Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Our Reactions Matter - A Personal Story

One must realize that everyone is different. We all have different problems and we all go through situations in life that no one may understand- this was my problem. I had a friend (let’s call her Lisa for this purpose), whom suffers from bipolar disorder. This type of mental illness can only be understood if you understood the person first of all.
 Lisa was a close friend of mine, I regularly visited her and we went out during the weekends when we had the opportunity to. We were also part of a friendship group with three other girls and we were all really close. However, this friendship started to crumble, as we were becoming closer friends by the day. This was mainly because we didn’t know how to react to Lisa.

 One minute Lisa would be laughing and joking with us, the next minute she would behave like the world was against her and she would get into an argument with you that could be over something really absurd. It reached the point that my friend got into a fight with Lisa just because of her behaviour. The only reason why this happened is because we didn’t understand her problem.
 I vividly remember having a conversation with one of the girls in our group and questioning why Lisa behaved like this. We were making up excuses like “she could be on her period, so her hormones may just be bringing out the worst in her”- but how can a girl be on her period 365 days of the year and her behaviour be utterly appalling towards her friends. I said “she needs to make up her mind if she wants to be our friend or not, because I can’t stand people that switch their mood anytime it suites them to”. The only reason why this conversation took place is because we didn’t understand her problem. She acted weird, paranoid, and always turned a small issue into a big issue.

Lisa and I got into a huge argument about the way she was behaving because it reached boiling point with me. The other girls gave up with Lisa, especially after the fight, but I did try and be her friend but I was still getting the same reception from her before the fight, despite me repeatedly telling her to ‘fix up’. The only reason why this happened was because I didn’t understand her.

 I saw her mother on the road I live, on my way home one day. Even though I didn't speak to Lisa like I used to, I still respected her mother and said hello. Her mother asked me “why haven’t I seen you in the house for such a long time?" (It had been about a month) I explained why we got into an argument and how she was behaving around the girls and myself. She then told me that she was suffering with bipolar disorder, but the way her mum told me was as if she thought I already knew as we were close friends.

Around the time her mum told me, my favourite British TV soap, Eastenders, had a very popular storyline about Stacey Slater and how she suffered with bipolar. I put two and two together, then I began to understand why Lisa behaved the way she did. I obviously didn’t understand the whole medical part of it, but I did understand the basics of her behaviour towards others and myself. 

I did feel bad for not understanding what she was suffering from, but I was also upset she didn’t have the courage to tell me about it. About two weeks after I spoke to her mum, I went to her house and apologised for shouting at her and making her feel horrible. I asked her why she didn’t tell me and she said, “because I thought you would think that I am mad or you will treat me differently”. I understood where she was coming from, in the sense that I wouldn’t know how to react to someone that has bipolar or any other mental illness. 

Unfortunately, Lisa could not stay in London because of her illness as she was always getting into trouble with her friends and she just didn’t like it there. 

This made me realise that, we need to learn how to react to people that do suffer from a mental illness and we should be able to understand them even if we are not going through the same situation.

By Beverley Isibor

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