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Helping a friend

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We talk about everything ...

One of my closest friends, Sarah, has a mental illness called Bipolar disorder. Having Bipolar means that she has times when she feels really down, alternating with periods where she feels really high or manic. Sometimes she gets really down and out of it and self-harms. She takes medication to help keep her mood more stable, and visits a psychiatrist quite often.

Over the past two years we have gradually grown to trust each other enough to tell each other things about our lives that we don’t often share with other people. I can talk to her about some of the tough times I’ve been through and she has told me about her self-harming, which is something that very few people know about.

We talk about all the other things friends talk about - our families, friends, what we’re going to do on the weekend, the latest movies or the guys we’ve been out with. But we also talk about her Bipolar, her medication and self-harming.

A few times Sarah has called me when she’s been feeling out of it, or when she has hurt herself. It’s really scary sometimes, because it can be hard to tell when she’s okay and when she’s not safe. It can be difficult to know what to say, and not wanting to affect her in a negative way.

Sometimes I find it hard to understand why she does some of the things she does and why she feels the way she does.

Some days I wish I had a magic wand that I could wave to make her feel better. Other days I find myself inspired by how amazing she is and how she has coped with the challenges she’s faced. We have lots of fun just hanging out and laughing for hours on end too.

We have a deal, Sarah and I. She knows that she can talk to me when she’s going through a tough time, but I have to tell her if what’s she’s saying is stressing me out. She also made me promise that if I am worried after talking to her, that I will find someone to talk to as well to help me out. This means that I have a couple of other friends who know what is going on and are there if or when I need to talk. A few times I’ve had to ring them and tell them I’ve been worried about Sarah or unsure about what to say to her when she’s been unwell. They have been able to give me some great advice and have understood what it is like to be worried about someone who is going through a tough time.

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