Friendship: The “Golden Secret” To Living Well With Bipolar
Having tried-and-true friends who stand at your side can make a world of difference in your bipolar recovery.
20 years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. For 15 years now, I have been in a remission or stable with just a few changes in my medication. I look forward to sharing my trials and tribulations with the illness and all the life lessons I have learned along the way. I hope my experience with this disease brings you hope.
Do you remember the television show “Golden Girls ” from the 1980’s-1990’s? Four sometimes grumpy, grey haired woman with wrinkles lived together as roommates. They shared their heart aches and joys in the kitchen at midnight over cheesecake and ice-cream.
I have been blessed enough to have my own golden girl friendship with Penny, my best friend. She has made a positive impact on my journey.
On a sunny, 80-degree California day when I was 6 years old, Penny moved in down the street from my beautiful, two-story house. Right from the get go we were inseparable. I will never forget sitting in her kitchen at her very small wooden table coloring a picture of Strawberry Shortcake and asking her to be my best friend. To my delight she said yes. I had no idea that friendship would withstand the test of time.
We spent summers on the ocean chasing freezing, salty waves. We Irish danced together and, in front of the entire talent show audience, Jenny’s shoe feel off. We were the laughing stock of the school. We fought like sisters and drove our parents nuts. I wanted the bigger piece of chocolate cake and insisted Penny had it. We laughed together all the time and were just plain silly.
Time marched on quickly and before we knew, we were in junior high. That is when I had my first experience of anxiety and paranoia. We went to an all-girls school. (My hormones were raging so this was hell on earth!)
Penny was a year ahead of me. I struggled to find friends of my own. I will never forget the day I walked into the library and felt stares and heard whispers from what felt was every girl there. I ran home and trembled in my mom’s arms. Penny came to comfort me too.
In high school I was happy until the summer of my junior year. I woke up one morning and felt like I was in a dark room. It was a beautiful summer day, but I could not enjoy it like I had before. I tried everything to snap out of it. Listening to my favorite music, trips to the beach and time with friends. Nothing worked. Penny tried her darndest to reach me, but I was unreachable.
Because my uncle has bipolar disorder and my mother struggles with depression and anxiety, my parents immediately made an appointment with a psychologist. I found myself in therapy sitting on a brown couch staring at some god awful flower art work. Therapy helped for a bit.
The summer after I graduated high school I went on a cruise where I had my first manic high. I had no clue what was happening to me.
I did not recognize myself in the mirror. My mind was racing a hundred miles a minute. My speech was fast. I was Miss Know-It-All. I felt I was having an out of body experience.
When I returned home, I was terrified. Again Penny was there for me. She stood by my side when I was put on lithium for the first time. She never judged me, never preached to me, she just loved me and accepted me in a way that I desperately needed.
Through the extreme highs and lows of the next years, Penny continued to stand by me. She never gave up or turned her back on me. I can only imagine how hard it was on her to see me so sick and unstable at my worst. Now she rejoices with me at my best. When I think of our friendship I think of the sappy song “Wind Beneath My Waves” by Bette Midler. My hope for you is that you have a Penny in your life. For me it has made all the difference.