Social Isolation is probably one of the worst things about living as a “stable” Bipolar sufferer. I am talking about someone whose meds do the job and they have good self management skills. They just want to get on with their life. It is well known that most bipolars will not return to their chosen career. Most of them will find it hard to get any employment. I know this from my own situation. I feel like I was on the scrap heap at 57.
The bottom line is that many bipolars have a lot of time on their hands. Some find meaningful volunteering opportunities. Some have access to resource cafes or drop-in centres. Some spend their time on social networking sites. Some will write or blog. Most activities seem to be ways of killing time.
My perspective is as someone who lives alone. I sometimes go for several days without seeing another person. Sometimes the only person I see is the supermarket checkout lady. I am socially isolated. I can’t blame this on the illness but it certainly reinforces it. I value my weekly Slimming World group. I try hard to make it every week because it one “normal” activity in my life. I was never good at socialisation, even in the years before I was labelled as bipolar. When I was married, it was not so much of a problem. That smacks of codependancy. I have been separated for about 10 years and I am back to living alone. I always relied on my workplaces for my socialisation. In the last ten years, I have hardly worked.
I tend to isolate myself. I am not sure whether it is connected with being bipolar. There might be a subconscious desire not to make new friends. The illness has cost me so many friendships. I got tired of explaining and apologising. It might seem convenient to avoid building new relationships.
I don’t reach out to friends. I don’t even reach out to on-line friends who I have never met face-to-face. That is something I have to work on. I seem to have acquaintances rather than friends. I see a friend as someone you meet occasionally, maybe for a pint or a coffee. A friend will come round to visit, call on the phone or join you for a restaurant meal. I have lots of “friends” on Facebook or Twitter. I would class most of them as acquaintances. 99% of them are too far away for socialising. I have rarely had friends as I described. It doesn’t help that I have an apparent phobia about using the phone. Don’t get me wrong. I like people and I like to be with them. It is possible that my social isolation is more to do with my personal character than it is do with being bipolar. Bipolar just adds a few more challenges to the task.
I would like to hear about other people’s perspective on social isolation. I know it is a big issue for Bipolars. My experience might be different because of my background and life experiences.
I always struggle when I am asked “What do you Like to Do?”. People will suggest that I join a club or something. Maybe I am boring, but I am rarely interested in what is on offer. I am very good at finding excuses not to do certain things. I am so focussed on my weight loss that I avoid activities that involve eating or drinking. That cuts out a lot of social activities. I am in touch with a walking group. I have never gone with them. I have plenty of excuses. The first and valid excuse was that they walk too far. That was true but maybe not any more. I would need a lift to get to most walks. I hate relying on lifts. They usually eat in a pub after the walks. I have so many possible excuses in my head. It is not surprising I haven’t been yet. They do have social activities apart from the walking.
I always like to be open about my illness. I am realizing that it not always the best policy when joining in “normal” activities. Maybe I find it uncomfortable to explain why I don’t work. I tell myself that I have retired early. It was not really by choice and I feel uncomfortable with it. It might be easier now I am sixty and holding Senior Railcard !!
I know that I have to get out more. Making friends might happen from that. I have to use my free bus pass for fun rather than attending appointments. I can now get reduced rail fares. I can swim for free once I get a card. I have started to keep a weekly schedule and I have bought a desk diary. They are helping a lot. I now need to schedule some fun stuff and stick to it.
I guess that I saying that my social isolation was always there. Being Bipolar has added to the mix and created some more challenges. I think I have rambled on enough for one blog.