Dating someone with social anxiety disorder
I replied with a long, miserable email about how she didn’t understand how hard life was for me—she was insensitive! Because my self-treatment plan was then at a beginning stage, I hadn’t made the connection between bipolar’s mood swings and my own behavior.After reading Melissa’s letter over and over and weighing my options, I had a moment of clarity that I can vividly recall: I could stay as I was—miserable and friendless—or I could take advantage of this amazing gift my friend had unknowingly handed me.
Looking back on it now, I had become prey to the typical bipolar relationship killers—neediness, selfishness, and paranoia. I guess I’m just tired after all these years of feeling like I have to continually defend myself that I don’t give you what you need. I was indignant, angry, and sad—I felt misunderstood and attacked. I was mortified as I read on: Julie, you are such a wonderful person. But I can’t be the primary support person in your life that you seem to continually want me to be. I’m 36 and I don’t want to be the caretaker I was in my teens and 20s. That doesn’t mean that I’m a bad friend or a bad person.
One day, my friend, in a five-page, single-spaced letter, made it clear that she couldn’t take it anymore: It seems to be a continual problem with us that you think I don’t spend enough time with you. I go long stretches of time without seeing lots of people, and they just don’t seem to have a problem with it. I wish you could accept what I give and not seem to continually feel that I’m not giving enough. At the time, I overlooked the words, Julie, you are a wonderful person. Iwas utterly unaware of the “bipolar trap”—allowing my mood swings to determine my behavior and in the process losing all reasoning.
I had no idea how I was going to do this—the problem appeared insurmountable.
Still, I made the important connection that if I could somehow control my bipolar disorder, I would become a better friend. In this way, I could manage my behavior toward potential friends even when I was experiencing the mood swings.
Sometimes I want to include you with things I do with friends, [but] they would prefer not to.