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Bipolar Disorder and the Importance of Socializing

I’m an independent contractor. This means I sit in front of a computer screen, in my apartment, alone, writing all day. While this is the dream for many a writer, I can tell you it gets lonely. It’s tough not having coworkers to chat with at the water cooler.

And this is particularly salient because I have bipolar disorder. I have a tendency to cocoon anyway, and then you take away the day-to-day interactions with people and I suddenly find that I haven’t talked to a person in real life in a week.

So I have to schedule in a personal life – whether I want to or not.

I Don’t Want to Go Out, I Don’t Feel Well

In all honesty I don’t feel well almost ever. That’s what happens when your mental illness isn’t well-controlled. And so, always feeling sick, I never feel like going out. I don’t actually want to see anyone. I don’t actually want to talk to anyone. I just want to be left alone, preferably under my big, fluffy duvet with my cats purring by my side.

Socializing is Healthy

But I can’t do that. At least, not all the time. Because it’s not healthy to hide under goose down all the time. It’s not healthy to only live in my head. It’s not healthy to only talk to myself. There’s a reason why good doctors will ask you about your social life – it’s because it matters. It matters that you go out. It matters that you feel the sun on your face. It matters that you talk politics in a hipster café. That stuff can make the difference between wellness and illness.

Scheduling Socializing

And so, knowing that socializing is important, and knowing that I don’t get enough, and knowing that I’m inclined not to do it, I schedule in a social life just like I schedule conference calls or writing deadlines. Bing-bong – it’s Wednesday, have you scheduled your weekend brunch yet? Have you had coffee with a friend yet? Have you called your friend that lives out of town yet?

Yes, I actually make an effort to make sure that something happens every week. Yes, sometimes I even put it on my calendar. Because then I hold myself to it. Because then I don’t let myself off the hook by saying that I don’t feel well or that I don’t feel like it. I never feel like it. That’s no excuse.

Because when it comes down to it, going out with friends is helpful even if you don’t feel like it. Their normalcy, their happiness, their not-being-in-your-headedness is infectious. They will help you just be being across the table sipping a latter or nibbling at strips of bacon. And even though your illness will lie, and tell you not to go, it’s important to know the truth – friendships help. Socialization helps. Even if you need an Outlook calendar to accomplish it.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

18 thoughts on “Bipolar Disorder and the Importance of Socializing”

  1. Im can relate. I do push my comfort zone offen. But after socializing, I go into hyper analytical mode over the whole day. Conversations etc.
    Super critical of myself. Im really just over interacting at all anymore. Summer is my worst season. S.A.D. Feels alot like depression. Idk.

  2. Today I learned that my best friend and her husband are moving about 5 hours away to be closer to their family (and I won’t have a car to visit them as often). I have known my girlfriend since grade one. I am now in my 50’s, single and broke. My girlfriend and her family have always been there for me in both good times and bad. I am going to miss them terribly.

    My mother and I are not talking to each other. Earlier this year she sent me all the pictures she had of me accompanied with a note that ended with, good luck, God bless and be happy. The song Hello by Adele speaks to the way I’ve been feeling about this relationship

    This year I am also spending Christmas alone because a family member that I normally spend Christmas with is going on a vacation out of town with her boyfriend

    In two years I will be retiring. I’m so lonely now, I can only imagine what my life will be will be like by then.

    I feel myself sinking into another depression but before I get too far down that rabbit hole I’ve been trying to use some CBT techniques I’ve learned to lessen the impact but they don’t seem to be working. I feel like an old lady of 90 whose friends and family are dying off and wishing I were dead too because being/feeling alone is so unbearable

    I have never been a social butterfly so making new friends is hard, especially when you get to be my age, your broke and you have no car.

    Change is alway challenging and I just don’t know if I am up to it. Life is harder when you have to go it alone, especially when everyday is an uphill battle wading through the muck and mire of mental illness.

    Some days, like today I just want to give up. I tired of always being on the losing end of the stick. I feel like such a failure at life

  3. I used to make all types of excuses not to go out and after a while people stopped asking. Then I came to realize how deadly isolation can be. When I only have my own thoughts to ruminate on I tend to spiral down into a deep depression that can be difficult to climb back out of. But when I force myself to get out once in a while I have to admit it actually helps although I do tend to tire easily and like a horse I can’t wait to get back to the barn some days.

