Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

How can I tell my friends that I really am crazy?

Asked by wundayatta (58367 points ) October 27th, 2009

As many of you know, over the last couple of years I have been having an adventure with mental illness. I think it was quite a shock for me, at the age of 51 or so, to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was horribly ashamed, I think. In any case, I didn’t tell anyone in my family (except those who are like me—which I didn’t know before then), nor did I tell my oldest friends. I just stopped talking to them.

I think that it may be time to let them know what happened to me. However, it’s a bit of a problem, since one of my friends is in a relationship with my brother. I don’t know if I can ask her not to talk about it with him. So, perhaps, if I tell anyone, I’ll be telling everyone.

I haven’t really had any personal contact with my friends for two years now. How can I explain this? How can I explain that I’ve been ashamed of what happened, and fearful that they might not understand. I don’t mean what words to use. I mean how can I make myself do it?

For that matter, should I tell them? Or is it too late? Has too much water gone over the dam to ever be able to reconnect like it was before?

It’s been bothering me a lot. I’ve come to think that there’s really no point in not telling them. It can’t get any worse, can it? It could only get better. Or am I wrong about that? I’m feeling like a schmuck, and part of me is saying the hell with it. But I need friends. I desperately need someone besides my wife who cares. I’m no good at making real life friends. Maybe I’m just too old to form the kind of friendship like the ones I made in college.

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

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68 Answers

nxknxk's avatar

I think a lot of people might not be surprised to hear you’re bipolar. A condition like that is usually pretty noticeable. At least it has been in my family.

So tell them. It can’t get worse, as you said. Unless the sudden officiousness of a diagnosis somehow scares your friends off. But at 51 I’m assuming you’ve grown accustomed to social, emotional, monetary (the list goes on) independence.

kruger_d's avatar

Pretty much tell them what you told us. I wouldn’t use the word crazy because it’s kind of dismissive. Explain the diagnosis and maybe ask if they think it impacts their relationship with you.(aside from the obvious lack of one recently). Work up a little courage and trust them.

Cartman's avatar

It sounds like you want to tell them. Myself, I find it much easier to write to people rather than talking face to face, and for serious matters the old pen and paper letter gives the message a certain… poise. Messages like that are taken seriously and make up for much that might or might not have been said before. In this day of e-mail, IM etc. a good old-fashioned letter and envelop approach takes away the awkwardness of hiding/displaying emotions face to face without robbing the actual message of any of its dignity and importance.

Do it.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@daloon If I were your friend, I’d want to know. Also, from personal experience with family members dealing with depression it’s wrong to keep it tucked away. I’m pretty sure some of your friends/family already had a suspicion something was awry.

It’s difficult to communicate with someone when they’re keeping such a large chunk of their personal life in hiding. It makes it nearly impossible to maintain a relationship with them.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Are you considering telling them this for your sake or for theirs?
Keep in mind your friends might not act the same around you after you tell them, despite their best intentions.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@daloon A thought: You are a creative writer. Could you come up with a card or email announcing your mental health? Humor is the best ice breaker and the best medicine!

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Cartman I just read your comment now…I’d do the same. Write

shockrocks's avatar

I definitely wouldn’t say it’s too late! It’s never too late! I think if they truly were/are your friends, they will understand that this has been a major issue that has altered your life and subsequently your self concept. I think it’s important for you to do it for your own sake. You said it yourself, you need friends. Everyone does! That’s reason enough for you to take the plunge if you’re so inclined to.

And as far as judgementalism goes, I’m sure your family and your true friends would love to be a support for you. Anyone that has a problem accepting it isn’t worth your time anyway. The thing you need to realize is that as much as you might not like it, this is part of who you are. Sure, it’s something that needs to be regulated and something that negatively effects your life at times. But being yourself is always the right choice.

I have had a similar experience myself as of late… I have had mild Tourettes Syndrome since I was about 9 years old, but I was only properly diagnosed and medicated about a year ago. Issues associated with TS have always been a sore spot with me so I didn’t tell anyone until a couple of weeks ago because I was so embarrassed about it. For one reason, most of my family/friends had pointed out gestures and mannerisms of mine that they found humorous in the past and it just plain hurt my feelings. I avoided it for a year and totally isolated myself from the people that love me the most. Now that I’ve told everyone, I feel stupid for ever pulling way.

So basically… I think that whatever decision you come to should be based on your own needs and welfare, not on pressure from other people ;) Good luck!

