I have written recently about friendships and the work that I have been, or need to do on the friendships that I have or had. As I have been looking at my own life I realize that I am desperately lonely and I am not the only one. Many of the people that I interact with who are mentally ill or dealing with mental health issues are also lonely, both for friendships and intimate relationships. I've been thinking a lot about the reasons that all of these wonderful people are not surrounded by caring and fabulous friends and lovers and I realize that many times we do it to ourselves. 3 of a number of theories that I have:
- The search for solitude - The vicious circle of mental illness and loneliness begins with the desire to be alone and alienate oneself from everyone else. To be alone. To not burden family or friends with the illness or sadness. To not e-mail, see, talk to or interact with even the closest of friends. Unless your friends understand mental illness well, it is difficult for them to understand that "fall off the face of the earth". I am finding that it is also difficult to rebuild these relationships. No matter how sick you are or were, mental health is not easily explained. I was able to e-mail, speak on the phone, go for coffee, walk to a movie etc. but I could not because I was ill, is a hard thing to understand, even for me and I am the one with the mental illness.
- Sabotaging current relationships - I have single handedly ruined a number of relationships, due in part to my mental illness and my personality. I was very angry before I understood that I was bipolar, and I had medication that worked and helped me to be more level headed. My father used to say that I "was so controlling and domineering in relationships, it was a wonder they continued to be my friends". My sister in Toronto recently told me that I seem much less angry which is a great thing. Beyond anger, the truth in the past, has been a very difficult thing for me. I think I feel that perhaps people really aren't going to like the real me. Surprisingly, after taking part in a number of Bipolar support groups and speaking to a number of people to have mental illnesses, I am not the only one who struggles with this. I do not blame my un-integritous life as being because of my mental illness, but I do know that it has impacted some of my relationships. I am working everyday on leading a life of integrity.
- Challenges of Loving a Crazy Person -"I can barely stand to spend time with myself, how can I expect others to spend time with me" tends to be a common sentiment for me these days. I wonder how anyone is going to be willing to take this on, this whole mess of a person. Telling someone that you are mentally ill is not exactly an endearing trait. That you are going to be mentally ill for the rest of your life does not help either. I am a lot to take on. Between the bipolar manic ups and chronic depression downs, the medication that makes me gain weight, not be myself, throws my sex drive up and down, makes my creativity disappear and ohh just in case that isn't fun enough I can be manic and depressed all in the span of 12 hours, just so that you can stay entertained. I can understand how I might be lonely forever, can't you?
I know that there are other reasons and theories for loneliness, many of them that I have been bantering around, but I think that these three are a good start. Being lonely both on a friendship and an intimate level is a horrible feeling. It is something that sits with you like an anchor. It plays into depression and mental illness like a drug forcing it to grow and flourish. The feeling is awful and I am not sure how to make it better, but reaching out to friends bit by bit, will hopefully help.
Some days I feel like I will be alone forever, I know that this is a possibility and it brings tears to my eyes. Other days I hope that I will find people who love me, sickness and all. Realistically, I just hope to feel less lonely than I do today, and to be able to tell people who are lonely like me, it get's better, I promise.