Can friends double as therapists?

28 Aug

I find myself wondering why my condition is so difficult for people to talk about. I am someone who wears my emotions on my sleeve, and when I feel a need to talk about what I’m thinking or what I’ve gone through in the past regarding my bipolar diagnosis, it’s sad to me that I usually feel completely alone. My husband is of course always here and will listen whenever I need a shoulder to cry on. And I do feel as though my support system is strong. But sometimes I wish that more of my girlfriends would show an interest in what I have been living with these past six years. It almost feels like a dirty little secret. Except it’s not dirty, and it’s not even much of a secret anymore. I guess that people are just uncomfortable discussing mental illness. And that makes me sad.

What got me started thinking about it was my drive home this weekend. My high school girlfriends and I had planned a girls’ weekend to catch up and unwind without the stress of having to chase around toddlers, change diapers, and do naps, baths and bedtimes. (Our husbands graciously all agreed to our request for some R&R and amazingly we were able to find a weekend that worked for everyone.) Except the weather decided not to cooperate and instead of the beach for four days of sun, sand and cocktails, we were forced to choose a different location. One of the girls had just sold her house, and she was in the process of moving out so we gathered some air mattresses and crashed there for three days while Hurricane Irene wrecked havoc all up and down the East Coast. Luckily for us it was not much more than a bad thunderstorm with heavy winds by the time it got to our area.

I guess a part of me was hoping that at some point over the weekend I’d get a chance to talk with everyone about my hospitalizations, my recoveries, and my hope that I can somehow change the public’s perception of bipolar disorder and postpartum psychosis by telling my story and the lessons I’ve learned. But our conversations seemed to revolve more around our kids, work, and family life in general. Don’t get me wrong, I had so much fun getting to catch up and spend time with some of my friends who I have known for the longest time. The memories we made this weekend were priceless. I should probably get back to seeing my therapist regularly again instead of trying to turn one of my friends into my own personal Carl Jung. It’s on my to-do list for tomorrow morning.


5 Responses to “Can friends double as therapists?”

  1. LunaSunshine August 31, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    Friends, unfortunately, cannot double as therapists. Coming from a psychological perspective, friends are not able to objectively view your behaviors, analyze the reports of your emotional states, or offer help or advice. Yes, good friends will always have your best interests at heart. And that brings me to the second issue. Friends are not adequately educated in mental health, therefore not trained to deal with it. And third, even if it is a good friend, they will still hold their own interests, needs, and possibly wants in higher regard than yours.

    It makes me sad too. But it seems like most people would rather turn a blind eye than have to face something unpleasant or uncomfortable. I’m glad that your friends are still your friends. Many of us have lost people throughout our journey.

    Did you read The Life Olympics – Part 1 on Canvas? I’d love to hear your input on it.

  2. Ruby Tuesday August 31, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    Honestly, my friends are better therapists to me than any professional has ever been. But most of my friends are bipolar as well. I didn’t plan for that to be how it worked out, but it did.

    I have one close girlfriend and my best guy friend who are not bipolar. We may not be able to swap stories of hospitalizations and medications and frustrations, but they are there for me and I for them. Of course it doesn’t hurt that I have known them each a rough 15-or-so years. ;)

    • bipolarandpregnant August 31, 2011 at 9:57 pm #

      I used to have a bunch of bipolar friends from a support group that I attended and even facilitated for awhile, but I found it to be really tough to use each other as therapists. We knew too much about each other’s medications and issues that we made recommendations to each other that were better handled by a real psychiatrist, not someone trying to be a therapist. I guess in my post I was talking about regular friends who know next to nothing about bipolar disorder. I want so much to educate them about what I’ve been through, but a part of me feels as though they don’t want to know about it.

    • LunaSunshine August 31, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

      Eh, professionals. I’m loathe to go to one. I’ve been to two. I feel like I gave it a fair chance. Every professional has a different approach. The first one was CBT, and it didn’t do me any good because it was impossible to generalize it to situations that occurred in my life. The second was a talk therapist. I do need to talk, but she was patronizing. Ugh.

      Honestly, I work to be my own therapist. I know, I know, that’s probably not the best course of action. But I’ve been able to establish techniques that work for me through studying various methods of therapy. A little of the relevant CBT here, a little meditation there, and writing, music, and art therapy. If I can motivate myself to keep these going, I can get through it. Mostly.


  1. Secret Mommy-hood Confession Saturday « Bipolar Mom Life - March 31, 2012

    […] chewed her ear off for almost three hours. {Note to self: need to work on being a better listener. friends are not a substitute for a therapist.} Hence, I have realized that maybe I should make that therapy appointment so that I don’t […]

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