Judi's avatar

@daloon ; I don’t have a real answer for you, but I can tell you that the sooner people with mental illness actually “come out,” the better it is for the entire community. Stigma busting is a hard road, but it takes people like you to give voice to a large number of people who are discriminated against all the time. My son is a musician and he has made mental health stigma busting his platform. People need to know that people with mental illness are just like everyone else, they just have some different kinds of hurdles to overcome.
If you “come out,” There are no promises that the path will be easy, but you will be helping to blaze the trail for those who follow after you.

augustlan's avatar

I know from here that you have a very high degree of altruism. You have worked your whole life on making the world a better place. Consider this: The stigma associated with mental illness will never go away as long as people keep hiding it. Coming ‘out of the closet’, so to speak, will help not just you… but all those who come along after you. Do yourself, and the future, a favor. Tell them. All of them. Be sure that you have your therapist’s support in this, so that you can handle it if some are not terribly accepting.

I agree that doing it in writing would be best. Good luck to you, friend.

nxknxk's avatar

I like the idea of writing it down in a letter. If that’s your forte then you should take advantage of it. I know I communicate more effectively with people in writing than I do in conversation.

@SpatzieLover also made a good point about concealing such a new and significant aspect of your life. You probably don’t want to let it become the proverbial elephant in the room. The secret would not only inhibit your ability to act normally, but it would also dominate your conscious mind in conversation with your friends.

So I think this part of you has more potential to ruin relationships if it remains hidden than if you let your friends know about it.

Judi's avatar

@augustlan ; jinx, you owe me a coke.

augustlan's avatar

@Judi Oops… didn’t see your answer before I posted mine. Oh well, great minds and all that. :)

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Judi I agree. Hiding it can also destruct a family and a social circle rapidly. My FIL has lost all of his friends, has no co-workers, and none of his family wants a thing to do with him. My MIL is enabling his wishes, so it’s difficult to be around her, too

PapaLeo's avatar

I’m going to state the obvious and say if your friends were any friends at all they 1) wonder why the hell they haven’t heard from you in 2 years and 2) would understand completely Don’t worry about being “convincing.” Simply bringing this out in the open will help them connect their own dots.

ECassandra's avatar

“Crazy” isn’t a clinical diagnosis, and as someone who has experience with bipolar disorder, I think that “crazy” is not only an offensive label, but an inaccurate one when you consider the spectrum of mental illness.

Terminology aside, I don’t think it’s necessary for you to inform your friends and family of your diagnosis, especially if you have sought treatment and are experimenting with different means of controlling the highs and lows. If you feel that you have, or had, close relationships that are/were affected by your bipolar disorder, you may want to discuss your recent findings with those individuals, but only if you feel that it would be beneficial to you personally.

Don’t let this diagnosis discourage you! Bipolar disorder doesn’t have to control your life.

Judi's avatar

@daloon ; you might also find that they are not as surprised or shocked as you might think they will be.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

You keeping this to yourself and only your wife is going to (if not already) make you more and more angry at yourself for having the disorder, mad at your wife for being your only close confidant and angry at family and friends you could have because you fear losing them even more than you’ve pushed them to the perimeter. Start with your brother since he’s family and he’ll probably confide to his partner (your friend?) and see how it goes with them, if they show support and interest (the odds are good) then you might feel comfortable to tell another person at a time.

dpworkin's avatar

I suffered through a major depressive episode that essentially confined me to my home for a couple of years, and I lost contact with all of my friends.

Perhaps it will be encouraging to you if I tell you that once I rejoined the world, and informed the people I had been rudely ignoring, not one of them was other than entirely supportive.

A diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder is no longer fraught with the stigma that it once carried, nor would it be remarkable if many of your friends already suspected that that was what has been going on – just as many gay people who agonize over “coming out” find that everyone already knew, and had been waiting for the chance to be able to acknowledge it openly and supportively.

I do quarrel with your OP in one respect: unless you were just being jocular, in which case forgive me, I do think there is something stigmatizing about calling yourself crazy, and I don’t understand the purpose of that.

wundayatta's avatar

Well, here’s the thing @ECassandra. For me, “crazy” is an issue of pride. Some people prefer “mad pride,” but I prefer “crazy pride.” Yes, it’s an offensive label, and I would like to reclaim it. I want to be able to be proud of being crazy.

I mean, for most of my life, I felt like I was anyway. Different, at least. In a way, this diagnosis makes sense to me. It explains where a lot of my shit comes from. It explains why my mind seems to work differently. It explains why I feel more comfortable around crazy people.

