Hi there, Papabear.
I've been following and enjoying your column for some time now, and am nervous to finally be writing and asking for your thoughts.
I have these two friends who happen to suffer from bipolar disorder who are both very dear to me, especially the male friend, Eric. It's a long story, but Eric and I were coworkers who got along really well. He talked a lot and everyone else found him annoying; except for me. I developed a crush on him and eventually told him by dedicating a song, to which he said he returned my feelings, but he couldn't date because of his problems. (I now know he was scared.) Soon after, he spiraled into ever worsening depression, and I into out of control emotions and self-torment from the tease of "I like you but..." eventually his depression got so bad he quit and I tried to stay in contact. He took my calls and sometimes was like his old self, sweet and charming. I asked to hang out finally and he refused, saying he "needed to stay in his comfort zone." Despite wanting to help and support him, I can only take being there for someone (and I was, for every single bad thing that happened to him all summer.) and being pushed away for it as a reward. I was hurt and stopped calling, and to my deep hurt, he has not called me in two months. I've been rejected/betrayed many times...why is this one so much worse? I am wondering why I am having such a hard time getting over this, why despite my best efforts, I cannot get over this person who clearly does not care about me despite how loyal a friend I have been, always. I am a writer and that helps, but I feel like this torment might never end.
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There is a saying that goes “Love has no reason.” We love people because we just love them, often even if we intellectually know they aren’t good for us. I am hoping, as I write this, that Eric is receiving some kind of treatment for his illness. He needs a combination of talk therapy and medications, most likely. If he is getting treatment, there is not much else you can do. He needs to get his bipolar problems in order first, and only then should other things (work, personal relationships) be fully addressed. If he is not getting treatment, perhaps you can help by making sure his family is aware he is not doing what needs to be done. Let them know that you care, as a friend, and are happy to help if they wish.
The bottom line is this: we can offer help to those who need it, but we can’t run their lives for them. Only they can do that. As for your feelings for Eric, don’t be so certain he doesn’t care about you. When you have bipolar disorder you suffer waves of emotions that can cloud up who you truly are inside and it is difficult to extricate yourself from the piles of sand and rubble that are burying you. Under all of that, he might care about you, but, again, he needs to stabilize his emotions before he can continue on that course.
You know, you are allowed to love someone, even if that person doesn’t love you back. Love often hurts, but it’s better to experience love than to be an emotionless robot. Know, too, that love is not a limited resource. You are allowed to love Eric, and you will find you will still have enough love in your heart for others, as well. Don’t limit yourself when it comes to your heart, and don’t obsess on one person. The more we love, the richer our lives become.
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