A Friend In Need

How many friends do you have? On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. it can run into hundreds. Friends that you socialise with, friends from childhood, friends from school, college or work? How many of those friends really understand you?

When you have a Mental Health Disorder, it makes having friends even more challenging. I have several people in my life that I consider as friends. Some know me from childhood, know my family and have been there avidly following my progression through life. A couple of friends know me at a deeper level, they know my secrets and they understand my social abilities and have worked for or with me at some time or another. I have lots of family too, they have been there through the ups and downs of my life, seen my darkest hours of depression and the manic highs of bipolar.

Bipolar has been a huge part of my life since my teenage years, though it was only diagnosed in my mid-thirties. Only family ever get to see the reality of bipolar when it directly affects them, spending several weeks in hospital after a manic episode is an eye opener for friends and work colleagues. You have to be totally fucked up for them to realize there is something wrong.

For the last year or so, I have a new friend. This friend appeared quite suddenly and our friendship was cemented quite quickly. Of all the friends I have or ever had, he is the only one that understands how I am feeling – sometimes he tells me how I am feeling before I know it myself. How the hell can that be? Well, like me he is bipolar. When you ask someone how they are or how they are feeling, you rarely want to actually know the truth. When he asks me how I am, I literally tell him exactly how I am feeling and likewise, when I ask how he is feeling, I expect him to tell me the good, the bad and the ugly. You don’t hear things like “Do you need to see the doctor?” or “Why are you depressed?” etc. Instead you talk about it or sometimes you don’t need to say anything because you know he understands exactly how you are feeling or you know how he is feeling and that nothing you or he can say will make a difference, so instead you just make it known that you are there. Sometimes knowing a person is there for you is better than any advice they can offer.

We chat online several times a week or meet up and go out for a few drinks after work. Only recently I was telling him how good everything was and he casually tells me I am probably high. It was like he slapped me because I stopped and thought about it and realized he was 100% correct, I was getting increasingly high and bordering on becoming Manic. Knowledge is power and with that realization, I was able to calm the high before it got out of control.

I never realized just how beneficial it is to have a friend to talk to about your mental health. Seeking out others like yourself to talk to, whether it’s a social group or a support group will help you understand yourself a little bit better and who knows, maybe you can help others in the process too.

Derek Reader