Calling myself crazy is a way to try to say that it’s not so bad to be like this. If people understood how we behave, then maybe it wouldn’t be so crazy. They say that a lot of people with bipolar disorder are smarter than average. Maybe it’s the craziness that helps generate that smartness—whatever that is. Maybe crazy people have a gift for others. Maybe there’s more of a place for us in society, instead of just being dismissed or laughed at.

I always felt left out, long before my diagnosis. I never knew how to participate and do what “normal” people do. Social things always seemed harder for me than they were for others. Now, at least, I have a label for why I feel left out and alone. Now I have a context that seems to explain some of my behavior over my life. Now there are people who are like me, and, for what it’s worth, that makes me feel less crazy.

[edit] I posted this before I read the post above.

dpworkin's avatar

Oops, thanks for the explanation; I withdraw my last paragraph.

Grisaille's avatar

If you are as genuine in waking life as you are on here, I don’t think that your friends will see much of an issue.

@daloon, you’re a good person. As simplistic as that sounds, it’s the truth. You are stressing yourself, stop that shit. The reason that you have even approached the collective with such a question proves that you need an outlet, someone to confide in, a reason to connect, a social shift.

You need these people, and I suggest you go steal them back. Telling them that you are “crazy” is irrelevant to the loneliness that pangs you; your primary objective is to find or rediscover friendship. If they ask what the hell happened to you: then realize that they’ve cared enough about the absence of you for you to explain what you’ve been dealing with. I think that in itself is a pretty decent barometer of genuineness.

Replying to your recent post, if your diagnosis has given you a new-found pride, a definition to your behavior, then shouldn’t it give you more of a reason to reach out? Spread the word to everyone you’ve lost contact with, @daloon – indulge in the novelty. Not many people can claim a title as peculiar. Go forward, stop wallowing in sadness and lonesomeness. Dammit.

dpworkin's avatar

@Grisaille I agree. At least as far as one can tell on an web site, I too have always thought of @daloon as being simply a good person, filled with sage advice.

dalepetrie's avatar

My thoughts are that this is how you find out who your real friends are. People who genuinely like you and care about you will want to stand behind you and help you. People who have a superficial relationship with you will let you down. Some times your truest friends are not the ones you expect, and sometimes the people you think you can count on are the ones that let you down the most. Something like this lets you know who is who, and if you can be proud of who you are, you should be able to say, “accept me for who I am, or I don’t need you in my life.”

sarahny's avatar

I am bipolar too. And without the support of my family I don’t know how I could handle it. Not to mention how much I’ve learned from my family about mental illness in our family. I think you may find that by telling your family you will not only gain knowledge but a wonderful support system.

fireinthepriory's avatar

You’re so afraid of your friends and family rejecting you, you have rejected them. Give them the chance to prove you wrong! I’d be willing to bet that they do prove you wrong, and (as others have said) that the majority of them will not be surprised by your diagnosis. If they were really your friends before, they will be now, too.

nxknxk's avatar

@daloon: If you are feeling this vindicated (which I think is good, healthy) then you should go with it! Tell everyone. If you meet rejection, so be it. The dissenters aren’t worth your time.

Edit: Well, I just repeated Grisaille. Read his post instead.

Fred931's avatar

If it’s your own friends and family, just tell it straight up. They couldn’t, or at least shouldn’t, like you less. Most of them probably haven’t been in your exact situation, but they’ll probably understand it since it falls into place as an explanation of the loss of contact between you and them for such a long time. I think more harm will come out of you not telling them this rather than letting it out.

janbb's avatar

I’m late to the party, daloon, but I’d just like to add my support. You need friends in your life and, as has been said, most of them probably have an idea of what is going on or else feel they have been personally rejected.

Writing a letter will probably let you control how you want to say it, especially since you are so comfortable with writing.

And I think if you are planning to tell a friend who is dating your brother, you should probably at least consider telling your brother and the rest of the family directly. However, since I don’t know your family, that might not be something you want to do.

tyrantxseries's avatar

@daloon, I wish I could give you advice on this to help, but when I did it it didn’t go very well…
but what the other have wrote sounds good, so I wish you all the best of luck and hope you get a better reaction than I did…

p.s I am also proud of being crazy

Fred931's avatar

@tyrantxseries, I’m occasionally ADD crazy, but that’s a whole different story.

tinyfaery's avatar

This is who you are—crazy (me too). Why hide? With the hiding comes the loneliness and isolation, the lying, the pretending and the excuses; these are the problems. If you just came out you would immediately get rid of all those problems. Sure some people might reject you or be put-off, but others will support you and want to help you rejoin the world of the living. They will welcome you back and tease you for not trusting them sooner.

