Bipolar Disorder: How To Make Friends

Where to look to find your people making friends with bipolar disorder.
Illustration of friends sitting around a bonfire at night
Even fun times can be stressful. | Image made by author with Canva AI.

“We’re having a bonfire,” the text message read. “Hot dogs, s’mores, and live music. We’d love for you to come.”

As I stared at the words on my phone, my heart sped up and my mind raced.

Do I have the energy to fight my social anxiety and hang out with friends? I’ve said “no” so many times. Is it better to force myself to go so I don’t lose them as a friend?

Making friends with bipolar disorder is tough.

Bipolar isolation

Living with bipolar disorder is very isolating. Not only does mental illness make you unable to function some days, it also distorts the way you see the world.

When you can’t trust the things you see or hear, it makes it feel impossible to trust anything—especially people. So you isolate yourself even more.

I get it. That’s been my life for most of the last 30 years. Even when I go to a social gathering, I’m usually a wallflower.

Small talk is painful, and if people want to talk about my health conditions, their questions often overwhelm me.

The music and laughter can be so loud that my hypersensitivity makes my head pound in response. So I head for a corner or go hide in my car.

You need people

It’s hard to be around people, but you need them. A support network is an essential part of your mental health toolbox and it needs to include people.

Whether it’s family, friends, or workmates, those are the people who will hold your hand through the tough times.

But, Scott, you might be thinking. I don’t have any friends. How can I make friends?

Here’s how I mastered making friends with bipolar disorder.

Interests

The first thing I did was look at the things I enjoyed. Even when I was alone at home, I always gravitated towards certain activities. So I started looking for people who liked the same things.

For example, my faith is part of my core being. So I looked for people within my congregation who had the same level of spiritual interest. Those are the ones I took the time to get to know better.

Not everyone has had a pleasant experience with religion. Some religions have made the world a much worse place, but that’s not the only place I looked.

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Shared hobbies

My next option was to look at my favorite activities. I love writing, so I searched for writers whose content touched my heart.

I reached out to a few of those writers, especially in the bipolar community, and many responded. Most of these friendships started on social media, but they turned into genuine friendships.

Don’t limit yourself to people close to you. While you have to be cautious, online friends can be the support you need.

Online friends

The last 8 months have been dreadful. Every day, I watched my dad decline further until finally we lost him.

Many times, it felt like I couldn’t go on, but there were two friends I knew I could always count on.

One friend lives in Mexico, and I live in Tennessee. We met on AOL about 25 years ago in a chat room. Many of you are probably too young to remember the glory of AOL, but it was once the place to be.

My friend and I bonded over our love of science fiction and video games, and our friendship has grown ever since.

What’s wild is that we’ve only seen each other 3-4 times in person. Every other part of our relationship was either on the phone, by text message, or on Zoom. Even so, she was my rock and safe place amid all the darkness.

The other friend lives close, but we still mainly talk by text message. Both of us have health issues which frequently keep us stuck at home. So we text.

We check in every few days or simply say hello. Our friendship is priceless because I know I can say whatever I need to without being judged.

Illustration of a man reading a message on his phone
Texting a friend can give you strength. | Image made by author with Canva AI.

Look everywhere

While it’s great to have friends who live close to you, your support system can include those far away. Some of your greatest allies may live in other states or countries.

Those friends can be a greater support than you might think, so don’t discount them.

A few of the people who offered comfort to me this year are ones I’ve never met in person. Some are readers like you or people I met on Medium, Facebook, or Instagram.

Each friend gave me a place to explore our shared struggles. By email and direct messages, we encouraged each other to keep fighting.

They may not be my closest friends, but I still count them as part of my support system.

Appreciate everyone

You probably already have friends even when you feel friendless. I may not know the details of your life, but I do know that the times I felt friendless, I was usually wrong. You may be, too.

This was especially true during the last year, as I cared for my dad. People I never saw as friends came to check on us every week.

These gems took time out of their busy schedule to drive to my parent’s house just to give their support.

When I took some time to appreciate people, I realized the value of these friends.

There are likely people in your life who you should count as friends right now. Ask yourself:

  • Who checks on you?
  • Who always makes you laugh or smile?
  • When you go to a party, who do you try to be near?
  • Which people make you feel safe or comfortable?

These individuals may not be your closest friends, but they are already adding value to your life. Maybe if you invest a little more time into those friendships, you can develop the type of relationship you need.

Illustration of a group of people sitting in chairs in a circle
Support groups offer understanding and validation. | Image made by author with Canva AI.

Making friends with bipolar disorder is hard

Friendships with bipolar disorder are complicated. I hate that fact, but it’s true.

Your bipolar brain will make you feel completely alone or like no one understands or cares for you. Those days suck, but they don’t last forever.

If you need more friends (who doesn’t?), then it’s time to put yourself out there. Think about your favorite activity and where you can find people who are interested in the same thing.

Maybe you like gardening and there’s a garden club in your community. Perhaps you love reading, and there’s a book club you can join online.

There are also many support groups online for bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety. Use caution when making friends online, but keep an open mind. It may take some time, but you can find the people you need.

If you join a group and find it too negative or triggering, then move on to another. There are lots of groups out there.

Even if you don’t become close friendships with people in an online support group, it’s helpful to know you’re not the only one coping with your struggles.

So reach out, and look for friends. Be patient and never give up. It’s worth the time and effort to have more allies in your life.

Until next time, keep fighting.

Pinterest Pin:
Ever wondered how to make friends who truly understand your unique journey with bipolar disorder? 🤔 

We've got you covered! 

Check out our tips and tricks for fostering meaningful, supportive friendships with people who truly understand the ups and downs of living with bipolar disorder. 🤗

Read now!

#SpeakingBipolar #mentalhealth #mentalillness #bipolardisorder #mentalillnessawareness
Please pin on Pinterest. | Graphic created with Canva AI.

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