Last week I wrote about the controversial subject of self-harm. In my post, I said:
One of my dearest friends once said that if he ever found out I was a cutter, I would never hear from him again. Except for his publicly mocking me for being so stupid.
Naturally, this sort of reaction, though common, is not helpful. I didn’t tell him (or practically anyone else). And I didn’t tell him that at least two other people he knew – one fairly intimately – were also cutters.
Anyway, Tom, if you’re reading this and still feel the same, I guess this is goodbye – just not the long goodbye. I would rather skip the public mocking, though. I’ll just assume you’ve done it while I wasn’t there, mm-kay?
Finally, I got tired of wondering, withholding a part of my past from someone with whom I have practically no secrets, sometimes to the point of TMI.
So I called him and asked, “Are we OK?” At first he didn’t know what I meant, since he hadn’t read the post, but after a brief nudge I could tell he knew exactly what I was referring to.
Just as a (very rational) mutual friend had predicted, Tom chalked it up to the hyperbole of his callow youth and reassured me that we were fine.
I had lived with the fear of losing that important relationship (and being publicly mocked) for over 20 years. I had never dared mention it to any people in our circle either.
And, let’s face it, I have lost other friends and can attribute at least some of these losses to my bipolar disorder. It harms me, but it also harms those around me, and especially relationships.
I have shot my mouth off and driven away friends and colleagues with bitterness and sarcasm but without realizing how I sounded.
I have ratted out a friend to his therapist and his wife when he was suicidal, which he found unforgivable.
I have turned down invitations to go out or agreed to and then backed out one too many times. My friend gave up the effort since I wasn’t responding.
I have abused the hospitality of friends. When I was at my still functioning moderately well, I would visit and we would enjoy activities, food, conversation, and music. When I was near or at the depths, I would invite myself to visit and turn into an uncommunicative, disengaged, immobilized lump. I was a mooch and a leech, and a real downer generally. I didn’t like spending time with myself, so it’s no wonder they didn’t either.
And I miss every single one of them. I wish I hadn’t driven them away. I wish I could make things right again, now that I’m functioning at a higher level. But I can’t. And that hurts.
In some cases, I’ve tried – sent brief notes of apology. They have been acknowledged with cold politeness that does not invite more contact. I don’t know what else I can do.
Bipolar is a cyclical illness and, though I’m much improved, I can’t promise that I will never sink that low, be that inconsiderate, offend those I deeply care about again. And I can’t blame them for not wanting to deal with that. I don’t want to deal with it.
But I have no choice in the matter. And that hurts too.
Fortunately, there’s one friend I cannot lose, no matter what – my husband. He’s ridden the roller coaster with me, put up with the huge mood swings, ignored the irrational remarks, offered to help in any way, encouraged me to go out but understands when I can’t, and dispensed hugs on a regular basis. He respects alone time and is there when I need company or distraction. If things are really bad, he gets me to eat and helps me shower and takes care of the pets and picks up my refills and does whatever else needs doing.
He’s a man who takes “in sickness and in health” seriously. I wouldn’t have made it this far without him. And I won’t ever lose him, till death do us part.
Comments always welcome!