I’m so surprised that people still think of those with mental disorders as people to be avoided. Who doesn’t have mental and/or emotional problems? Those who don’t just aren’t paying attention.

jackm's avatar

2 years out of a lifetime is not that much. Its not too late.

Blondesjon's avatar

You know me @daloon. I am not about beating around the bush. Kick the door in James Bond style and announce it in the loudest voice you can. Whoever is left when you are done is who you want in your social/familial circle. Fuck the rest of ‘em.

chyna's avatar

Your friends probably miss you and wonder what they did wrong to make you stop seeing them. Tell them the best way you know how.

LuhvKiller's avatar

@daloon I had to go through this same thing at the age of 22 only 2 years ago I was diagnosed with bi polar disorder, ADD, and social anxiety disorder. I was starting to avoid my friends more and more i guess i was doing it tryin to protect what little friendship I thought was still there. I was afraid that I would have a manic or depressive episode around them then they wouldn’t wanna hang out anymore. Now we dont hang out at all and i barely talk to them anymore. They were my best friends and i could have easily told them what the problem was at first, but it was this girl we all worked with she had the same thing and she acted alot different than i did. I case was more severe then mine. And i didn’t want them to look at me the way they looked at her.

But If i would have known better i would have told them. They know now and they told me that they loved me and they didn’t care how i was they accepted me either way. But we still dont hang out or talk as much but thats from other reasons. I dont feel crazy anymore i like to call myself different. Because people with our condition are very unique and different.

wundayatta's avatar

Thank you all so much for your responses and suggestions. I think you are right that I should tell them. After all, it can’t be worse than it is now.

That’s a good idea to write it down. I guess I can send it off and see what happens.

I’m still pretty unsure about my family. No one talks about anything in my family. Hardly anyone knows what anyone else is doing. We were always so uncomfortable talking about personal stuff that no one ever does it, and especially not if we have a problem. My parents were all about handling things independently. Never lean on anyone. Take care of it yourself or suffer. Never ask anyone to help. Never burden people with your shit. They aren’t interested.

You should hear the disdain in their voices when they talk about my relatives who were/are bipolar. They act as if those sick people are just pathetic. Ditzy. Incompetent. Losers. It is so un-understanding. So judgmental. I don’t even know why I care, but to think of them thinking that about me…. of having such disdain for me for having the bad grace to be mentally ill… something they probably don’t even believe exists. Like it’s a copout, or an excuse for slacking.

Whenever I’m hard on myself, those are the voices I hear in my head. I just can’t imagine being able to tell my story, even the edited one. The edited one wouldn’t feel right, anyway. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking about what they would think if they knew the whole story. Then again, what’s the point? If I can’t be myself with them, then is there any point in having a relationship with them? [shudder] All my life I’ve had to deal with their lack of support for anything I do. I had to armor myself by finding ways to just set aside their criticism. Actually, that was a skill that should have helped me in coping with depression, but while I can maybe shut down my parents’ voices, when those voices come from inside me, speaking in my voice, it is so much harder to ignore.

The thing is they will feel blamed for my condition. It will make them terribly uncomfortable. I don’t know if they’ve ever had to deal with the condition—it seems to have passed right by them. They both had the genes to set me up for this. Once, I was talking about our relatives who have the disorder. I was explaining how hard it is to be depressed, trying to defend my aunt. Then I told them it was hereditary, and we had the genes on both sides. My father said, “lucky you all dodged that bullet!”

If only he knew.

dpworkin's avatar

The New York Times recently ran an article by a psychotherapist about how sometimes, when parents are really toxic, it is healthier, though sad and undesirable, to cut them loose. Would you like me to look for it?

YARNLADY's avatar

One of my blog contacts told everyone by inviting us to join in The Last Degree program. Maybe you could have a Polar party and invite all your family and friends.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@pdworkin I had to de-toxify myself from my dad…OUCH, my mom & I own our home together though

@daloon If your family is like this, I’d skip ‘em and focus your attention on people that actively care and support you. My dad’s family is like this as is my husband’s family. My husband and I have had to set boundaries for ourselves and our son.

My FIL won’t be open about his mental health issues because his mom is still alive and she thinks anyone that needs a “shrink” is “crazy”. She also denies the fact that depression runs in the family. My dad’s family denied all links to alcohlism, even though everyone was one

You may want to discuss all of this with your therapist. Maybe your therapist would give you some ideas we haven’t come up with here.

dpworkin's avatar

Here is the text of the article, in case anyone is interested. I cut and pated it because the NY Times asks for a password. WARNING! Long Post! You might want to skip it.

