Friday, October 6, 2017

Her Best Friend Is Bipolar

We would all advise this letter writer to solve her problem by finding a new circle of friends. This is Ask Polly’s advice, and we concur. Of course, Polly adds a bunch of psychobabble that might be helpful to letter writer “Juiced.” After all, walking away from a group of friends that has become your primary social matrix is not easily said or done. So, Juiced will need some bucking up… and Polly provides that. No objections here.

Anyway, Juiced is dealing with a friend who is fairly obviously suffering from bipolar disorder. Said friend Z has serious problems and is probably heading for some kind of crash. Dealing with such a person as a friend is nearly impossible. We do not know why Juiced does not have enough moral courage to walk away from this nightmare. Compassion and sympathy are good qualities, but Z needs far more than even the best friendship.

Anyway, Juiced writes:

I’m part of a large group of friends who have known each other for between four and ten years. It’s an amazing group, and they’ve become my family….

One of my friends, Z, and her husband have been part of the group for nearly five years. I love them both deeply, and I’d consider them two of my closest friends. Z has been struggling with depression for a while. They’re also in an open relationship, and I genuinely think that is working for them. The problem is several-fold:

1. Z is all over EVERYONE when we have get-togethers. Sitting in every lap, kissing people on the mouth, being extremely handsy, the works. This isn’t TOO unusual for Z, but when she does it at parties she attends with her partner, the people who aren’t as familiar with their arrangement get uncomfortable. I also feel like this is taking their relationship arrangement and making it EVERYONE’S business by … flaunting it? I kind of hate that word, because it’s got so much shame attached to it, and I don’t think there should be shame about their relationship! I just think, when we’re having a Christmas party or something, she shouldn’t be all over another guy when her husband is across the room, because that’s taking their relationship and making it our deal. (Also, a tiny part of me thinks, Can’t you just … not fuck someone new tonight? Can’t we just relax and hang out together?? Those aren’t thoughts I’m particularly proud of, for all the obvious, slut-shame-y, bad-feminist reasons.) Z’s husband has also mentioned to me that it makes him pretty unhappy when she does that. He’s a lot more private than she is.

Long story short, I’m kind of exhausted. I’m exhausted dealing with Z’s extreme highs and lows, her attention seeking and all the other things that come with it. I’m exhausted being an emotional support for Z’s husband, even though I know he feels isolated and that he has no one to talk to. (I’ve told him to reach out to a therapist, and he’s started the search). I worry that I opened the floodgates when I told him it was okay to talk to me about it, because now he’s texting me every time something happens between them. He’s been over twice this week, and he’s already texted me about coming over to talk again.

I know I’m technically “allowed” to tell both of them that I need a break from them and the drama that accompanies them, but I feel like such a bitch for feeling annoyed at them! I love them both! I should be able to give them the love and support they need, right? They’d do it for me if I needed it.

Because these people are family to me, I feel compelled to stick it out for them. They might as well be my blood, and you give everything you’ve got for your family, right? I worry if I give myself permission to disengage from these two, I’ll allow this whole beautiful circle of people I’ve built over years of work to unravel.

As it happens, Z’s partner is confiding in Juiced a lot, and probably wants to get in her pants. So says Polly and on this score Polly is probably correct.

Polly says that Juiced needs to learn how to say No to all of it, and on this Polly is also correct. Since Juiced understands that her friends are in trouble, she has a great deal of difficulty dealing with them. She also says that their open relationship is working for them. Perhaps Juiced has not read her own letter, but to imagine that this relationship is working is quasi-delusional, a complete absence of judgment. 

As always we know nothing about these people, about their ages, their professions, their marital status… and so on.

Put aside the mental illness factor and ask yourself this question: Z behaves very, very badly in public. How does it happen that a young millennial like Juiced feels that she is obligated to tolerate this behavior because otherwise she will be slut-shaming her friend.

One hastens to remark that if this “whole beautiful circle of people” tolerates Z’s behavior, it is highly unlikely that any of them will be able to find very many other friends. Once word gets around their collective reputations will be cooked.

Thus, stepping out of the circle is easier said than done. That does not mean that Juiced should not do it, but that it will certainly not be easy.

Moreover, the letter shows one of the problems with the ethical principles that have been promulgated by our morally degenerate culture. Z has a problem. Z has a big problem. Good friends should not allow Z to advertise her problem, to put it on display in front of other people. They might feel that they do not have a right to be judgmental, but their manifest moral failure is hurting their friend.

Juiced describes Z’s party behavior and her after party depressed state. She is not a professional, but she recognizes bipolar when she sees it:

She also has really intense mood swings. Recently, we had a big birthday party for a friend, and she was … manic, I guess is the best way to describe it. She plopped herself down in my friend’s lap — straddled her, really — while she was in the middle of talking to me. She was making out with a dude at the party in the host’s bedroom. At one point, we were sitting outside with the chairs in a circle so we could all talk, and she picked hers up and put it right in the middle. I know everyone exhibits attention-seeking behavior, but this is to an extreme I don’t know if I can handle.

The next day, she stopped by to pick up some stuff she’d left behind, and if you’d met her for the first time the night before, you might not have recognized her. The intensity was gone, and she was so quiet, deeply sad, almost lethargic. She was blazing hot one day and numbingly cold the next.

By countenancing this behavior Juiced and her circle seem to be using Z for their entertainment. Z does not really need therapy. She needs to see a physician, a psychiatrist or a neurologist, in order to receive the right medication. One day Z is going to get her bearings back and will see that her so-called friends have been allowing her to ruin her reputation and theirs. It will not be a happy day.


Shaun F said...

I want to clarify a couple points about "bipolar". First I knew a woman - former junkie, hooker, and ran a brothel. She was diagnosed "bipolar" in her 40s and heavily medicated. Our current Prime Minister's mother is "bipolar". And she was quite promiscuous and did a lot of drugs. I met a man that ran a treatment center and he stated "You have to be off drugs and alcohol for at least two years prior to have an accurate mental illness diagnosis". I did know a young man in high school that was diagnosed as manic, and hospitalized occasionally - he'd let us throw couches out of his parents place – back in the 80s. His excessive drinking didn't help his mood swings. Now he teaches. There are certain decisions one makes that creates an unstable psyche. Promiscuity and drugs with women surrounded by enablers that want to help ain't much help.

Ares Olympus said...

It is nice if you can just diagnose someone as bipolar and believe if she gets the right medication, everything will be better.

It would be even nicer if Z was open to seeing what she looks like from the outside, and not like it, and want to change, and be willing to see a doctor who can diagnose her. I've seen a number of people who's behavior was excessive in different ways, and none of them seemed open to advice that says there's something wrong with their behavior.

Anonymous said...

One factor involved in whether or not to take advice is the perceived reliability of the person giving the advice.

Jack Fisher said...

The "large group of close friends" -- correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't DSM–6 describe this as "very squirrelly"? And when aggravated by an open relationship it becomes "super squirrelly"?