Anxiety made me "that annoying friend" early in life. I vividly remember the first time that my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) inserted itself, without invitation, into my relationships. I was in third grade, playing in the sandbox during recess when I found out that Jess (names changed) had invited Katrina to see the new Shrek movie but hadn't extended the invitation to me. I remember being devastated and insecure. For the remainder of recess, I moped around the chain-link fence by myself, kicking up patches of dirt while negative thoughts swarmed my head. Why hadn't she invited me? What was wrong with me? These tentative thoughts soon turned into statements taken as fact. My friends hate me. Nobody likes me. I am an annoying friend and useless. I didn't talk to anyone else for the rest of that day.
I experience social life problems as a man in my 30s. It is hard to create a meaningful social life as an adult under the best of circumstances. It was different as a child or in college, when one was already surrounded by numerous peers, all searching for similar things. At this point in life, meeting new people is hard. For me, as a 30-something single man, it is especially difficult to meet people at the same point in their journeys as I am. Here are some of my social life problems and what I'm doing about them.
Your struggle with mental illness can be a very hard topic to bring up. Even after years of practice, I struggle with exactly when to talk to people about my mental illness. Here are some lessons I have learned, and some tactics that have worked for me when considering bringing up my struggle with mental illness.
When your roommate has bipolar disorder, there are things to consider. Though the effects of mental illness affect those who suffer most acutely, they also cause significant consequences to those friends and family. Those effects can be felt more acutely by those who live with someone suffering with a mental illness. When your roommate has bipolar disorder -- or any other mental illness -- they may, unwittingly, be responsible for taking care of you and managing their own reactions to your symptoms (Effects of Bipolar Disorder on Family and Friends).
Forming healthy relationships isn't easy in mental illness recovery when I'm experiencing symptoms of my bipolar disorder because I'm known to behave badly. Well, not necessarily badly per se, but differently than I'd behave if I were completely healthy. At times, my behavior affects myself and at other times it affects forming healthy relationships with the people around me. These relationship mistakes have sometimes caused me to lose friends and alienate acquaintances. But when I work towards forming healthy relationships during mental illness recovery, it leads to greater understanding and better connections (Why Healthy Relationships Matter).
Much has been written about the damaging effects of social media on relationships, including the breaking up of marriages and dissolution of friendships. Obviously, the behaviors that lead to these situations are likely to be harmful for people recovering from mental illness. However, social media relationships can be good for mental illness recovery in certain situations. It is important to realize when those healthy relationships occur and how to take advantage of them.
Knowing when to get rid of social media relationships is tricky. We all know them - the person in our Twitter or Facebook feed that we don't see eye-to-eye with. Or the friend from highschool that, for some reason, annoys you with the endless pictures they post of their dog. Having so many social media relationships in so many places can stir lots of emotions, some of them good and others bad (Is Social Networking Increasing Your Relationship Anxiety?). But there are times and situations which signal you must get rid of social media relationships.
Having friends with mental illness can be good for your recovery. However, when you have a mental illness it can be hard to choose the right friends to involve in your mental illness recovery. One way to choose a good person is to seek out friends who also have mental illness to help you through your recovery. Having a friend who understands about living with your disease can coach you through difficult times as well as provide company through the good times.
Mental illness and guilt towards friends can impact our friendships and how we feel about ourselves. If feelings of guilt persist, they can lead to feelings of depression and can exacerbate the symptoms of our diseases. But dealing with guilt towards friends with regard to mental illness early can help you maintain healthy relationships and restore your emotional equilibrium.
Mental illness can damage relationships but you can repair relationships damaged by mental illness too. When you have a mental illness it can be difficult to maintain all kinds of relationships. Symptoms of unchecked mental illness are often the very factors that cause rifts in relationships between two healthy people. But it is possible to repair a mental illness-damaged relationship. As repairing your relationship with, and feelings about, yourself takes time, so does rebuilding the trust of loved ones and the closeness you have with others.