
I think that sometimes losing these friends means that you have more time for the ones that matter and that are there for you. I don’t believe that people mean to hurt us. They have their own story too, their own issues that they are struggling with, and in that sense, it’s not our fault that they can’t stay with us. It’s all part of growing as a person. But it can be really hard to lose them, especially if we thought we were close to them and were relying on being able to turn to them.
I think that part of the problem is that people don’t always have knowledge. At around the same time that my friend told me she had been diagnosed with bipolar, I was offered a book to read and review called Owning Bipolar by a psychotherapist called Michael Pipich. I wasn’t sure that it was a good fit for my blog, and I wasn’t sure I had anyone close to me who had bipolar. And then my friend told me about her diagnosis and a member of my family has it too. I knew nothing about this disorder, and I thought, why not read this book?
I think some mental illnesses or serious diseases are associated with very negative things. I think people don’t know what to expect and whether a mental health diagnosis means that you’re broken or potentially dangerous in some way. But knowing what a diagnosis means and how it will effect a life means taking control and taking the fears out of the equation. Maybe people would be able to be there for each other and not ghost each other during dark times if they had greater understanding of what to expect? I think Michael Pipich’s book goes a long way to doing this. If you or someone you know and love has bipolar, I recommend getting a copy of his book. (In the US HERE and UK HERE) You can also find more information on his website, HERE. There is loads of information out there about grief, illness, mental health, and pretty much every life event, so you can find out more and be there for people. Or maybe most importantly, ask your friend what they need from you and let them know you will be there.