The Tricky Business of Friendships

Sue Bergeson Health Guide
  • A friend of mine went to a training seminar and made some new friends while there. A recent e-mail from this friend got me thinking. It reads like this:


    I think another of my Vet friends from the training is coming to my Halloween party-Tony. I am so thrilled. I wish Dona could come from Seattle. She is so bummed out, sure she will never see us again. That is one of the hard parts about long-distance friendships. Dona, Tony and Calvin were already mourning the loss of our new friendships on the last day of training. However, I'm determined to keep them going, even if it's just on e-mail. The friendship thing isn't always easy, even for me. On that subject, I forgot to tell you, several of the people at training said that, because of their illness, they needed a lot of "down time" or "alone time." They thought that this was a problem with maintaining friendships. I think, for some, there is a fine line between "alone time" and isolation. They seemed to think that people like me do not need so much time alone. I do need some, and I get crabby if I don't get it-just ask my family. But I was wondering, if it was true, maybe that is a factor in keeping friendships going....?

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    I think we think that our need for isolation and down time gets in the way of friendships. Whether it really does or not, I'm not sure. I have this issue a lot-I pass on family events because I'm in a bad place. I fear the idea that I have to cancel on plans with friends will make them unlikely to remain friends with me. My therapist says it's just our fears that get in the way and that even people who don't live with a mental illness can say "Nope, I can't go out tonight." While I don't know what is "true," I do know that it's a common fear we have and that my negative experiences keep me from risking sometimes. Somehow, I can do all these scary things as the president of DBSA, but I cannot take simple risks like reaching out to a friend.


    My friend's e-mail continues:


    I have had a hard time with a friend on this issue. She has anxiety and has had problems with depression. She, on occasion, gets mad at me if I don't have time for her. She tends to feel "abandoned." She doesn't get why I volunteer my time or resources ... why don't I see her more often, "take care of the friendships I already have." I try to talk to her every week, and I think I see her often. She tends to judge herself harshly. As a result, she judges everyone else in her life harshly, too. She is doing better lately; she is not as jealous of my other friendships. She made a real effort to talk with another friend of mine the last time they were both at the house together. It seems her symptoms are better, also.

    This friendship thing is difficult for adults. You know, my daughter just says, "Do you want to be my friend?" The kid either says yes or no. And my daughter can move on from there very easily. I think we need to take lessons from her. She is on to something.


    What about you? Do you find that, living with a mood disorder, there's a fine line for you between isolation and "alone time?" What helps you relate to your friends if you're having a hard time?

Published On: October 31, 2007