Bipolar Disorder's Irrational Thoughts And Making Friends
When bipolar disorder's irrational thoughts occur, how does one even begin to make friends? In public, I feel as if everyone is watching me and talking about me, or making internal judgments. I'm acutely aware of every person in the vicinity; watching their movements, noticing any eye contact, listening for whispers. Cognitively, I know that this is irrational (Co-Occurring Bipolar and Anxiety Disorders). I know that I am not the center of everyone's attention, that there is nothing wrong with my physical appearance and actions. In all reality, the majority of those people haven't even given me a second thought. But when you experience bipolar disorder's irrational thoughts, it can be difficult to make friends.
Irrational Thoughts and Problems Making Friends
It's no secret that living with a mental illness can cause feelings of isolation. We think we're different from everyone, right? We feel things that others don't. For instance, feeling like we're a burden on everyone we're close to. “Normal” people shouldn't have to deal with our “problems,” right?
Not only is a support system important for those living with bipolar disorder, but it's also incredibly important for everyone. Every single one of us. It's so easy to take a seat in the back of a classroom and sink down in your chair where no one can see you because you just know that they can recognize “bipolar” all over your face. It's not uncommon for some of us to feel like we have a certain “scent” or “aura” that sets us apart from everyone else, giving us away. (read: Surviving School and University With Bipolar Disorder)
This is something that still plagues me, but I've found a couple of ways to make socializing a little bit easier.
How To Make Friends Despite Bipolar Disorder's Irrational Thoughts
- Pretend to be the person you want others to see. I don't mean change who you are, but pretend to be more positive, more outgoing, more anything that you wish you were better at. You can fake it to make it.
- Strike up a conversation. I know, I know. Starting a conversation can be terrifying. A lot of times it makes my heart race even thinking about this, but most of the time it feels so nice to accomplish this. Sit next to someone in class and smile at them. Ask them if they've had Professor So-and-So before. Questions like this can help break the ice, and oftentimes, that person next to you will give an internal sigh of relief because they've been anxious, too.
- Seem approachable. For example, when around people, don't always wear your ear buds. Small things like this can make you seem more approachable and people may be more comfortable coming around.
- Make small goals. When I started working on alleviating my social anxiety with my therapist, we made a list of small goals that we felt were important. Personally, I make lists for everything and I can't rest until I know that all of the things on my list are completed. So this was a good plan for me. On my list, one of the most important goals was to talk to one person once a day (with something more substantial than just "hey.").
- Make a pro-con list. This is an exercise that I use a lot with my therapist, too, and this type of thinking is very common in a type of bipolar therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). For example, when you are contemplating whether or not to ask someone their name, consider the pros and cons quickly in your head. A likely pro of this action would be that they tell you their name and you become acquaintances, and maybe even friends. What's the worst that can happen? They can tell you their name and leave it at that. It's not the end of the world, and you'll feel proud of yourself for trying anyway.
Bipolar disorder presents itself in many different ways along with our own unique personalities. Some of us are extroverted and make friends easily, while many of us, including myself, do not. With work and conscious awareness, it is possible to overcome this problem and to become more confident in our abilities and in ourselves.
What have you done to overcome your fear and social anxiety? If you haven't overcome this yet, how would you like to? What are your ideas and suggestions?
Poe, A. (2013, August 13). Bipolar Disorder's Irrational Thoughts And Making Friends, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/bipolarvida/2013/08/the-art-of-making-friends-when-living-with-bipolar-and-going-to-school