‘How can I help?’ and ‘What can I do?’ - these two questions have been at numerous times asked by concerned friends, but as I have pondered what response would best suit the occasion, I’ve never truly answered, because simply, I’ve not known the answer.
How do you let others help you when you don’t always know how to help yourself? That very question for me can be taken on an individual level, and a macroscopic level just as much.
It’s a tricky situation, allowing and trusting others to know the ins and outs of the bipolar vortex, from the inside my life can feel chaotic, and yet sometimes, it feels serene and calm, but I know that doesn’t always last, it ebbs and flows. So, when the winds pick up, how can we let others help?
My favourite kind of movies are road movies, Dumb and Dumber stands out beyond many. And what you’ll find with most road movies is there’s an ongoing dynamic between two characters, and that’s just it. Sometimes all I’ve ever needed is company, a friend, a sounding board, a non-judgemental sponge. Someone who isn’t going to fix the issue, but generously offer their kindness and empathy. A friend’s ears can sometimes be all that is required.
That’s what works for me, it might not work for you, but the moment I offer the baton to another, the weight from my shoulder’s lifts, and the tension in my gut eases. But what if there’s no one around? What if that friend is not available?
It’s all down to you, yuck, what a horrifying thought. WOAH, hold on, is it? Really?
My most severe bipolar experiences have been top-of-the-range swings from mania to depression, and I’m relieved to say that in recent years I have learned techniques which allow me to manage and support my lifestyle in many ways. I have had to apply these techniques mostly when alone, mostly when it’s been just me.
Of course, when it wasn’t easy, it really wasn’t easy, but over time, I’ve learned to react less to my feelings. I’ve known that those around can’t always be there, they can’t always just be at the door, or on the end of the phone - they have lives too, and they need to live them. Sometimes having only myself to rely on, has been the best form of help.
Help and support can show up in many ways, friends can be amazing. I’ve been grateful so many times to so many incredible friends, but all the same, I’ve been grateful to myself, because I’ve needed to manage the storm alone.
You can’t always be there for someone living with mental illness – but when you can, be that friend who stays the night and watches terrible films past 2am; be that friend who listens fully; be that friend who doesn’t become a ghost. You can’t fix a storm, but you can be there while it rages, and it will pass.