When is a good time for my friends to ask about how I'm doing with my meds? Or whether I've been taking them constantly?
I asked myself these questions recently because my colleagues know about my condition and they often ask me about my meds. While I appreciate the concern they are showing, I have come across one instance when it was not a good idea to ask me.
It happened with a good friend at work, and by good I mean, we can talk about anything, and I also chat with his wife and kid on Facebook from time to time. Anyway, recently we were having dinner with the other folks in his department and afterwards we happened to talk about my Ph.d plans. He was kind of sarcastic/mocking about it...like "oh, someone's gonna be a doctor", that kind of thing.
This was not the first time he had said something like this, but it was not the most welcomed remark because at that point, I had been having an emotional roller coaster of a week. Plus, I had been wondering whether I can handle a Ph.d given that I'm still taking meds for having bipolar etc. and people have no idea how much questioning goes on in my head.
So I told him I wasn't going to talk to him about the Ph.d thing anymore. But he redeemed himself by saying: "It's because you just came back and now you're going off again."
I thought, "Aww...so sweet", so we continued talking but then he bought something and used a plastic bag. And being the greenie reporter that I am, I just asked if he really needed it and he said something like: "Oh, here's Miss Greenie again. You know people are getting tired of it...not me, but others" and so boom, down my mood went again.
Thing is, I don't badger everyone to be green. I only talk to those who I think would listen/they ask so I felt that if people were unhappy they should have said something. If they instead complain to others, I end up feeling like I should just shut up completely because I don't know who I can trust to speak my mind to.
Later my friend apologized over the Instant Messaging system and said he was sorry that he upset me with what he said. I told him, it's not only him and that I would talk to him another day. I said that because I was not feeling so stable emotionally and I didn't want to cry (I had a wedding dinner to attend and I was already late).
Then the last thing he said online was: Don't forget to take your meds
Now, THAT was really tough to swallow, hah, literally.
I mean, it made me feel like there's something wrong with me, that I'm headed for a relapse or something just because I'm upset.
But I felt upset because of some things that have happened - don't I have the right to have those emotions?
I knew he meant well but that last statement, I could have done without at that moment.
When I told another friend about this (one who is completely separate from my office because he is in another country and they don't know each other) he said that parting remark was almost like a cheap shot.
Thank God I know this friend well enough that he would not take a cheap shot, it was just wrong timing.
A few days later, I talked through the matter with him face to face and we came to a better understanding about each other.
Reflecting upon this incident, I realized that the question about meds is best asked:
1. Face to face if possible
2. When face to face, be careful not to use the have-you-been-a-good-kid tone (another friend did this with me, but again, I knew that she cared and so I overlooked it)
3. When asking online, be careful not to do it if there has been an upsetting event just before.
While I can't control the above in a direct way, because people will ask when they choose to ask, I do believe I can work on having good friendships, based on open communication lines about feelings among other things, which can withstand the "wrong" asking of the meds question at times.
If you are reading this and you have a friend with bipolar, I just want to say thank you for caring and wanting to ask us about our meds/treatment.
I hope this gives you some handles on how best to ask these questions so they are as helpful as you intend them to be :)
P.S. The friend that I talk about in this blog entry is aware about me using this episode to write a blog and he is okay with it.