They say we have different friends for different reasons. There are times when you have to do some “spring cleaning” and determine which friends you do and don’t want in your life. While many of my friends know I have an anxiety disorder, not all of them know I have Bipolar Disorder and there are some I don’t think I want to tell. Certain friends you know are not worth telling because they won’t know what to do with that information.
For example, someone who doesn’t believe in Western medicine and doesn’t believe that the treatment I receive is useful may not be the type of person I tell because I can foresee myself becoming frustrated and irritated at conversations over this. I have tried meditation and hypnosis and use these techniques when I don’t want to rely on benzodiazepines, but I know I wouldn’t be as functional as I am without my 4 medications, and that’s what works for me. Or it’s not worth telling people who use mental illnesses as adjectives, whether consciously or not because that is hard to be around. I’m sorry but the weather does not have Bipolar Disorder and I highly doubt you are in a state of depression because your favourite hockey team was eliminated from the playoffs. I know it’s really easy to forget and use the word “crazy” around someone who will find it offensive and refer to disappointing sports events as depressing. I am quick to point it out to people I know!
I read a couple of blog posts/articles about why we shouldn’t mental illnesses as metaphors and the dangers of doing so. By using mental illnesses as adjectives, their meanings change and people understand them less and less. Here are the links:
To get back on track, how well do my friends know me?
At my bridal shower, there was a “How Well Do You Know The Bride” questionnaire, and one of the questions was, “What is the bride’s greatest fear?” Two answers that irritated/insulted me were gluten and crowds. At my bachelorette party last weekend, there was a deck of cards called “How Well Do You Know The Bachelorette?” and guess what question reared its ugly head again? I was so mad! Of course my friend who was distributing the cards had no idea what each card said when she was handing them out. This time, two different people said gluten and crowds. So of course, because the answers were being said out loud across a very long table, I was somewhat embarrassed. The first thought that came to mind was, “What kind of impression am I giving off?” And then I thought, “Why do people think this about me?”.
In speaking with my friend about how/why this happened twice, we concluded that perhaps because the people who think I am afraid of crowds know I have anxiety assumed I was afraid of crowds. One of whom has seen me miss some events in the past. I explained to my friend that me avoiding events has nothing to do with fear of people. I am not actually afraid of crowds, that’s not the issue. Because I work full time in an office with 20 other people and have to be pleasant and “normal” all week, it is draining. I’m tired by the end of the week. In a crowd, I have to “work” a crowd and be pleasant and make conversation and if I am not in the mood to be around people because I don’t have the energy to, I would rather not be phony. I am not a phony person and sometimes I just want to be me, be moody and let it go so it would be better to be around the few people whom I can bare all to.
One other amusing question from this irritating deck of cards asked what type of ring my fiance got me, and someone answered, “A big one!” First of all, I am not a shallow person, and second of all, it’s a modest ring and I would never get anything “showy”; it’s very tasteful.
So what can I conclude from these events? Certain people really don’t know me or don’t know how to read me. But, those who really know me, are there for me and really care about me and I am lucky to have them. You don’t have to know my worst fear to be a close friend, but if you can accept my moods and help me during an anxiety attack, I know you get me. More importantly if I am comfortable enough to let them in to my life, and reach out to them when I am high or low and ask for help, that is a good sign.
My wedding is in 3 weeks and someone once commented to me that she didn’t know how I would be able to handle an engagement party, two bridal showers and a wedding if I have Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder (because this person assumed I am afraid of crowds). I handled those parties. I will be great with the crowd at my wedding – it’s my day, and I can act how I want to and no one will question it. My Dad and I joked once that we should have signals so we can get each other out of conversations (like that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine and Jerry are supposed to help each other out). Luckily, our DJ wants us on the dance floor as much as possible. If there are two things that I know make me really happy, it’s good music and dancing like no one is watching.
The journey to this wedding has not been without difficulties – there have been frustrations, disappointments and it’s been difficult to enjoy the planning process. The frustrations – I will save that for another post- let’s just say they’ve helped me realize who my friends are, and given me some perspective on people’s true colours. I am finally in a calmer state about this wedding because all of the major things have been taken care of and I have a better picture of how the day will unfold. When I know what to expect, I am less anxious. I deserve to be happy and enjoy my wedding anxiety free.
For anyone who doesn’t understand how someone with a mental illness can be happy and enjoy life events – sorry to disappoint you, but I have the same right as you do to have and enjoy special occasions and life events. My mental illnesses doesn’t run my life. It may affect my ability to socialize at times, perhaps because I am tired or don’t want to explain myself to anyone, but I am allowed to have good days, be functional and be well. I got this.
About Melanie Luxenberg
My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!