You can divorce an abusive spouse. You can call it quits if your lover mistreats you. But what can you do if the source of your misery is your own parent?
Skip to next paragraph
Craig Frazier

Comment Post a Comment on the Well Blog
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More Mind Columns

Granted, no parent is perfect. And whining about parental failure, real or not, is practically an American pastime that keeps the therapeutic community dutifully employed.

But just as there are ordinary good-enough parents who mysteriously produce a difficult child, there are some decent people who have the misfortune of having a truly toxic parent.

A patient of mine, a lovely woman in her 60s whom I treated for depression, recently asked my advice about how to deal with her aging mother.

“She’s always been extremely abusive of me and my siblings,” she said, as I recall. “Once, on my birthday, she left me a message wishing that I get a disease. Can you believe it?”

Over the years, she had tried to have a relationship with her mother, but the encounters were always painful and upsetting; her mother remained harshly critical and demeaning.

Whether her mother was mentally ill, just plain mean or both was unclear, but there was no question that my patient had decided long ago that the only way to deal with her mother was to avoid her at all costs.

Now that her mother was approaching death, she was torn about yet another effort at reconciliation. “I feel I should try,” my patient told me, “but I know she’ll be awful to me.”

Should she visit and perhaps forgive her mother, or protect herself and live with a sense of guilt, however unjustified? Tough call, and clearly not mine to make.

But it did make me wonder about how therapists deal with adult patients who have toxic parents.

The topic gets little, if any, attention in standard textbooks or in the psychiatric literature, perhaps reflecting the common and mistaken notion that adults, unlike children and the elderly, are not vulnerable to such emotional abuse.

All too often, I think, therapists have a bias to salvage relationships, even those that might be harmful to a patient. Instead, it is crucial to be open-minded and to consider whether maintaining the relationship is really healthy and desirable.

Likewise, the assumption that parents are predisposed to love their children unconditionally and protect them from harm is not universally true. I remember one patient, a man in his mid-20s, who came to me for depression and rock-bottom self-esteem.

It didn’t take long to find out why. He had recently come out as gay to his devoutly religious parents, who responded by disowning him. It gets worse: at a subsequent family dinner, his father took him aside and told him it would have been better if he, rather than his younger brother, had died in a car accident several years earlier.

Though terribly hurt and angry, this young man still hoped he could get his parents to accept his sexuality and asked me to meet with the three of them.

The session did not go well. The parents insisted that his “lifestyle” was a grave sin, incompatible with their deeply held religious beliefs. When I tried to explain that the scientific consensus was that he had no more choice about his sexual orientation than the color of his eyes, they were unmoved. They simply could not accept him as he was.

I was stunned by their implacable hostility and convinced that they were a psychological menace to my patient. As such, I had to do something I have never contemplated before in treatment.

At the next session I suggested that for his psychological well-being he might consider, at least for now, forgoing a relationship with his parents.

I felt this was a drastic measure, akin to amputating a gangrenous limb to save a patient’s life. My patient could not escape all the negative feelings and thoughts about himself that he had internalized from his parents. But at least I could protect him from even more psychological harm.

Easier said than done. He accepted my suggestion with sad resignation, though he did make a few efforts to contact them over the next year. They never responded.

Of course, relationships are rarely all good or bad; even the most abusive parents can sometimes be loving, which is why severing a bond should be a tough, and rare, decision.

Dr. Judith Lewis Herman, a trauma expert who is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said she tried to empower patients to take action to protect themselves without giving direct advice.

“Sometimes we consider a paradoxical intervention and say to a patient, ‘I really admire your loyalty to your parents — even at the expense of failing to protect yourself in any way from harm,’ ” Dr. Herman told me in an interview.

The hope is that patients come to see the psychological cost of a harmful relationship and act to change it.

Eventually, my patient made a full recovery from his depression and started dating, though his parents’ absence in his life was never far from his thoughts.

No wonder. Research on early attachment, both in humans and in nonhuman primates, shows that we are hard-wired for bonding — even to those who aren’t very nice to us.

We also know that although prolonged childhood trauma can be toxic to the brain, adults retain the ability later in life to rewire their brains by new experience, including therapy and psychotropic medication.

For example, prolonged stress can kill cells in the hippocampus, a brain area critical for memory. The good news is that adults are able to grow new neurons in this area in the course of normal development. Also, antidepressants encourage the development of new cells in the hippocampus.

