Author: Abigail Lehman
A question that I have asked myself and have struggled to answer for most of my life. Why don’t I fit in? Why don’t they feel the same way I do? Am I being dramatic? Am I the problem? I would ask myself these questions as I found myself in yet another argument or end of a friendship (or relationship). I thought maybe as I got older and grew into who I was, I would stop losing friends and find those lifelong friendships that everyone else around me had. Unfortunately, it only continued and worsened. It confused me, as those friends would tell me that I was the “funny friend”, or the – for lack of a better word – crazy friend. If that was true – why did I keep finding myself in these situations?
It wasn’t until my hospitalization in 2020, after I had attempted suicide, that some of my questions started getting answered. The day I ended up in the ER, at the same hospital I was born in, was the day I started to understand who I am and why I feel things the way I do. I faced a long road ahead, the road with multiple misdiagnoses, the road to understanding, the road to recovery. I am still on that road, focusing on my recovery and reflecting on the past. After my release from the psychiatric in-patient facility, I was able to find a psychiatrist and was eventually diagnosed with Bipolar II. Finally, I had an answer that made sense, and I had the tools to tackle it head-on and gain a better understanding of what traits and symptoms I display. I learned that those times when I was the entertainer, making risky decisions and constantly shifting what my next big move would be – I was experiencing a hypomanic episode. Those times I would withdraw from friends and family, sleep for 9+ hours, had suicidal ideations – I was experiencing a depressive episode. In between these episodes, there would be periods where I felt nothing at all, so I thought I was fine, and that’s what I told everyone else.
I can look back now and recognize that I was cycling through romantic partner after romantic partner, friendship after friendship, likely due to my shifting moods and erratic decision-making. I had those friends that stuck through it with me, but those friendships weren’t problem-free and had their spouts of turmoil – even to this day I struggle to maintain healthy boundaries and expectations for those friends. There are times a close friend will bring up something risky or ridiculous I did in the past to reminisce about, and most of the time- I don’t remember doing it, or why I did it. Not so long ago, I would FaceTime my cousin every week with another self-done facial piercing or new hair color, only to see concern wash over her face. To this day, I continue to struggle with irritability and trying not to let it turn into rage or another explosive argument with someone I love.
I realize now that I struggled to maintain healthy relationships because of my unstable moods, and I still fight not to let these episodes control my life. I don’t dismiss the things I have done and said by blaming it on my bipolar disorder. After all, I was the one making those choices. However, I understand now that it is much more difficult for me, as a person who has bipolar disorder, to make rational and constructive decisions during a hypomanic or depressive episode. If you have a loved one who has bipolar disorder, I encourage you to educate yourself on how to help maintain a healthy relationship with them, as I am sure they are in your life for a reason. I promise you we are not impossible to love; we just need to work together. If you are someone who has bipolar disorder, I hope that you could relate to my story in some way and feel a little less alone on this day. Know that you are not alone; we are bipolar together.