The Strong Friend

In the last 24 hours, I feel like I can’t go anywhere on the internet without a meme telling me to check in with my “strong” friend.

Well, Zuckerberg’s algorithms, I am currently unable to check in with my strong friend because I am the strong friend. And it’s not going so well.

I’ve taken my meds. I took my emergency meds. I did the yoga breathing. And it still feels like the whole world is caving in on top of me, while alternately I am full of a rage that burns so hot my bones are vibrating. I can’t sit still, but I don’t have the energy to move. My whole body is heavy yet my head feels as though it’s above me somehow, like I’m outside of myself and I’ll never find a way back.

Mental illness sucks. It is a chronic disease that must be managed daily. It’s not just something we should talk about when celebrities succumb to their illness. This week we saw two high profile deaths and we need to remember that both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain died of a chronic brain disease.

We don’t know their treatment plans or how well they did or did not manage their illness. And it’s none of our business.

But do check in with your strong friends. Instead of checking in when an instagram post from that girl you sat behind in lit class in college pops up in your feed, check in with your friends more often.

If their like me, they may isolate themselves. I do it because everyone I talk to always vents to me and how I’m feeling or doing is an after thought. Sometimes, it’s easier to not pick up the phone than it is to ask how someone is doing, especially when you know they won’t return the favor.

As the strong friend, I just want someone to ask me how I’m doing, and when I lie and say I’m ok, to dig a little deeper. Ask your strong friend what’s really going on. If you have a close enough relationship, ask if they’re going to therapy. Ask if they’re taking their meds. Ask if they need to talk to someone more qualified.

Or simply let them talk. I know when I am in the void, where nothing makes sense, I just want someone to listen. Really listen. I don’t want unsolicited advice. I don’t even want someone to tell me it will get better. Because I know, that while I’ll come up from the void again and find some stability, it won’t be long before the world closes in around me. That’s the nature of my disease. Bipolar disorder means you swing from high to low – some times rapidly, other times it’s a longer experience that builds up higher and higher before crashing down.

I also know, that the voices in my head that tell me I should kill myself and leave the world will be back. I know that because they have always been there. And they most likely always will.

I am not suicidal. And I haven’t been in awhile. But the voices are there.
So please, do call your strong friends. But listen. And don’t just call them right now, because we had two famous people die. Call them on a random Tuesday afternoon.  Call them when your dog does something stupid and made you laugh.

Remember to listen.

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