It is no stretch, then, to say that having a toxic parent may be harmful to a child’s brain, let alone his feelings. But that damage need not be written in stone.

Of course, we cannot undo history with therapy. But we can help mend brains and minds by removing or reducing stress.

Sometimes, as drastic as it sounds, that means letting go of a toxic parent.

Dr. Richard A. Friedman is a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

janbb's avatar

It sounds like it may well be counter-productive to try to include your family at this point, or possibly, as pdworkin implies, ever. You might want to try a multistep process where you reveal your condition initially to the people whom you trust the most. Presumably, these are the people you are looking to connect with again so it makes sense to put your energy in to those relationships and not the ones where it will not be productive.

Psychedelic_Zebra's avatar

@daloon after reading your definition of ‘crazy pride’ I saw so much of myself in your words that I thought you were talking about me. Let’s both claim the word ‘crazy’ for our own. =)

Judi's avatar

Lets see if we can get NAMI to start a campaign, “RECLAIMING CRAZY” I doubt they would, they’re to PC, but @daloon , it IS a great attitude.

dalepetrie's avatar

Reclaiming “crazy” reminds me of that scene in I think it was Clerks II, one of those Kevin Smith movies anyway, where Jay first finds out that the term “porch monkey” is deemed by everyone else in the world to be a racist term, though he’d never thought of the term in that connotation, he always took it more literally, so he decided it was an unfair maligning of that term and decided to “take it back”. So he wears a T-shirt that says “Porch Monkey’s 4-Ever” and has to deal with I believe Wanda Sykes. Hilarity ensued.

Judi's avatar

It made me think of the scene in the Vagina Monologue’s titled, “Reclaiming Cunt.” I can’t believe I just said that here.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Judi my eyes are closed, so it’s ok

faye's avatar

how i wish people wouldn’t be ashamed of “brain illnesses”. nobody feels ashamed that they have diabetes. i hope your friends and family are all that you would hope them to be when you tell them

Violet's avatar

That is very brave of you to talk about. It is a tough subject. Many people don’t understand bipolar. And you are not crazy, as long as you take your meds properly. It took me at least 5 years to find a good combination of meds that make me feel “normal”, not too depressed, not too manic.
Don’t tell anyone you don’t need to tell. If anyone you know very well witnessed you during a manic episode, you can explain it to them if you want.

Zen_Again's avatar

I feel no need to discuss it, @daloon – why do you – I’m curious? Isn’t fluther enough?

I don’t discuss everything with my friends – let them respect and love me for who I am sans labels.

Just_Justine's avatar

I can see now why people termed it the selfish disease. I don’t mean this in a rude way. But in a way thinking about it, talking about it, analysing it, telling everyone being obsessed with it probably is not the way to go. Every second person I know is bipolar either bp1 or bp2. Just most go undiagnosed. For lot’s of reasons self medication (drugs) they have enabling families, or they are just seen as moody and a bit eccentric

You and I have the same illness, but we are both experiencing it in different ways. No one really gives a shit if I am bipolar they are too busy dealing with their own lives. I told a few close friends at the time I was diagnosed, and they treat me no differently, no special favours no extra understanding.

I told my son I am bipolar but he got confused and thinks I am schizophrenic. So I didn’t bother to put the record straight. Because bottom line he could care less.

My dad was bipolar and I took care of him and his moods for ten years. I suspect my son is too. So I am the keeper of all the bipolars in my family. So not only do I have it, but I experience it.

It really is not such a big deal, only as bigger deal as you want it to be. Don’t get me wrong I get days so bad I do not believe nor can imagine how I can go on. On those days I am here on fluther asking questions where people suggest I need therapy.

For me, I treat it symptom by symptom, day by day. People rarely take the time out to study and read up on your illness so what is the point of telling them? Our recovery or stability is really in our own hands.

wundayatta's avatar

It was a big deal for me because it explains a number of things my friends have been wondering about. Also it is something I have been struggling to come to terms with, and it would be nice to have people who actually know me to bounce ideas off of. Not to mention it’s just nice to share important things in your life with folks who are (or used to be) your best friends.

