The beginning of my journey with mental illness was shrouded in secrecy. It was kept quiet for numerous reasons, all completely valid at the time. We had no idea what was wrong. Was I just a complex case of post-partum depression requiring ECT treatment to jumpstart my neurotransmitters into talking to each other properly again? Was it something more when in the subsequent months new and equally perplexing behaviors crept in? We had young children to shelter from the storm inside their mother’s brain, we had a professional reputation to try to protect and we were trying to integrate within a new community. Therefore, it was only natural we stayed quiet and to ourselves. Our circle was small, tight and with a few friends allowed in meant to bring joy versus serve as confidantes.
When the knowledge of a mental illness goes public, be it by personal choice, accidental leak or a less than private display of symptoms; it is often said one finds out who will stand by them, remaining true and who is going to walk away. The always honest and eloquent Nicole Lyons once posted this graphic online some time ago, and I saved it, thinking “Yes! And how! And how much better I am for it. “
Which is the truth. My new circle is small. It consists of family, friends from kindergarten, some from graduate school and a few dear friends here in my tiny rural town. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. They have been there, reached out, texted me, celebrated special days with me. They know with a single look that my brain may not be okay that day. They are incapable of anything but love.
Does it mean it hurts any less on the days you recognize someone walked away? Someone YOU cared about, YOU invested time in, YOU laughed with, YOU may not have spoken to in some time, but as the saying goes:
Needless-to-say, I’m realistic enough to know people have walked in the face of my bipolar disorder. Some I metaphorically waved as the door hit them in the ass on the way on out. Some have crept quietly away and their absence is still not noticed.
This absence stings. It hurts. I cried for the very first time ever over the loss of a person. I don’t even know how long they have been gone. It was the realization today. The realization that they didn’t simply quit social media like I once believed. I was simply just de-friended. (Who DOES that when there is a mute button?). I am de-friended and my husband was kept on as a friend. I am not worthy of “hello” when we see each other. I now understand why texts to get coffee or lunch went unanswered. Or plans got cancelled last minute and why I quit trying after a time. All by the only non-family member to ever visit me in the hospital when I was down. It hurts.
People change. I get that. I do. We grow, we evolve, and we are busy with children and commitments. My heart doesn’t change. My brain chemistry cannot help the changes it made. You do not have to be my friend and I do not ever to know the specifics why, but you hurt me.