    I’ve been pushing myself a lot more lately trying to get out of my comfort zone and meet new people. It can be difficult at my age but the benefits are truly worth it. The weather and the amount of daylight hours at this time of year make it a little easier

  4. Yup. I can completely relate. Looks like there’s a lot of introverts here as well. On very bad days, nothing – not even a bomb exploding in my home can get me out of bed. I remember years ago, a dear friend of mine was getting married. She told me that I had to be there, it was her big day. Of course, I said – wouldn’t miss it for the world! As the date drew near, she called me because I hadn’t sent my RSVP card in. She told me again, you have to be there. I will be really upset if you’re not. I told her I would. Mind you this was before I realized what was happening to me, before I even knew that what I was going through was depression.

    I never went. I spent the whole day in bed. This episode lasted for a couple of months. I bumped into her sometime later at the grocery store where she worked as a cashier. I was so happy to see her and greeted her enthusiastically. Trouble is, I forgot that I had forgotten. She looked at me blankly and said, “Hello, ma’am. Did you find everything you were looking for?” in a way that let me know that I was now a stranger to her. I was stunned. It was one of the saddest moments in my life because I loved her and let her down badly. I was too depressed to remember her big day. I still think about her now, and it’s a big reminder always of how easily relationships are severed because of this disorder, and how important it is to try and GET OUT. And it truly is a huge effort sometimes. So I say “yes” as much as I can, when I can muster it.

    She had such class. She could have made me feel a whole lot worse.

  5. What if you don’t have anyone to schedule socializing with? I am bipolar and have never been very good at making friends. Right now, I have two, but we don’t talk very much and I only see them once a month at most. And it’s not the kind of friendship where I would tell them about being bipolar. I think most people aren’t comfortable with that and don’t want to hear it. I don’t know if its my disease or just me but I always feel like people don’t like me. I don’t get why some people have a lot of friends and I almost always just have one or two. It’s like they all know how to interact with other people and I feel like an alien among them.

  6. Lisa,
    I know what you mean by feeling like crap and not wanting to open up and have a deep conversation with a ‘friend’. When I am really down I have to force myself to get out of the house. One thing I have found is that making myself go the grocery store and talk with a few strangers can really raise my spirits. Even as simple as,”have you ever tried this kind of pasta sauce?” Or, “how did you pick out your oranges? You look like you really know what you are doing. Can you show me?” You may be surprised at how people respond and converse without asking personal questions. While it may be minor casual conversation, it does get me out of my head and feeling or acting or looking like any other person who is not awesome like us bipolars. Hope this helps.
    Be brave and give it a try. Then let all of us know how it went. Best of luck! hope to hear about it soon.

  7. although i know when i push myself to go out and socialize, i feel better, my issue is that when i am out, i dont want anyone to ever ask me about my life. they feel hurt that i dont share with them, but i am embarrassed and shameful to share it. it stresses me out to talk about it, which again is taken personally. there is not ONE person that knows the absolute truth about my life. some i share more than others, but essentially either hide certain things or lie about them so i dont look so bad. i just dont even have one person that understands or believes my illness, so i am seen as always making excuses or a big mess up (and have been told that several times.) its not so easy to make a friend these days, especially when you do feel like crap every day. how do i deal with this?

  8. I have always been an introvert. I can go out and work and nobody will even know there is anything wrong. I call that my social me. Then there is the other me when I am with friends. The third me is just me by myself with the thoughts that nobody else knows. The fear, racing thoughts, anxiety attacks, etc. I am on medication which helps. As far as a social life, I work as a cashier in a small store in a small town. The majority of the customers are really nice and I enjoy talking to them. It’s funny because when I listen to thier problems it makes me feel better knowing that even if we don’t have the same problems or illnesses, we do share something in common. The best thing that has happened to me from my work is that I met a friend there. She was my Asst. Mgr. For the first 2 years that I worked there I rarely talked to anyone. Then Joannie started working there. I don’t know how but she got me so far out of my shell. I always say that she has perverted me in some ways. She no longer works with me but we are best friends now. More like sisters. If she does not hear from me she knows I am having a bad time about getting out of the house so she will call and tell me to come over. She has to tell me as otherwise I will make excuses. Last week I was running errands and had an anxiety attack which led to a depressive attack with me crying. I pulled over and called Joannie and asked if I could go over. She knew something was wrong but didn’t push the issue just said to come over. While driving there I just kept telling myself to suck it up and quit crying. I hate crying. I got there and she did not ask anything just sat with me and started talking about whatever. Within 10 minutes I was calm again. I did tell her before I left about what bad shape I had been in. I am so grateful that I have a friend, finally, who truly understands my illness and is there for me. Like most others I put on my happy face at work, visiting relatives (they do not believe in mental illness).

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