We define friends as partners who are stable, trustworthy, flexible, and dependent. People that we can turn to in rough times and enjoy the good times with. But what happens when those friends disappear? When they move in different directions from our life. Or when they find new friends they connect with on a different level. Our lives crash. Having bipolar disorder comes with a heavier shock when things go uncontrollably bad. When dependability becomes undependable, it sends unpleasant ripples through to our core. I’ve always mourned broken friendships as a loss. Something that tears me down and rips the floor out from beneath me. And who wouldn’t? When stable things become unstable, it’s hard to find the silver lining.
I recently lost a majority of my friends through a horrible divorce. Without asking or prompting, people decided to take sides. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my side. I pushed myself to have empathy and to understand that people make choices for different reasons. While my actual divorce is dragging on like dead weight, the separating spark was nothing more than two people going their separate ways. The world didn’t really shake me up until I realized that almost every single person providing stability in my life in one way or another was gone and beyond reach. However understanding I try to be, it began weighing me down more and more each day until I hit rock bottom.
Priding myself in not being a victim, I pushed on. Thinking that I could just continue life without these friends or without any really at all. But what I’ve noticed over the months that have turned into almost two years is that I do need friends. The panic set in when I realized that finding new friends as an adult wasn’t easy. Compound that by being a single dad with bipolar disorder. Then a few more layers that I never thought would be an issue—being clean and sober and transgender. It isn’t exactly an alluring list of characteristics when you’re trying to connect with people who you would ideally love to be that stable thing in your life.
So I spent some time feeling sorry for myself. Then I spent some time beating myself up for feeling sorry for myself. Then, I grieved. I let my entire situation sink in and attempted to let myself feel all the things that I should feel, but rarely do. I have finally begun to have a tiny little bit of hope that I will survive. Funny thing is that it’s not the divorce that’s caused the pain. Now I know it was the loss of a best friend, and every single other friend after that who ran the other way so they wouldn’t have to deal with me and my baggage.
In all of this, it finally dawned on me that friends are fluid. I’m not saying I magically can accept the massive exit of people from my life. I still feel hurt by the lack of true friendship that many have displayed. But I am moving into a space where I can accept that all friendships, even if they end, serve a purpose. I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason. Once I put that together with my friend situation, I tried to start recognizing all the good things I gained from having all of those friendships. Each person and relationship meant something to me at some point and some of them I will never forget.
Easier said than done though. But at least I’m grasping this new perspective on everything, and that’s something. I’m also realizing that no matter what baggage we have, it really is hard to make new friends as an adult in general. So, I’ve stepped back and begun to let the universe help me out a bit and lead me to people that can bring positive energy into my life. Instead of going out and frantically searching for new connections, I’m letting them naturally come to me. And so far, all of the people that have come into my life this way, whether they are new acquaintances or old friends from the past I have reconnected with, have proven to bring an unmeasurable amount of value and authentic joy.
Living with bipolar disorder I have a lot of experience in accepting things as they are. I also have a lot of experience in knowing that the more I focus on the things I can change, and accept that I am powerless over other people, places and things, the more good I do for myself. I know I have power over my self-care with sleeping and eating right, exercising, and meditating and by focusing on those things, it helps subdue my bipolar symptoms. So, I’m taking that route with friendship and not focusing on what I can’t control, but turning inward to better myself to attract the people that I need in my life.