Friends and relationships are crucial in our recovery. I have been extremely fortunate to encounter Cristina Romero, who offers uncommon wisdom in how to pick wisely. Cristina, who lives in Ontario, is passionate about writing about her experiences with mental illness. Cristina, I turn my blog over to you:
Thank you, John.
We've been told to choose our friends carefully. After all: “You are the company you keep.”
But we've also heard: “Birds of a feather flock together.”
So which one is it? Or is it some kind of Catch-22? So who we are to start with determines our choice in the company we keep. But the company we keep determines our growth as individuals.
I have bipolar I. Ironically, this is my blessing, something that practically absolves me of this Catch-22 phenomenon that most people find themselves in. Let me explain.
I have an incredibly vast array of emotions, thoughts and behaviors. There are always people I can resonate with, a flock I can find to fly with. I consider myself fortunate to be able to connect with so many different types of people, but I also realize just how vulnerable I am. I can sync with just about anyone, and this is not always good.
Think of mental illness as a type of unwellness. Financial stressors, physical illness and career problems are some of the other types of unwellness that people deal with. It is not so much the type of unwellness itself that determines our wellness, but how we approach that unwellness. There are similarities in approaches to deal with unwellness, regardless of what it is. We can learn from others in altering perspectives, developing healthy attitudes, and cultivating coping skills.
In other words, a friend doesn’t have to have mental illness in order to teach me about living with mental illness, and I don’t have to have the physical illness that my friend has for me to help my friend live with her physical illness.
Here are some of the questions I ask myself of people to see if they have a healthy influence on me:
Are they resourceful in finding people to find help? Are they consumed only with their own problems, or do they lend a helping hand to others? Do they want to get better? Are they willing to think outside the box in finding solutions? Have they been stuck on the exact same problem forever, or have they made progress?
As a person with bipolar disorder, my capacity to resonate with people across the entire emotional spectrum can be both destructive and beneficial. Around people who do not approach unwellness in a healthy way, I am at risk of resonance and deterioration, like a superstructure collapsing.
With people who approach wellness in a healthy way, I can resonate and flourish, like those triumphant chords that conclude symphonic masterworks. The choice is mine. I feel fortunate to have that choice.
My friends, family, and husband are carefully selected people. We all work and play together for mutual growth and enjoyment. These people are at the core of any health and happiness I experience.
This Valentine’s Day, as I reflect on the nature of love and friendship, I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned through my illness. It's all about who I choose to nurture and who I choose to nurture me.
Live well, choose wisely ...