CharlieGirl's avatar

When you’re well liked,people don’t like to label you as crazy.Once you’ve become unpopular through a relationship or other social delima,people tend to fling the word around like nothing.I just ignore it now,knowing that it’s ignorance that got them to behave that way.As for telling your friends,don’t.Believe me,you don’t want to be labeled.(I have mental illness too by the way).

zzc's avatar

The people who have responded, many who know you pretty well (I gather, both by wundayatta, and daloon), have given a lot of good advice. All I can say is what resonates with my personal experience. I’m well into middle age. It has taken me most of that time to figure a lot of things out. My Dad’s side of the family, had the “crazy” genes. The description of your family’s attitude, sounds very familiar. We avoided that side of the family. My folks are now gone. I am diagnosed with severe depression. I have gradually come to managing well, with medication. . .but it needs to be adjusted or changed about every yr.½. Looking back, I think I always had a degree of depression. It explains a lot. I can identify with your feelings growing up. I isolated myself, for the same reasons, and beat myself up, being well schooled in the stigma that it is a HUGH character flaw. I had to finally stop any contact with my older sister, for my own health and well being. I struggled with facing her toxicity and giving up, and grieving for, the dream of a good relationship with her. My older brother is paranoid schizophrenic. He terrorized me, growing up. He is a recluse. We don’t have contact. It took me many years to come to accept my depression as an illness, like Diabetes, which needs to be monitored and treated, rather than a character flaw, a failing on my part. That shows the strength of those inner voices, because as an RN, I never felt that way about anything a patient had. It took more years, to dare to reveal my mental illness to friends. I have learned the wisdom of selective disclosure, the hard way. I figured out that not everyone needs to know. Those where there is mutual caring, yes. Those, had a sense of relief that there was as explanation for things, that I had gotten help, that I was better and had a chance for a good future, and that it hadn’t been them I had rejected. I learned that others didn’t need to know because it wasn’t helpful in any way, could actually be quite the opposite. I have come to have a healthy ownership of this being part of who I am. But, I have learned to be careful about “coming out”, although, it can only improve things, as a responder stated. I would use caution with the word “crazy”, it could be synonymous with dangerous, or unpredictable, with some people, and they don’t really hear beyond that. I have learned that about the word, depression. People can become confused &/or scared easily. I encourage you to renew your friendships. Be prudent, take your time. It’s very lonely without friends you can trust with this knowledge of you. . .and exhausting. Mine is just another voice to reassure you that you are not alone and encourage you. Reestablish your friendships, form a healthy network of people that enrich your life. Best wishes for peace and happiness, you deserve it. zzc

wundayatta's avatar

Update. I have told three friends now. It’s hard to see what is happening, because the baseline was so low. I think it is easier on me that they know. I told two of my friends the fact of my illness, although I did not go over the things I did.

I wanted to tell my best friend all I had been through. However, it involved having him keep a secret from my wife and he didn’t want to be in that position. I understand, but I am disappointed.

My new friends that share my illness are the only ones who know the whole story. Unfortunately, they all make my wife uncomfortable, for one reason or another. Still, these are the friends I contact the most. These are the ones I feel understand me the best.

There is another set of friends—those made since I moved to Philly, who know, but we don’t really talk about it. Many of them are artists and believe they have similar issues. I guess it’s the suffering artist idea. I’m not sure how much they get it, though. Being diagnosed is different from situational depression.

Finally, there are my internet friends. These come and go. I can tell them whatever I want because I am anonymous to them. But because it is the internet and because none of them live even remotely close to me and because the relationship can not “graduate” to something more, I think these relationships tend to dribble off after a while.

zzc's avatar

Good for you. I’m sure that wasn’t easy. It takes a lot of energy to deal with all this, huh? You could ask your artist friends, if you can talk about it. You might start by asking how they are. You’re carrying around a secret from your wife, that you wanted a friend to keep from her too?
Is there a support group you could join? Best wishes for peace & happiness. zzc

augustlan's avatar

Thanks for the update. I’m so glad you’re opening up more to your friends!

wundayatta's avatar

@zzc Do you think it is asking too much to ask a friend to keep a secret from your wife? I really never thought about that. I always assumed a friend was loyal to you, whether you were married or not.

I am in a support group. That’s where my closest friend, these days, is from.

