Birds Of A Feather Flock Together

Many of my friends have mental illness, but not all mental illness is created equal!

And, how/why do I have so many friends?

Before I became full-blown ill, I maintained some connections with people, that stood by me.

And over time, is how I learned that some of these friends have some form of mental illness, and can go for periods of time when the extent of their suffering is hidden.

And, some friends’ suffering never gets mentioned. Ever.

So, behind all of this is the “spectrum” of mental illness, some of which debilitates.

At the risk of saying Dale isn’t all that bad, I will defer you to what Dale deals with.

Dale thinks he has bipolar disorder, and I am his only friend.

(I know, never self-diagnose.)

Of course, Dale doesn’t take meds, but he does work at a job, and is responsible with his money. He also tends to quit his jobs every time the throes of his “bipolar disorder” are in full-effect.

Mark deals with whatever troubles he has, and has been able to maintain employment throughout. Mark has never been diagnosed with anything to my knowledge either.

He does have a close relative with schizophrenia though, and he and I’s friendship is often strained because of one thing or another. And since I am not a doctor, I can’t tell you why that is.

Not all of my friends have mental illness, and some of them are only seasonally depressed.

The idea of my companions in life being depressed gets discussed privately (among a few of us), but again, there are those who don’t ever discuss having troubles.

As I am an open person (at times, too open), I do talk about what I experience mental health-wise.

But, the reason for this post is mainly my friend, Dale.

As I mentioned, I am his only friend and he is not being treated for his “bipolar disorder.”

And, it took me the better part of 25 years to see that he and I are a lot alike!

What I, being fairly educated in mental health, failed to properly see, are some of our similarities, revealed in different ways.

So, Dale confided in me and said, “I have manic depression.”

But, was it the first time he said this?

I can be pretty self-involved, and quite frankly, hard on some of my friends.

And, that is a tough pill for me to swallow, as I admit that here with you.

So, Dale and I were just chatting and having fun, when he shared this information with me.

Does it matter, though, when I treat Dale like I want to be treated?

I don’t think so ultimately.

And, does having mental illness mean that we are all the same fundamentally?

Not really. As I’ve said here today, mental health is a “spectrum,” and this spectrum varies widely.

Dale maintains a job with only one friend and has virtually no socialization.

Thus, what I want to do more than anything is honor Dale’s character. Because, to me, that counts more than how someone’s brain is working (or not working).

The two of us are good friends because we have things in common (aside from having mental health troubles), and I treasure those things and Dale.

Do you have in-person friends who struggle with their mental health? What are your thoughts about mental health and these friends?

10 Comments

  1. I have a few in-person friends who struggle with their mental health from time to time, and I think they feel comfortable sharing those struggles with me because I’ve made it clear that I live with my symptoms every day. I gravitate to maintaining friendships with people that I am either similar to/have a lot in common with, so I think that’s part of why I’ve talked to those friends about mental health. Since, like you said, it’s a spectrum, I try to make it seem like it’s a conversation we can pick up and put down at anytime, instead of trying to fit it all in one conversation.

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  2. In the past, I noticed that because I was open about my illness, some co-workers would disclose their own mental health issues. In the circle of close friends I had, no one else had any major mental health issues, although one friend had a sister with quite poorly controlled bipolar.

    I think the mental health blogging community shows that, while we often have things that tie us together, we’re by no means cookie cutter cutouts, and everyone’s journey is unique.

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  3. I do have in person friends with depression, anxiety, Complex PTSD, schizophrenia. Varying levels of contact depending on what’s going on in their lives. It helps to have some common ground other than mental health.

    I’m not against self diagnosis as access to professional diagnoses isn’t available to everyone. But it really should be “well informed self diagnosis” in my opinion. My sister seems to think she’s got a bunch of diagnoses but I privately question how informed she is given how they’ve all been copy cat diagnoses after I share a professional diagnosis. My symptoms impair my life significantly and of course cause distress, and having multiple comorbids adds to that. So I’m skeptical about her as she absolutely can access high quality confidential psychiatric and psychological care but won’t. It’s like she thinks the multiple serious disorders I struggle with are some kind of accessory she can “collect”, plus it’s obvious that all her supposed symptoms magically disappear the moment I suggest she get professional help.

    Then there are people like my perpetrator brother who thinks him having schizophrenia would be great, as he thinks it’ll allow him to shirk adult responsibilities. Considering how many people with schizophrenia struggle and are discriminated against, he pisses me off.

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    1. I am grateful to have friends, and I do my best to accept everyone. I try and treat people well in general. My problem is when someone believes themselves to be superior to others and encroaches on someone’s right to even just exist. That shit is a problem.

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