@augustlan It’s interesting, that’s for sure.

zzc's avatar

Secrets are problematic between spouses. I’m trying not to judge. I have no idea what, you feel, you need to keep from your wife. Put yourself in her shoes, though. How would you feel, if your spouse kept secrets from you? Secrets that you trusted with a friend, but not you? Keeping secrets from one another, involves the topics of trust, respect, intimacy, privacy (i.e. a friend knows more than you do?). I wonder whether the secret itself, if discovered, might cause as much damage to the relationship, as the fact you kept it from her, yet felt you could tell your friend. Put yourself in your friend’s shoes, to be given information that not even the spouse knows. . . is that a burden you don’t need? Do you feel it’s disrespectful to the spouse? Do you feel it ought to be shared with the spouse instead of a friend? Do you not want to be around, like you know nothing, yet be privy to what is hidden from her? Do you have compassion for the wife, as to how hurt she would be if she found out hers is a marriage of secrets kept from her, and thinking that she is your most trusted intimate, is not true? That kind of damage can not be overcome easily. My asking about a group, was because, it’s usual that what is said, does’t go outside the group. That you could share it, which you seem to want to, in confidence. The responsibility wouldn’t be on your one friend. You could talk about it in group and whether and how you should share it with your wife. Use the group as a sounding board. Maybe I’m idealistic, that I would hope my spouse would not keep secrets from me. But, I am aware of how much I don’t know. . .only you can judge whether she, or the relationship could handle revealing everything. That’s why I thought maybe the group could help clarify things. What does your friend think you should do with needing to share your secret? Would your friend be ok with the secret, if your wife knew too? Is your wife’s view of marriage, that there aren’t any secrets between husband and wife? It obviously is not your view. Secret keeping is a heavy, heavy thing, I think, a burden, exhausting, risky, dangerous. . . worrisome.

augustlan's avatar

@wundayatta I was once put in the position of keeping a secret (infidelity) from a friend’s husband. It was a crushing weight to me, even though I didn’t particularly care for her spouse. It’s just not something I’m used to in the course of my daily life. I mean, I can easily keep confidences, but this was a harmful secret and it made me feel just awful. I totally understand your friend not wanting to take that on.

wundayatta's avatar

@zzc and @augustlan I hear what you are saying and thanks for answering me.

I didn’t tell my friend any more, respecting his wishes. My therapist says there is no point in telling my wife. I usually think there should be no secrets, too. My therapist’s reasoning is that I have stopped doing what I was doing, so it won’t hurt her any more. The only thing that could happen from telling her is that she would be hurt, perhaps enough to divorce me, which would also hurt our kids. What is the point, she asks?

One guy in my love addicts group says that in the end, for him, he had to get back to that point of no secrets. His marriage could not grow until that happened. I see his point and I agree with it. But I also see my therapists point and agree with that.

I’m never going to be unfaithful again. I’ve got that out of my system. I learned what I needed to learn. I’m not sure I could have learned it any other way. I would have always wondered if the grass was greener over there if I had not wandered over there to try the grass. Now I know the grass is never greener. It just looks that way. I know that in my entire being, not just theoretically. I’m over that, now. To tell her, I think, would be to make everything I learned kind of pointless.

Well, I wish I could have had this conversation with my friend. It helps, talking about it. It helps clear up some things and put them in their place. It helps me continue to reinforce what I learned. But at least you guys are here to prompt me. Thanks.

zzc's avatar

Your message is along the lines I referred to, that only you can decide, about full disclosure. I am aware of people having secrets, because the only good in revealing the truth, would be to make the person feel better, but it would inflict unnecessary pain on the spouse. It’s a very difficult situation, a dilemma. Best wishes, zzc

augustlan's avatar

I’m really happy to hear that you’re in a better place, now.

I can definitely see your therapist’s point, and completely understand why you would not want to further hurt your wife by revealing the secret. Just be aware that it’s your burden to bear, and be understanding of your friend’s reluctance to bear it as well.

wundayatta's avatar

@augustlan You are right, of course. It’s just that it comes between me and my friend. We used to be able to talk about absolutely everything. Now we can’t. I guess, in a way, I’m mourning the loss of this relationship. Yes, we will continue to have a relationship, but it will be missing a lot.

I miss that part, and even if I have that kind of intimacy with some other friend, they will never know my history the way my best friend does. So it’s a loss. An unanticipated loss.

Of course, when I was in the depths, I thought everyone was gone, so it is good to have something back. I am grateful for that. But the other part that is no longer there is still a loss that only my healthy self can appreciate.

augustlan's avatar

@wundayatta If it makes you feel any better, it had that kind of effect on my friendship, too. It was an ongoing infidelity situation, and I’d asked her not to talk to me about it anymore. Eventually I couldn’t take that, knowing she was holding a part of herself back from me, and told her she was free to tell me anything she wanted. She just had to be prepared for my disapproval. In the end, we got back to normal.

SamandMax's avatar

Late. Again.
But I know you from my last account.
You’re fucking crazy, but you know something? I fucking love you. Stay strong.

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